Each year, sometime in early Fall, several of us local guides take off for a few days of fishing. We only fish stretches of rivers that we rarely float, try to camp the entire time and there is not schedule or pre-made plan. For some reason my idea of floating the Madison was tossed in the ditch along with Fella’s spent wad of Cope……..”I rowed every GD day on the Madison for the last 3 months, sorry Jojo, no can do. I need to stop for another puck in Ennis, a 12’er of Natty Ice and by the way, Dewey needs to float the Jeff.”
And so we did. The Jefferson has good flows this season and it had been a couple of years since I had rowed the river. Six of us pushed off in two boats and spent the afternoon and evening floating down to Cardwell. We caught several nice 18 in rainbows on streamers and had a few nice trout eat the hopper. These types of roadtrips always lead to too much alcohol, great food and a little music. The week before, ER and I stumbled into Wild West Pizza just in time to watch Lessi Lou and and Shotgun Stars open up their first set…..ER closed the bar down and I left at 1 am just get enough sleep to wake up and hunt elk. We both had seen Tess Williams play at the Willow Creek Cafe (by far some of the best food in Montana) on a solo evening late last Fall on our way back from the Missouri. Tess is the daugher of Claudia Williams, the fearless leader of Montana Rose. While outside of WWP, we met the entire band and they informed us of their regular gig playing Sunday nights at the Pony Bar in Pony, MT.
After a great meal in Harrison, MT at the Town Haul Diner, we drove up the road to the Pony Bar. Tessi Lou and Shotgun stars had just finished up their first set, but warned us that they were gonna play all night long. That they did. When the bar closed at 2 am, everyone moved to the front porch and the party continued. Tess was tired of playing her guitar and handed it to me. I have never played an Emmylou Harris signature model, but just holding this guitar, I knew it was going to be a joy. When I finally looked up at the bar clock through the front window, it was 4 am and there were only about 8 of us left talking, sipping on beers and listening to great music. Trav, ER and myself were the only three left from our posse and so we sneaked out to find a place to lay our heads for the rest of the night. Luckily, we weren’t too far from a trailhead and a camp spot. Waking up at three hours later to horses and four wheelers wasn’t too pleasant, but I can only imagine what the scene looked like to these folks. Two rigs, drift boats and six guys trying to sleep it off, all laid out on the ground in sleepingbags. After a quick shower in North Willow Creek, we headed for Dillon, MT to float the Beaverhead. The Beav is pretty weedy so we fished Hoppers and small dries. While it was not epic, we did get a few nice trout to the boat and had a great time from High Bridge to Henneberry. Pulling into Dillon, we hit up the Roach Coach and got a hotel for the night. Planning on hitting the river early, we hit the sack to prep for 6 am wake up call. Sunrise in the Big Hole Valley is hard to beat. Glen to Notch was the float and the streamer bite was pretty good from 7:30 tilll about 10:30. Surprisingly, there were 3 different bull elk bugling down in the river bottoms, a long way from the mountains in the back drop. Fall Cottonwoods, brown trout, bull elk, time away from West Yellowstone and great company. This is what we all needed.