Just a little bit north of Wilsall, Montana, is a
mostly paved road which goes west for a while and
then south through the Bridger Canyon, past Bridger
Bowl and ends in Bozeman, (state road 86). The faster
way to Bozeman is to drive to Livingston, and take the
freeway over Bridger Pass to Bozeman.
We really liked the 'back road' and even when it wasn't
winter and taking the back road meant delivering our
youngest daughter to the ski hill at Bridger, we often
took the back way. Bridger Bowl in the old days was
the poor man's ski hill. Big Sky was the rich-man's
ski resort. Bridger wasn't really a resort as there
weren't any condos or for that matter anywhere to stay
at all. There was a fine restaurant where we had many
great meals before it burned to the ground. We have
great memories of that place, including a New Year's Eve
party which included a sleigh ride, champagne, and a
terrific acoustical guitar player who later left music
to become a pastor. We have one of his (Ken Mordan)
tapes which we cherish.
On that back road was also a cross country lodge and
facility, I think it was called Arrow Lodge or something
close to that. The lodge itself was a very old log
structure which had the smells of many wood fires in
it's huge fireplace. Reminiscent of a place my parents
had rented in the summer when my dad was commercial
fishing out of Ossineke, Michigan. We had lunch at
Arrow Lodge occasionally and the view from the dining
room was spectacular.
Quite often the driveway into any residence in the country
has a sign and a name on a long board over the drive. One
we laughed about every time were traveled the Bridger back
road was one which said, "Pie In the Sky Enterprises."
It was just a simple cabin in the woods.
Another of the famous signs across an entrance is between
Big Timber and Livingston, again on the back road. This
road is sr298 and follows the Boulder River. The Boulder
is a bit famous for the quality of its fishing. Huge rocks,
some house-sized make it spectacular. Around the small town
of Mc Leod is an sheep ranch. The entrance has an unusually
large, long sign - it took a big piece to get all the words
on, "Sheep is what made the West, and don't you forget it Bub."
Now that's a statement. And sheep indeed were in the old west
Freeways do serve a purpose, they do make it faster to get
from here to there. There is a sameness to all of them
though, they don't seem to be the most scenic or interesting.
I suppose that is on purpose, too much beauty would be
My husband and I will take a back road any time we can.
It's just more fun, more scenic and interesting. The
little girl who lives inside me still cranes and swivels
her neck like an owl so as not to miss anything.
I'm sure some of you take the back roads when you can too.
After all, there just might be a fishable piece of water
you haven't found before. Or maybe one you do know about
and just need to check out again.
Years ago in Montana, my husband and I had a little ritual.
We'd hit a place we knew was productive, have a great time,
and then - we would go 'prospecting.' This isn't about
finding gold, but we did carry gold pans with us, and we
did some panning in favorite trout streams. Yes, we found
some gold, but we weren't prospecting for gold on these
little jaunts. We were looking for new places we hadn't
tried before. We'd spend about 80% of a day on known areas,
and the remaining 20% searching.
It really was very productive. We even kept a map on
the wall in the den, with little colored pins to mark where we had
been. That was fun in itself, especially when we were
trying to decide on where to try the next time. And
of course, there were always the memories of where we had gone.
Having had formal training in journalism back in the days
just after the wagon trains, I always carry a small pad
and pen with me. As you are going somewhere could you
jot down the location of a stream you just drove over,
plan on scouting it out on the way back? Or just make
a scouting day and make a list of places you would like
to try. Then when the weather isn't cooperating (or
the fish) head out to one of those places.
I know there is an old 'rule' about not leaving fish
to find fish. But aren't there exceptions for every rule?
Getting off the beaten track, and away from streams
which are also beaten to death, and finding some 'secret'
places of your own is a wonderful adventure, and it can
have some fantastic results.
You may be very surprised at the size of fish in some
very small - and seemingly inconspicious places. Including
a four-pound brown trout from a steam you could step across.
Take the back road. Who knows you may even find some
interesting signs of your own - or maybe even create one.
~ The LadyFisher
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