Montana Journal

Written by: Eric Rickstad, Managing Editor

Fished out of Hubbard’s Yellowstone Lodge
today. Up before light, even though out West the norm is to start about 9 or 10 AM. It’s hard to get out of Eastern habits that go back thirty years, so Gary and I are sipping coffee by the stone fireplace at 6:30 AM. Hubbard’s Lodge is perched up on a ridge in the Tom Miner Basin of Montana’s Paradise Valley, and at first light the Yellowstone River down below wends its way north out of the Park, lit up by the early sun so it looks like a skein of molten silver running out of the earth. Fog lifting. Sun burning through. Hubbard’s serves up a grand hot breakfast, but we settle for the hot coffee and cereal and toast slathered with the best homemade jams I’ve ever had, and head out. 

A cold front moved in a couple days ago and even the famed rivers in the region, the Yellowstone, Big Hole, and Madison, are “off” from the crazy, hot-weather hopper action they’d just seen. We drive down into the valley, the fog so thick we have to drive at 25 MPH to avoid hitting the mule deer forever jumping out to cross the road.

Outside Livingston, MT
Gary Martineau fishes a bend on a small tributary to the Yellowstone River
Eric Rickstad

Today, we fish a tributary to the Yellowstone River that runs out of the foothills. As the day warms and the sun breaks out, native cutts start to take our hoppers and the droppers behind them. The trib snakes and winds, bend after bend after bend, riffle-run-pool. The water is green, like the Yellowstone itself. Cold too. 52°. Blowdowns and cut banks and back eddies and bubble lines taunt us daylong. Just when you think you’ve never seen better trout water, you look upstream to see it: better trout water. It pulls us along, Gary and I. Draws us farther upstream. We don’t even think to stop to eat “lunch” until 6:30 PM. The fishing is not lights out. It’s steady, though. And the fish are fat and wild and make us work for them. Which makes it somehow better than those days where the fishing is so great it really seems to have nothing to do with what you fish or how you fish.

Bear track in Montana
Bear track in Montana
Eric Rickstad

By day’s end we’re exhausted.

Driving back to Hubbard’s at dusk, the mulies and whitetails are back in the fields, appearing out of the cottonwoods like ghosts. 

Gary says, “Slow down, let me get a picture of these antelope up here.”

I slow down as he takes the shot. 

“Missed it,” he says.

“There’ll be others,” I say.

He nods. That’s true. There will be.

“We should figure out where we’re going to fish tomorrow,” he says.

I nod. That’s true too.

“Right after we have a beer,” he says.

As I turn off Route 89, up toward Tom Miner Basin, toward Hubbard’s where a delicious dinner awaits, I realize that back home in Vermont, it’s 5:15 PM. Being a Thursday, I’d just be getting out of work from a day at my desk about now.




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