Next time you’re driving around fishing the rivers of southwest Montana and you’re in the mood for a little adventure, try driving the High Road. This rough-and-tumble 20-mile county road connects Twin Bridges to Melrose and the Big Hole River to its confluence with the Jefferson.
But before you start out, learn from the mistakes of others and check to see that your drift boat trailer is firmly attached to your truck and that everything on your roof rack is securely tied down. It’s also not a bad idea at this point to double-check your buddy’s AAA tow-package. Then floor it.
At the end of the road, if your boat hasn’t managed to pass you and your truck is still on all four wheels, continue on to the bustling metropolis of Melrose, population: 60. At the far end of Main Street you’ll find your reward: Sunrise Fly Shop, a Melrose staple since 1994.
Big Hole up-and-comers Eric Thorson and Ryan Barba have called the Big Hole’s tea-colored waters home since 2006 when, as a result of a shared long-time dream, an annual multi-day fishing trip to Montana, and one long conversation led to purchasing the shop. “We both had worked in the flyfishing industry during other times in our lives, and we had both held onto the dream of owning our own flyfishing business one day,” says Eric.
It was a natural extension for them to look beyond the borders of Washington, where they both resided at the time, to an area they had loved to fish for years. Their decision to purchase the shop came from their passion for fishing the Big Hole, and for fishing in general. “We live and breathe fishing,” says Ryan. “It’s our lives, and we like it that way.” That passion shows in Sunrise’s continued success.
Today, they have the third largest outfitter license on the Big Hole, a great guide staff, and the most reliable shuttle service in the area. Sunrise’s 900 square feet of retail space is filled with Simms gear, as well as the latest Winston, Scott, Ross, Hatch, Fishpond, and Rio products. Sunrise is also home to the Big Hole Salmonfly pattern: the locally tied, world famous Unibomber.
If these guys aren’t in the shop, on the river, or fishing elsewhere in the Americas, you’ll find them bellied up to the Hitchin’ Post bar next door to the shop. And since you’ll need a drink after the High Road, go in and experience the second of Melrose’s infamies, the Moscow Mule. Sip from the copper cup, talk fishing, and listen up. Eric and Ryan will tell you exactly how and where to fish one of the best brown trout rivers in the West.
For more information and travel-friendlier directions, call (406) 835-3474 or visit sunriseflyshop.com.