A photo essay of sorts
There’s a short-lived phenomenon in Rocky Mountains called “fall”: browns begin their staging shenanigans, people get all jacked-up over homecoming parades, leaves turn and drop with morning frosts, and seasonal beers develop earthy tones with the promise of impending winter.
Fall’s also a good time to hit the road. My itinerary was a whirlwind one—north past Cheyenne, then on a marathon mission to Montana, Idaho, and back through Wyoming. Along the concrete track we found wind, gun-totting Montanans, eager whitefish, more wind, and fishing. What about that mantle-piece worthy monster brown? It eludes us… still.
Montana Breakfast. Quake Lake is a spooky place. In the summer of ’59, Red Canyon and Hebgen faults combined geological might, triggering a catastrophic earthquake measuring 7+ on the Richter. The ensuing breakneck landslide demolished the Madison Canyon, causing floods, high winds, and a Tsunami-like wave that washed downstream.
Five people died in the flood. The slide killed another 28. Today, the resulting Quake Lake abyss, more than 190-feet deep in places and 6-miles long, is marked by a smattering of derelict cabins, a cemetery of dead trees protruding from the depths, and the brown and ’bow ghosts that maraud its weedy shorelines.
Idaho Nights. The Hank’s Fork has topped our go-to list since picking up a flyrod. The history of Harriman Ranch dates back to the days of wealthy railroad owners, cattle ranchers, and pioneering homesteaders. The property was gifted to the state in 1977. It has seen up times and down as a dry-fly Mecca ever since. The narrative continues.
We met up with Drake contributing photog Bryan Gregson and shop co-owner Rich Paini at Island Park institution, The TroutHunter, where an inclement forecast was delivered: “Windy as F.” But the fish were up, healthy, and we scrounged a decent day banging terrestrials off cutbanks and weedy ledges.
We left Island Park with empty bottles of Bushmills and Jack, and the urge for a refill on the fishing.
Of Hoppers and Home. Lander, Wyoming, might be as famous for its namesake bar—The Lander Bar—as all the cattle production in Freemont County. The bar is good, but so is the water streaming out of the Wind River Range.
Lander to Fort Collins is about a three-Red Bull trip—one for every 100 miles or so. And running on fumes at midnight on a Wednesday night, it’s a hallucinatory one to boot. Horizonless, black, dreary. Thankfully, a bed awaits, where a November road mission is in the works.
What is it about fall that keeps us pinned to the gas pedal? It’s short-lived. And fishing time is precious.