This Week's View

by Deanna Lee Birkholm
January 9th, 2005

Back Roads

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 before cattle.

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 distracting.

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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