An epic, multi-sport Montana road trip.
Browne Bridge to Glen on the Big Hole
Last July, some friends and I made the five-hour drive to Montana’s Big Hole River for a 10-day adventure filled with fishing, kayaking, and climbing. After a quick camp, we woke up from a fun-filled night of battling mosquitos and were ready to fish. We dropped the mini bike off for a shuttle to make the first float from Browne Bridge to Glen. Over the course of the float, we tried to refine our skills by trying different lures and getting a feel for the river. By the end, we had numerous bites and two big brown trout in the boat. After a tackle run to Dillion, we hit the next section of river in the afternoon and caught one fish and missed another 20.
The Upper Big Hole
After slow fishing on the Browne Bridge stretch, we packed up and headed upriver in search of better luck. The next morning, we woke up early with fish on our minds and frost on our sleeping bags and set out on a section that looked super deep but ended up very shallow until we drifted farther down river. We watched some true cowboys moving cattle with their dogs, and eventually, with a shallow water Rapala, caught a brook trout and whitefish. Back at camp, I took out the whitewater kayak for some practice drills while my friends hooked into more grayling. Then we headed down river to give the Big Hole one last shot and hooked into two big brown trout over 18 inches, three big rainbows, and some whitefish. Finally, some fish to live up to all the hype! That night the caddis hatch was on and I ate flies the whole way running the mini bike shuttle to pick up the truck.
Onward to the Bitterroot
We started the day off looking for our lost fishing net and then decided to leave the Big Hole behind and head over Lost Trail Pass to the Bitterroot River. We were surprised to find every boat ramp packed with lots of people standing around fishing the shore on a Tuesday and waited for the day to cool down before doing an 11-mile float. On the water the dry fly caught two nice cutthroat trout and one brook trout. With this quick explosion of action, the hype levels rose. That evening, there was another big caddis hatch, and we caught a few nice cutthroat trout. Our camp site up Blodgett Canyon was amazing with lots of rock climbing to be done.
For our next full day on the Bitterroot, we slowly got out of bed around 4 a.m. and packed to get on the water before daylight. We set off with the help of Red Bulls and reached the river just as the sun was brightening the sky. Immediately we got into fish and within an hour we had five in the boat. Four out of the five were over 12 inches, and by the end of the float, we were fighting for who had to row even though we had all caught massive fish!
North to the Clark Fork
After slaying it on the Bitterroot, for some reason, we decided to head into Missoula for some kayaking. We spent a few hours on the man-made surf wave in downtown Missoula, having a blast with the locals. Then we headed west to camp on the Clark Fork River.
It was cold and even rained a little until noon the next day. We did a bit of surfing at the Alberton rest stop wave in the cold. Eventually the thermostat cranked up, and we headed to the Alberton Gorge to find some whitewater. Loaded with three kayaks and a raft, we set out. Everyone had a blast—lots of cliff jumping and high stoke. Rounding out the day we headed back to camp and ate food and took a nap, until later that evening someone had the bug to do some more kayaking. We set out again for Missoula for a dusk surf session before another night camping on the Clark Fork.
After another slow morning (too many nights with little sleep and popped ground pads), we set after the gorge with fishing poles, a raft, and kayaks. Every big hole we stopped at we fished or cliff jumped. We landed several rainbows and cutthroat trout, but also lost a phone and fishing pole to the river. Later in the day, a group of us went climbing at the Alberton rest stop and had a blast on some awesome 5.7 slab routes. We talked around the fire that night, our last on the river, about how awesome the trip had been and how we had to finish with one final morning fishing session before heading back home to “real life.” //