There’s a sign on my door that says, Gone Fishin’. The sign has hung there many times, but this time I had to dust it off first. I haven’t used it for a while.
In another day, I’ll be Montana bound in a pickup camper loaded with three fly rods, a dozen fly boxes, assorted gear and clothing, a new pair of sunglasses and two yellow dogs. What I don’t have is an itinerary. I plan to visit some friends for a day or two. Beyond that, I’m free to roam.
And roam I will. My general destination is the southwestern portion of the state, which contains some of the best public trout fishing in the world. There are famous trout streams I’ve never seen, much less fished. I hope to change that. Since the West is currently suffering from drought, river levels are low, which may affect fishing in some places. Several knowledgeable anglers have assured me there’s nothing to worry about; I’ll still find plenty of places to fish. So be it.
As for fishing, I’ve no expectations of catching whoppers. Any decent trout will do. While I’ll be happy to catch nonnative browns and rainbows, at least some of my time will be spent on waters where native cutthroat dwell. There’s just something about catching fish that have always existed in a place that appeals to me.
If the fishing is slow, I’ll take a hike. Actually, I’ll likely spend a fair amount of my time hiking, perhaps to reach out-of-the-way fishing holes. More likely, I’ll hike just for hiking’s sake. There is no better way to get to know the country than to feel it beneath your feet. And Montana is country that I want to know.
Call me crazy, but I’d like to spend some time in grizzly country. A few years ago in British Columbia, I happened upon outsized bear tracks on the muddy shore of the Elk River. I liked the way it felt to see them. Since I’ll be in the company of dogs, it’s unlikely I’ll see a bear, which, since I’ll be armed only with bear spray, is just fine by me. If I happen to see a grizzly from a safe distance away, so much the better.
Traveling with dogs, one age 11, the other age 6 months, is a big unknown. The old guy is a veteran road-tripper. The little guy has made a few three-hour drives. Like any Lab pup, he’s a bundle of energy. I’m sure we’ll be taking plenty of breaks along the way. Dogs, like kids, may suddenly insist upon a “potty stop” at inopportune times, but these roadside adventures are one of the good things of travelling with them. I’ve dozens of fond memories of unplanned short walks in interesting places from coast to coast.
While I haven’t posted a puppy update in this column since Rainy entered my life last April, suffice to say my role as a single “parent” has been a worthwhile challenge. Taking care of two dogs has cut into my free time. For instance, it’s difficult to go fishing after work, because I must first go home to feed and walk the dogs. That’s ok. I enjoy their company.
If anything, I’ve been remiss with puppy’s training, although he’s learning plenty from the old dog. Dare I say, but we are still working on the basics, like sit, stay and behave like a gentleman. We are making steady improvements on all three, but perfection remains a distant goal. Hopefully, we’ll make some progress on this trip. The dogs will spend plenty of quality time with me.
While some folks like to plan out every day of their travels, I prefer an open itinerary. The lack of a plan—intentionally venturing into the unknown—creates an atmosphere of adventure. Tomorrow I’ll climb into the truck, point it West and play it by ear. It’s the way I like to roll. This time however, is a little different. Vikki, my co-pilot, won’t be there.
Travelling alone isn’t new to me. I’ve spent a lot of time on the road while working on writing projects. But I spent even more time on distant highways travelling with Vikki. In the last 10 years, each of the trips became a little more difficult, because she lacked the physical strength to get out the truck to take in the sights. For a long time, we didn’t know what was wrong. When we eventually learned why she didn’t feel well, it was too late to do anything about it. Aside from a short trip to the Black Hills, we didn’t travel at all for three years.
I’d like to say this trip to Montana is a chance to drive out of my past and into a new future, but I don’t really know that. About all I do know is that I’m driving away from my familiar, day-to-day routine in the company of my two dogs. Right now, that’s good enough for me.