As hunters, fishermen, outdoorsmen we are inevitably attracted to place.
We all have favorite hunting grounds. For me, those are a mix of my native Pennsylvania’s northern tier, a favored tract of State Game Lands or a pinch-point along a local corn field. The same goes for familiar hiking trails, birding areas or bass ponds.
For trout fishing, I am drawn west. To the big skies and arid mountain ranges of southwest Montana.
Don’t get me wrong, I love the Keystone State and all that she has to offer. We have remarkable opportunities to satisfy every call of the wild across the commonwealth, regardless of quarry or activity.
But, as John Gierach writes in his new book A Fly Rod of Your Own, “It’s important to find people and places far from home that you love. If nothing else, it makes the world seem big and friendly instead of small and mean.”
Montana certainly fits that description. For the third consecutive year, I was fortunate enough to spend the first week of July at Upper Canyon Outfitters, where the Ruby River flows 30 yards from our cabin and the nearest paved road is 12 miles away.
It was, and is, glorious.
I fell into this opportunity with a group of like-minded friends who had been going to UCO for a few years prior to me joining in. This July was no different. The five of us fished hard all day and even into the evenings. Then we returned to the ranch for a hearty meal and a night of storytelling in the cabin, with quick detours outside to watch amazing sunsets paint the western range.
Each day of fishing brought a different stretch of water, whether it was blue-lining for five-inch brook or cutthroat trout on spring creeks, prospecting for grayling or hitting a tailwater to mine for bruising 20-inch-plus rainbows and browns. We finessed delicate dry flies, we chucked burly streamers, and we nymphed. We covered as much ground by vehicle and water and foot as possible.
UCO’s talented and engaging guides played a major role in our successes.
Over the course of the week they became like family, as did the rest of the staff. We were always greeted with a friendly smile and sincere hello – whether it was while getting a cup of early-morning coffee prior to a robust breakfast or upon joining the illustrious “clean plate club” at dinner.
I’m not sure if it was the ranch, the scenery, the fishing, the company, or something else entirely, but I’m already checking the calendar for a return trip next year. What I do know is it can’t come soon enough.
Brad Isles is president of the Pennsylvania Outdoor Writers Association. He is a website and social media manager by profession and diverts to freelance content creation and digital media strategy from his four-acre farmette in western Pennsylvania. Follow him on Instagram at @bradisles, or drop a line at email@example.com.