Every year the Guadalupe River Trout Unlimited  Chapter of Trout Unlimited holds TroutFest, a celebration of fly fishing and conservation along the Guadalupe.  This year, it was back at the Lazy L & L Campground on the banks of the organizations namesake river.  GRTU is the largest TU chapter in the US boasting over 5500 members and TroutFest itself draws nearly 3000 attendees and vendors.  GRTU also stocks some beautiful rainbows (pic 1 above) and browns that make fishing this tailwater so fun!

TroutFest is one of those events that draws folks for a variety of reasons.  Some come to support GRTU via fundraising dinners, silent auctions and live auctions with their donations.  Others come to see the vendors in the giant tents and checkout the latest in gear and fishing locations.  Many come to participate in hands on casting lessons taught by certified fly casting instructors.  Featured speaker sessions are a popular draw for the event as well.  This year, the lineup of featured speakers boasted the legendary Flip Pallot, Jen Ripple of Dun Magazine, Chris Johnson (pic 2) of Living Waters Fly Fishing, Noah Parker of Land of Enchantment Guides, Duane Redford, Author of the “Fly Fisher’s Playbook” and Daniel Galhardo, founder of Tenkara USA.  We had a blast hearing all of these speakers imparting their wisdom on fishing and conservation, but the highlight was hearing Flip share a story about going to New Zealand to fish, Beware of What You Wish For.  It had people in stitches laughing as he unfolded his journey down under.  We had a great chat with Flip (pic 4) afterward talking about the opening of fishing on the Bighorn River and the work of Phil Gonzales.  As a bonus pic (pic 3), above you’ll find the top nymphs for fishing the Guadalupe provided by Chris.  Finally, one of our favorites that’s always a part of TroutFest is the screening of the Fly Fishing Film Tour films (pic 5).  This year was amazing with some of the biggest and baddest fish we’ve seen.  I’m sure ready to try tarpon on the fly now.   To top things off, the band Little Outfit provided some great music during dinners, the film festival and at other special times.

Every TU chapter around the US hosts annual fundraisers like GRTU’s TroutFest and we’ve had the pleasure during our River Ramble to visit one of these in North Georgia courtesy of Jimmy Harris at Unicoi Outfitters in Helen Georgia.   If you’re reading this and aren’t already involved in your local TU chapter, we encourage you to do so.  It’s fun, it’s rewarding and it’s critical to the ongoing support of these cold water fisheries.  There are over 400 chapters and councils across the USA.

Idaho is one of those states we’d heard a lot about, but had never fished prior to going on our River Ramble adventure.  We’d heard the legendary stories about two of the most technical rivers on the list, the Henry’s Fork of the Snake and Silver Creek.  Our good friend Tim Smith had for years tried to get us to come fish with him on the South Fork of the Snake.  All three of these famous trout streams are of course, in the Trout Unlimited’s Guide to America’s Top 100 Trout Streams book, so off we went to Idaho.

Our first stop took us over the high mountain pass between Montana and Idaho and into our campground in Picabo, ID.  Great little RV campsite but even better little store in town that served as the gas station, post office, store, great grill and a first rate fly shop to boot!  After setting up camp we drove to the Silver Creek Preserve to see where we’d be fishing the next day.  Scenery was gorgeous as sunset approached but as a bonus, we saw a bull moose munching on branches along the creek.

The next morning we met Carl Evenson, Silver Creek Outfitters, at the Silver Creek Preserve Visitors Center, got wadered up and headed down to fish Silver Creek.  Silver Creek is a meandering spring creek that is gin clear and you have to use your stealth powers to get near big fish;  they spook and run at the slightest sound or shadow on the water.  We saw some massive fish but were only able to land a few small browns and a beautiful rainbow during our day with Carl.  We did however stumble upon that bull moose again by accident.  We all jumped when we noticed him just lying on the bank about 20’ from a 2 foot brown trout lazily feeding near the same bank.   Overall, we got a “Silver Creek Schooling“.

It wasn’t only fishing that made our time on Silver Creek special.  We took a day to visit Craters of the Moon National Park.  It was spectacular and eerie at the same time.  If you’re ever passing through this area, this is a must see.  We also made a stop in the little town of Arco which has the distinction of being the first US city lit entirely by nuclear energy.   Dinner one evening in nearby Ketchum, a bustling ski town in winter and outdoor enthusiasts mecca in summer, took us to Sawtooth Brewery for some burgers and brews.

After fishing Silver Creek, we made it to the famed Henry’s Fork of the Snake River and Island Park, ID, which boasts the “longest main street” in America.  To try and paint a picture with words of what that means, imagine about 17 miles of road (US 26) running through tall evergreens and at every point along the road a feeder road comes in, leading to fishable water.  A few times when these feeder roads come in, you’ll find a gas station, and finally at one point a few gas stations and even more fly shops appear at the infamous Harriman Ranch section of the river.  One of the most famed of those fly shops is TroutHunter.

We had the pleasure of meeting up with TJ Powell, a guide for TroutHunter, and fishing the Henry’s Fork below the falls.  TJ put us on fish with great regularity and we had an awesome float.  Later, we joined our good friends, Sue Doss and Dud Lutton for dinner at the TroutHunter Lodge and then fished the river just below the dam with their dog, Solomon.  We had a blast and we can’t wait to go back again to fish with “Trouthunter TJ Powell“.

Finally, our trip took us to see Tim and fish the South Fork of the Snake.  Tim’s description of the fishery and his persistence in getting us to come fish it were spot on!  We’d driven the road that parallels the river many times before but had never gone down to the river.  When we put in with Tim and started downstream, this whole incredible vista was revealed…. beautiful bluffs, soaring eagles, runs and pools full of cutthroat trout and even this small little backwater area that was like walking into a room with air conditioning.  We had the most amazing day fishing with Tim on the “SF Snake” and will be coming back soon to fish it again.  If you’re in this area to fish, be sure to stop by the Lodge at Palisades Creek and say “hi”.

The three streams were all amazing and deserving of being in the TU Top 100 book.  However, we heard a lot of rumblings about the Teton River so we’re sure to follow up there as well on our next trip back to Idyllic Idaho.

Maine Events

By Tom Burnett

We’d been looking forward to fishing in Maine from the moment we planned our River Ramble.  We even scheduled it so we’d be in Maine during fall colors.  There were three rivers to be fished in Maine that are a part of the Trout Unlimited’s Guide to the Greatest 100 Trout Streams book:  West Branch, Penobscot; Grand Lake Stream; and Kennebec.  Looking at where these three rivers were located, we knew we were in for an adventure.

Our first stop was the West Branch of the Penobscot River.  Bob Mallard, who you’ll read about in a bit, recommended we fish with Boz…. aka… Greg “Boz” Bostater.  Greg is the owner/head guide for Maine River Guides.  When we contacted Boz and asked him about what section we’d be fishing and where we should setup the SaraLinda, without hesitation he said “Big Eddy Campground”.  We looked up the campground and realized three things;  First,  it was in a beautiful location, right on the river at a very popular fishing spot aptly named, Big Eddy, which is exactly what it was, a huge back eddy on the West Branch.  Second, we’d be dry camping.  There were no electric hookups for the SaraLinda and no dump station either, but there was potable water so we could fill the RV tank for showers, drinking water, washing dishes and toilet flushes.  Third, and something we didn’t fully comprehend until we actually drove to Big Eddy Campground, was just how scary the road was from just outside Millinocket (ME) to the campground.   It was a logging road whose primary traffic was oversized logging trucks, primarily going to and from Canada.  We found ourselves driving around 30mph, dodging both potholes and the giant trucks to get to the campground. However, once we arrived, it was absolutely perfect…. Boz was spot on in his recommendation.

We had a great time fishing with Big Eddy Boz as well as wading several spots on the river.  While the fishing wasn’t “on fire” while we were there, the temps sure were.  We had days in late September in northern Maine that exceeded 90 degrees.  We wet waded everywhere we went and relished standing in the cool waters as we fished.  Boz explained that most of the fish were hiding in the deep, cold waters of the lakes that were a part of the entire Penobscot drainage.

While the fishing wasn’t epic while we were there, our time at the Big Eddy Campground sure was.  We had so much fun cooking most of our meals on an open campfire each night and some mornings as you can see from the video above.  We hated leaving the area, again for multiple reasons.  First, we had so much fun fishing and camping here…. and second, we knew we had to drive the logging road back to Millinocket to head to our next destination, Grand Lake Stream.

Grand Lake Stream (GLS) was incredibly memorable to us for a number of reasons.  Before I share more, know that GLS is both the name of the fishery and the name of the town we stayed.  The fishery, while again wasn’t fishing well at the time we were there due to the temps, was in a beautiful small section of the river that was easily accessible.  Our lodging, since there were no campgrounds nearby, was a cabin at Canal Side Cabins, right in the town of GLS.  Our hosts, John and Mary Arcaro, made our stay and fishing so memorable.  John was our guide on the river and gave us an incredible day of fishing and fun.  John was the epitome of “It’s Not About the Fish”.  While he’s a first class, Maine Registered Fishing Guide, he’s also an awesome storyteller, jokester and host, as is his wife Mary.  Finally, one more memorable facet of our time in GLS was the Pine Tree Store, the only store in GLS.  The store provides a gathering place for everyone in GLS, locals and visitors alike.  It is a grocery, tackle shop and restaurant right at the main intersection of town, population 82.  We enjoyed breakfast, lunch and dinner at the Pine Tree Store and loved the hospitality everyone working there showed us.

Our last fishing stop in Maine took us to the Kennebec River to fish with Bob Mallard.   Bob is not only a Maine Registered Guide, but also a prolific writer of several books, Fly Fishing America magazine founder/editor and an amazingly passionate conservationist.   We learned so much from Bob about efforts to restore native fish populations, especially in Maine.  He was also kind enough to share the history of the river as we floated and fished the Kennebec, even ferrying us over at the beginning of our float to see petroglyphs carved into a large rock in the river.

We will definitely be back to fish Maine again, hoping the temperatures on our next trip are more “normal” than we encountered this time.  But again, Maine for us was not about the fish as much as it was about the experiences we shared and the people we met, making our time in Maine so memorable and why we’ll be coming back to see them as much as to fish.  Can’t wait!

Utah is one of those states we keep coming back to visit.  Its public lands are so vast and beautiful with hiking, biking, off roading, sightseeing and yes, fishing!

The Provo River was our first TU Top 100 stop in Utah.  We’d fished the Provo before several times, but this time, as a part of our “official” Ramble, we found it running super fast and off color.  When we called our ‘go to’ fly shop in Heber City, Fish Heads Fly Shop, they actually suggested a different river for a guide trip and recommended how we might fish the Provo in the condition it was in.  Their recommendations for the Provo were to find small eddies and pockets of water where fish could hide out of the raging waters.  We took their advice and fished the middle section near town and had not great, but OK success.  We knew what the river could produce from our earlier visits here, so we took their recommendation for a guide trip and headed elsewhere.

Heading west on US 40 out of Heber City brought us to the Strawberry River.  The section we fished, a tailwater just like the Provo, was running much clearer and manageable for wading than what we’d seen on the Provo.   We found some really nice runs with deeper water and landed some beautiful browns as you can see in the highlight video above.  I’m confident when we return to the area, we’ll be hitting the Strawberry again.

Our final stop in Utah was to fish the highly touted Green River near Flaming Gorge.  This area is stunningly beautiful with deep canyon walls above the dam and a TU Top 100 trout stream below.   We put in for our “Flaming Green” trip with Ryan Dangerfield, guide, from the Flaming Gorge Resort. Ryan had decided we would take the “AB” float which means, while we floated the entire A&B sections, we only fished the second half of “A” and the first half of “B”. It was great seeing the scenery as we “scenic” floated the first half, but then it was game on.    Lucky for us, we’d hit the Green in the middle of a famous hatch. The bug you see between my fingers in the video is a Yellow Sallie.  They were on the water and being gorged on by beautiful, hefty trout all day.  It isn’t often that you can tie one fly pattern on at the beginning of a day, and fish it all day.  In fact, we fished it all three days we spent on the Green…. just a Yellow Sallie dry fly that looked remarkably like the one I was holding in the video…. yellow body with that hint of red on the end.  Money!

We’d never fished the Green here before and after our experience, we’re planning on coming back regularly.  Its reputation as a world class fishery was certainly enhanced for us by our time spent fishing it.

We hope you enjoy our Life Elevated video of fishing and other highlights from our time in the Beehive State.

A recent Trout Unlimited article posed a question like, which lower 48 state has the most miles of trout streams? Montana?  California?…. nope, Pennsylvania!  We have to admit, when we first read the Trout Unlimited’s Guide to America’s Greatest 100 Trout Streams and saw that PA had the most trout streams of any state listed, we were surprised.  We’d traveled to Philly and Pittsburg, but, never to anywhere in PA that was trout country.  When we finally started fishing our way through the state, we were amazed.

Our first stop in PA was near Carlisle (PA) on the LeTort Spring Run.  The LeTort is a famous trout stream rich in history.  It’s also apparently not the trout stream it once was and fishing was very hard.  In fact, we spent an entire day and never even saw a fish.  They were all embedded deep in the cress beds that line the bottom of the stream, happily eating the cress bugs that live in the beds.  Nothing was rising…. nothing was venturing out of the cress beds…. so, no fish on this stop.  BUT…. our guide, Jake Villwock, self confessed Spring Creek Junkie, called us a few days later and said “come back!  I’ve found a spot to fish!”.  Unfortunately, we’d already traveled up into Connecticut.  However, we had to come back to the LeTort, since it was the ONLY river we’d not caught fish on.  So, we came back in 2017, fished with Jake and caught our LeTort trout.  As tough as the LeTort was, we also fished Yellow Breeches and Big Spring several times, finding many more trout than the LeTort shared with us.  Not to be missed in this area was the Boiling Springs Tavern, our favorite spot for a post-fishing beer or hanging out with Appalachian Trail hikers.

After our initial 2016 swing through Carlisle, we went to Connecticut and then New York before heading back into PA.  Our next stop was in Slate Run (PA) to fish Cedar Run and Slate Run.  This stop became one of our Ramble favorites of our entire trip.  We had the pleasure of meeting Tom and Deb Finkbiner, owners of Wolfe’s General Store/Slate Run Tackle Shop, who befriended us and showed us such incredible hospitality.  We also were blessed to fish with Julie Szur and Brookie (her beautiful dog) who showed us “Run & Creek Fun“.  In addition to fishing for gorgeous native brookies in the two Runs, we fished Pine Creek, which is a gem of a fishery due to the efforts of the Brown Trout Club, headed by Tom.

From Slate Run, we drove down out of the Pine Creek valley, and up the next valley over to Kettle Creek.  We didn’t find a guide for Kettle Creek, but a local fly shop was enough help in putting us on fish in several locations around the area.  We stayed in the local state park which was right on Kettle Creek.  We ventured to several different tributaries of Kettle Creek with great success as well.  When we needed a bit of local flavor, we went into Cross Fork to Debs Cross Fork Inn for wings and beer.  Awesome!

Then came our time in and around State College (PA), home of Penn State University.  Montana State U calls itself “Trout U”, but I think Penn State has the right to use that moniker as well.  There are trout streams in every direction and we tried to fish them all.  We found ourselves on Spring Creek, Fishing Creek, Spruce Creek, Penns Creek and the Little Juniata…. and those were just the TU Top 100 streams!  We also discovered several other fisheries that were equally deserving of Top 100 status nearby.  Our guides along our State College area journey were Lance Wilt, JD Vera and Andy Wagner who were great.  Andy was a gem taking us to visit The Shanty along Penns Creek and then to “Disneyland”, better known as Spruce Creek.  We sampled Otto’s burgers, PSU ice cream (a must), Spruce Creek Tavern fries and many other spots here.

Our final TU Top 100 stop in PA was near Scranton to fish the Lackawanna River.  This is truly an “Urban Oasis” fishery as it flows through Scranton and its suburbs.  We fished the river in town, but you’d never know it, as you are surrounded by high banks on both sides and a beautiful tree lined river.  If you pop up over the high banks, you might find a restaurant, a lumberyard or anything.  We simply spent our time walking up river back to where we parked our cars.  After fishing the Lackawanna, our guide Adam, recommended we head to Smilers for lunch and he was spot on with the recommendation.  Great little neighborhood bar and grill in Dickson City (PA).  Oh, and if you stop by A&G Outfitters (Adam’s shop), make sure to say “hi” to Fly Dog Lucy!

We hope you enjoy the music video above of our time in the Keystone State.  We were surprised, amazed, humbled, and blown away by the fisheries and the people we met there.  If you haven’t fished in PA before, we highly recommend it.  On our Ramble, we were blessed to spend a full month in PA fishing its streams, enjoying its beauty, sampling its food and drink and meeting its gracious people.  We promise we’re coming back again…. and again.

Good Eats

By Tom Burnett

While we do a lot of grilling outdoors and cooking in the SaraLinda, we really love to find great local places to grab a meal after a hard day of fishing.  Below you’ll find highlights of some of our favorites as well as some “Honorable Mentions” (with our goto menu item).  Bon Appetit!

Mark’s In and Out (Livingston, MT) / Double Cheeseburger w/ Rings

After a day on the Yellowstone River or exploring the northern part of Yellowstone National Park, our “regular” stop is at Mark’s In and Out, not to be confused with that California-based chain burger joint.   This is as local a spot as you can get.  Located on the main road into Livingston as you go north down Hwy. 89, Mark’s In and Out is a walk up place specializing in burgers, fries, rings and the best shakes and malts.  The “vibe” is that of any other small town walk up burger joint.  The staff are as friendly as you can imagine and in summer, you can typically count on a line of folks waiting to order…. but…. take our word on this, its totally worth it.  Just look how happy Dr. James Kelley is in the pic above.

Crumbs (McArthur, CA) / Everything, including chocolate bread pudding!

Our guide, Matt Mitchell from the Fly Shop in Redding,  on the Fall River, told us if we only ate at one place nearby it had to be Crumbs.  He did warn us however, that we should make reservations as Crumbs was very popular with locals and visitors alike.  Turns out, the chef at Crumbs was a chef at a fancy NYC restaurant originally and moved back to McArthur with his wife who was from the area.  So, we called ahead, made a 6:30 reservation and proceeded to McArthur, which was about 10 minutes from our campground.  Arriving at the address, we found a cute little cottage surrounded by beautiful flowers and vines.  Inside was just as casually decorated and the food was absolutely amazing!   Think gourmet food meets small town farm-to-table at small town prices and you have Crumbs.  You can salivate over the pic above of our dessert from Crumbs, chocolate bread pudding.

Ekstrom Stage Station  (Clinton, MT) / Trout

Tucked off the road that parallels Rock Creek as it flows into the Clarks Fork is a small RV park and restaurant, Ekstrom Stage Station.  You’d never see it from I-90 as you head from Butte to Missoula, but you should definitely take the detour a bit off the interstate to enjoy dinner here.  This is a down home, country cookin’ kind of restaurant that will leave you stuffed, but make sure you leave room for their desserts as well.  Oh… and be sure to take one of their giant cinnamon rolls with you for breakfast the next day.

Izaak’s (Craig, MT) / Cowboy Burger

We included Izaak’s in our Top 10 Beer-Drinking Establishments, but, we also need to include it in our “Good Eats” list.  The food here is quite good and the clientele is all anglers, all day long.  Check out more about Izaak’s in our Beer Post.

Yak’s (Dunsmuir, CA) / Uncle Bob’s Barbalicious BBQ Burger

This is one of the top burger spots in the country and actually, was rated a Top 100 Restaurant by Yelp!   A great selection of 20 local craft brews is available to wash down burgers like the Blonde Bombshell Burger, Morning After Burger, the Screw It, I’m on Vacation Sticky Bunn and Bourbon Bacon Burger and my fav, the Uncle Bob’s Barbalicious BBQ Burger.  We gave it an “Honorable Mention” in our Top 10 Drinking-Establishments because of its craft beers on tap.  Just down the street along the Upper Sacramento River are plaques commemorating some of the famous fly fishing leaders from the area including Ted Fay.  Yak’s sits in the beautiful little mountain town of Dunsmuir in Shasta County.

Pine Tree Store (Grand Lake Stream, ME) / Any meal, any time

Grand Lake Stream (ME) consists of 5 dead end streets (ending at water’s edge) with only one road in/out of town to the outside world.  Where all those streets intersect, you’ll find the Pine Tree Store.  It is the ONLY store in GLS that isn’t a lodge or fishing/hunting/outdoor outfitter.  If you look it up on TripAdvisor, you’ll see its “#1 of 1” in GLS.  Inside the Store you’ll find hunting/fishing gear, a small section of groceries, a cooler of beer and sodas and most surprisingly, a great grill with counter seating and one large community table.  Usually, when we’re out with a guide, they’ll have a lunch packed for our wade/float trip which we eat somewhere in/along the river.  In the case of fishing GLS with John Arcaro, when lunchtime came, we went tot he Pine Tree Store, walked right in wearing our waders, and sat down to burgers, fries and drinks.  It was awesome, so good in fact that we came back and had several other meal; breakfast, lunch and dinner at the Store.  It is the community center of GLS for locals and tourists alike.

Wayside Country Store (West Arlington, VT) / Rachel

Our fishing guide on the Battenkill, Ray Berumen, asked us to meet him at the Wayside Country Store in West Arlington, VT, for our wade trip on the Battenkill River.  While we were to meet him at 9am, he commented that we might want to get there around 8:30 and enjoy breakfast.  Not one to miss every moment of sleep we can, we got there about 8:45, went inside and found ourselves transported back in time to a place where “Country Stores” like this existed everywhere, or at least everywhere in Vermont.  Their motto, “If you can’t find it here, you don’t need it”.   What endeared us most was the friendliness of the staff in the store, from the clerk behind the cash register to the folks running the deli.  All of them going out of their way to make two “tourists” feel right at home.  What was also welcoming was this huge round table where anyone who wanted could sit, read the paper, chat, and have breakfast or lunch.  As we found out, BOTH breakfast and lunch were so good.  We even enjoyed ice cream, maple-flavored of course, and dessert, sitting out front on the wooden bench.  This was a real throwback in time treat.  If you ever find yourself heading to the Orvis Flagship store or anywhere in and around Manchester (VT), head west down VT 313 (Battenkill Road) and about half way before you hit the NY state line, on the left you’ll find Wayside Country Store.

Infinity Music Hall and Bistro (Norfolk, CT) / Short Rib

As we were driving the SaraLinda to our campground to fish the Housatonic River, about 10 minutes out, we drove through the little town, Norfolk, CT.  As we cruised the main street, we passed this huge green building, Infinity Hall.  Intrigued, after we setup the RV at the campground, we went online to see what this place was all about.  As the website explained, Infinity Hall was “Built in 1883 as a combination opera house, barbershop and saloon.  Today, it is a thriving music venue and bistro that serves great pre-show meals in an intimate setting below the music hall.  After a great day on the Housy with Bert from Housatonic River Outfitters, we had the pleasure of having dinner before hearing three local CT bands, including one who shared their music with us, Atlas Grey.  Whenever you can get great food and music together, you have to stop…. so make sure if you’re ever near Norfolk CT, you stop in at Infinity Hall and Bistro.

Roosevelt Lodge (Yellowstone National Park) / Applewood Smoked BBQ Ribs

Full disclosure, we absolutely love the northeast corner of Yellowstone National Park…. who wouldn’t…. less crowded, great wildlife and the fishing…. wow!   We’ve fished every stream in every direction from Tower Junction including the Lamar, Soda Butte, Slough Creek, Yellowstone, Tower Creek, Pebble Creek and a few “Nunya” tributaries.  Our “go to” spot to stay in YNP is Roosevelt Lodge and we usually end up in one of their “no frills” cabins (aka. twin bed, heater, desk, no restroom, no sink) as seen in the pic above.  Our day in this area often unfolds this way; breakfast, the moment the Roosevelt Lodge Dining Room opens, fishing all morning, lunch on the river (crackers, fruit, energy bars, H2O), dinner, the moment the Lodge dining room opens at 5pm, and then back to the rivers for fishing until dark.  Breakfast options abound with all the regulars, but the Wrangler’s Skillet is my favorite.  For dinner, again, options galore, but at least once you’ve got to enjoy their Applewood Smoked BBQ Ribs and Roosevelt Beans.  Yum!!!

Honorable Mention

Hitching Post (Melrose, MT) / Steak Sandwich

Deb’s Cross Fork Inn  (Cross Fork, PA) / Wings

Spruce Creek Tavern (Spruce Creek, PA) / Famous fries

Cliff Dwellers Restaurant (Marble Canyon, AZ) / Ribs

Filling Station Deli (Bryson City, NC) / Big Chief meatball sandwich

Hofer’s Bakery and Cafe (Helen, GA) / Strudel

Wolfe’s General Store (Slate Run, PA) / ANY deli sandwich!

Roscoe Diner (Roscoe, NY) / Breakfast

Spike’s Keg ‘O’ Nails (Grayling, MI) / Spikeburger

Steamboat Inn / Idleyld Park, OR / Mountain Cristo

TroutHunter (Island Park, ID) / Any burger

Granny D’s (Canyon Lake, TX) / Chicken Fried Steak

Rock Inn (Estes Park, CO) / Pizza, you build it!

Round Up North (Brule, WI) / Joe’s Pizza

Tellicafe (Tellico Plains, TN) Tellicafe Stuffed River Trout

Zoey’s Double Hex  (Manchester, VT) / Holy Moly Burger

Slow Groovin’ BBQ (Marble, CO) / ummmm  BBQ!

Arp’s (Creede, CO) / Chicken Fried Steak

Cinnamon’s Bakery  (Estes Park, CO) / Cinnamon Rolls to die for

Breakfast Club  (Mammoth Lakes, CA) / Eggs, bacon, pancakes… BREAKFAST!

McAllister Inn Steakhouse (McAllister, MT) / Filet

Otto’s (State College, PA) / Cowboy Burger

Lake Placid Pub and Brewery (Lake Placid, NY) / Maple Melt

Woodfire Kitchen (Hereford, MD) / Crab Cake Sandwich

Worthy Kitchen (Woodstock, VT) / Buttermilk Fried Chicken

 

 

Our last post, Top 10 Beers, detailed actual brews we loved along our River Ramble.  This post targets the actual establishments where we drank some amazing beers along the 487 x 34,585 x 95 x 149 we traveled.  However, each of the establishments listed isn’t just about the beer, but also includes other factors such as proximity to the river, overall ambiance, staff friendliness, quantity of beers available, quality of beers available, live music, and other totally subjective measures.   So without further ado, here are our Top 10 Beer-Drinking Establishments (and a few honorable mentions!).

10.  Rock Inn Mountain Tavern (Estes Park, CO)

We might not have found this one were it not for our good friends Chuck and Marty Raplinger.  They’d been to Estes Park, a bit before we got there to fish the Big Thompson River, and recommended Rock Inn to us as a place we should visit.  When we arrived at what we thought was an “early” time to beat the crowds, we were met with a full parking lot and headed inside to the bar for a cold beer.  We were lucky enough to find two seats at the bar and proceeded to enjoy some Friar Chuck’s from Black Bottle Brewery; 99 Schilling from Odell Brewing and some Ellie’s Brown Ale from Avery Brewing.  Rock Inn has a great selection of craft beers from local breweries, a great menu and live music.

9.  Lake Placid Pub & Brewery (Lake Placid, NY)

Our amazing guide on the West Branch of the Ausable, Rachel Finn, highly recommended we head to Lake Placid Pub & Brewery for some Ubu’s.  We arrived for lunch on a cold, rainy weekday and found a spot near a window overlooking a lake.  Beautiful setting, incredible beer, great food and yes, live music.  In addition, while you’re in Lake Placid, just down the street is the Olympic hockey rink where the “Miracle on Ice” occurred, the high school track where Olympic outdoor speed skating happened and a great little downtown area.

8.  K-Bar Pizza  (Gardiner, MT)

Sure, most pizza places serve beer, but K-Bar takes it to another level.  We talked with the owner, who happens to be a big beer aficionado, and he told us he prides himself on making sure K-Bar has the best selection of local craft beer possible.  In addition, they have some of the best pizza anywhere.  This has been our “go to” spot for a long time at the north entrance to Yellowstone National Park.

7.  Smilers Grill and Bar (Dickson City, PA)

After we’d fished the Lackawanna River “Urban Oasis” with Adam Nidoh of A&G Outfitters, we asked him for a lunch/bar recommendation.  He immediately suggested Smilers a few blocks away in Dickson City.  Turns out, Smilers is a local neighborhood bar and grill in Dickson City, which is really a suburb of Scranton (PA).   It’s not a brewery and it’s not in a picturesque setting like all the rest of the “establishments” on this list.  So what sets Smilers apart, the people.  We were obviously not locals or regulars, and we were still dressed in our fishing pants and shirts, but everyone from staff to the regulars welcomed us the moment we entered.  We sat at the bar, had amazing service, amazing food and all the “regular” beers and a great selection of “local” beers you might find in a neighborhood bar.  What started as a great place to grab lunch after a 1/2 day on the Lackawanna, quickly turned into a few hours at the bar, sampling food and brews, talking with the owner, the barkeep and others at the bar.  Fun!

6.  Hitching Post (Melrose, MT)

When you go to fish the Big Hole River, you could stay in Butte or Dillon, but I’d highly recommend staying in Melrose at the Sportsmans Motel.   Its right next to the Sunrise Fly Shop which has a bevy of guides ready to row you down the Big (fast) Hole like Cory Calkins.  At the beginning or end, or even in the middle of the day, when you need some nourishment and perhaps an adult beverage, just South of the fly shop is the Hitching Post.  This is the quintessential Montana bar that has a great food menu.  As always, Barb and I bellied up to the bar for several meals and brewskis at the Hitching Post.  Like most Montana bars, you’ll find the usual “national” beers, but also a collection of local Montana beers, like my favorite beer, Cold Smoke.

5.  Mammoth Brewing Company (Mammoth Lakes, CA)

Golden Trout Kolsch German-Style Ale from Mammoth Brewing was #3 on our Top 10 Beers.  Now, combine that with sitting either inside, beside giant picture windows, or outside on the deck, looking up at the Sierra Nevada mountains painted with fluffy white snow, and you have #5 on our “Establishments” list.  Top it off with great food service at the brewery tasting room provided by The Eatery and you have a recipe for success.

4.  Boiling Springs Tavern (Boiling Springs, PA)

Boiling Springs (PA) was founded in 1750 and the Boiling Springs Tavern came into existence in 1832, originally established as the Boiling Springs Hotel.   It sits at the half-way point of the Appalachian Trail and directly across the street from the TCO Fly Shop.  We frequented the Tavern on a few occasions.  On our first visit, yes, sitting at the bar, we chatted with a hiker fresh off the Trail and then bought his beer when he was a little short of funds.  Our next visit was after we’d caught the most elusive fish of our trip, a LeTort Spring Run brown trout, fishing with Jake Vilwock.  While we didn’t venture into the dining room (a little too dressed up for us and we still in our fishing clothes), the bar is very comfortable, lots of polished wood and period pictures.  They have great beers on tap, an awesome appetizer selection and friendly people all around.

3.  Innovation Brewing (Sylva, NC)

We’d had a great day fishing on the Tuckaseegee River with Miller Watson and were doing our riverside “Guide Talk” with him when we asked about best beer.  In a heartbeat he said, “Innovation Brewing”.  We all decided to meet there for a beer and headed toward downtown Sylva.  Miller arrived and we sampled a few Innovation Brews and met the barkeep, who is a part of the duo, Bird in Hand, that plays at Innovation Brewing as well as many other regional and national venues.  In true brewery style, they’ve got a food truck on site for the munchies.  Sylva is one of those special places we found along our River Ramble, and Innovation Brewing, Bird in Hand and Miller Watson helped make it that way for sure.

2.  Ouray Brewery (Ouray, CO)

Ouray is a cool little town nestled among some of the most rugged and spectacular peaks in the Rocky Mountains, touting itself as the “Switzerland of America”.    It has a tourist feeling in the summer as people from all over the world converge on the town to wander through the downtown shops, take advantage of the plethora of outdoor activities available, and yes, drink beer.  But, it’s not just tourists who find themselves at the corner of 6th and Main, but locals as well.  We sat at the bar in, how to describe them, swinging chairs held up by giant ski slope cables attached to the ceiling.  The place was popping on a Sunday afternoon, the beer was cold and the food was delicious.

Number 1:  Izakk’s (Craig, MT)

We were introduced to fishing the Missouri River and hanging out in Craig by good friends Sue Doss and Dud Lutton of Bozeman.  After a great float on the Missouri and checking into our rooms at the old mercantile in town, we headed across the street to Izakk’s.  To be honest, in a list of our top 10 “Trout Towns”, Craig would be #1.  So of course, the local bar/restaurant in our #1 town, Izakk’s, would occupy this spot.  We always find a seat in the bar, order up a good local Montana brew, and tell fish stories…. repeating this process…. ordering some food…. and continuing.  To continue the #1’s in this town, our “go to” beer is our #1 beer as well, Cold Smoke.  Not a bad trifecta, drinking our #1 beer, in our #1 establishment in our #1 trout town.

Honorable Mention Establishments:

Sawtooth Brewery (Ketchum, ID)

Three Creeks Brewing (Sisters, OR)

Nantahala Brewing (Bryson City, NC)

TroutHunters Lodge (Island Park, ID)

Phillipsburg Brewing (Phillipsburg, MT)

Roaring Fork Beer Company (Carbondale, CO)

Steamworks Brewing (Durango, CO)

…. yes yes…. we visited a LOT of breweries!

Clinch River Brewing (Clinton, TN)

Kern River Brewing Company (Kernville, CA)

Maine Beer Company (Freeport, ME)

Moody’s Bistro, Bar and Beats (Truckee, CA)

Happy Valley Brewing (State College, PA)

Ska Brewing (Durango, CO)

Thunderbird Inn (Florissant, CO)

Yaks (Dunsmuir, CA)

The Corral (Big Sky, MT)

Spike’s Keg O’ Nails (Grayling, MI)

Top 10 Beers

By TB

OK…. if you’ve been following our blog, or our Instagram feed, or hopefully both, you’ve likely noticed beer somehow works its way into our pictures and conversations.  As a matter of fact, it’s one of our consistent questions of our fishing guides…. What is the best local beer and a local watering hole where we might find one?   It turns out that sometimes, there is a great local beer, but not a local watering hole to get one.  Often times, there is an awesome local watering hole, but not always do they have the “recommended” local beer.  Well, this post is focused on our fav beers…. look for a future post highlighting our fav watering holes.

A few caveats before giving you our Top 10.  First, we’re not into the current IPA craze, so most of the beers are of a darker, maltier, less hoppy variety.    Second, we drank some amazing brews at breweries that don’t distribute much beyond their brewery, so they didn’t make our Top 10 beers, but look for them to possibly show up on our fav places to drink beer.  Third, we drank some awesome beers along the trip, but to make the Top 10, we had to be able to buy the beer within 20 miles of where the SaraLinda was parked.   Mean Old Tom is a great example from Maine Brewing Company; it would definitely be a Top 10 beer, BUT, we couldn’t find it anywhere near where we fished in Maine.  Finally, we can only drink so much, so we KNOW we’ve left some great local beers off our lists.  However, given our local research and fly guide recommendations, these are our Top 10…. just view the video above to see if any of your favorites made our list!

For much of the past two years, we’ve been on our River Ramble, exploring trout streams across the USA.  All total, we’ve been on this journey for 487 days and have visited TU Greatest 100 trout streams in 26 different states.  In fact, we’ve now fished 95 of the Top 100 streams and 149 different trout streams in all.  I know what you’re thinking, you’re still 5 short, and indeed we are.  There is one more state we’ve yet to visit, Alaska.  While we are looking forward and already deep into planning our Alaska adventure to fish the final 5 (and a few more of course) of the TU 100, we wanted to take a moment to look back on this past two years.

As we’ve continued to discover, Its Not About the Fish…. its about the people we continue to meet along our Ramble.  We’ve been blessed to have fished with some of the best guides in the world on the best trout streams in the world.  In small villages and communities, we’ve met some great local fly shop owners and staff who’ve sent us to some off the beaten path fisheries that, while not TU Top 100 streams, easily could have been.  What we’ve enjoyed most have been guides, shop owners and community members who’ve befriended us, shared their stories with us and allowed us to see the rivers through their eyes and experiences.  We feel so lucky to have met each and every one.

Our tagline for our blog, “Fly fishing, food, friends and fun” has been just that.  We’ve sampled more than a few local brews, pubs, diners and dives along the way.  We’ve also had a great time visiting family and friends in Arizona, Indiana, Missouri and Montana…. rafting, zip lining, pickle ball, baseball, hiking and of course, fishing too.

Our “mothership”, the SaraLinda, has performed like a champ, taking us nearly 35,000 miles along this journey.  We’ve camped in state forests, state parks, national parks, Corps of Engineers campgrounds and even dry camped in amazing, remote locations.  The 180 sq. ft. we’ve been living in is dwarfed by the incredible outdoor expanse we’ve called home these two years.  Our backyards have been the Tetons, Yellowstone, Great Smoky Mountains, Appalachian Trail, Maine wilderness and stream side campgrounds in most every state we visited.

2016 was a great year and we posted up a “Year in Review” video for it last December.  We’ll be fishing numerous streams across the country in 2018 as well as the streams we’ll fish in Alaska, but for now, we wanted to share a look back at 2017.   We hope you enjoy this short music video and a few highlights from our 2017 River Ramble.

Fly Dogs II

By TB

As we settle in for the holidays, one of the things we’re always thankful for are the furry friends who we meet in fly shops and who often accompany us as we go fishing.  Last year we celebrated them with a “Fly Dogs” post and we’re reprising it again in our 2017 edition, Fly Dogs II.  We ran into many beautiful canines on our Ramble this year, but we decided to highlight these five.

We always love it when we walk into a fly shop and are greeted first by the shop dogs.  It was no exception when we walked into the Kern River Fly Shop in Kernville (CA) to meet up with Guy Jeans, owner/head guide, who we dubbed “Stonefly Guy” because of his band,  Stoneflys.  The first to greet us was Jackson Jeans (pic 1 above).   Excited doesn’t begin to describe Jackson as he jumped from Guy to Barb to me.

We had the same reception at A&G Outfitters in Dickson City (PA).  We met Adam Nidoh, our guide to fishing the “Urban Oasis” that is the Lackawanna River, in the parking lot of the shop.  When we went inside, we were met by Lucy, the fly shop dog.  After she said hello to Barb and me, she went back to relaxing in her favorite spot (see featured pic) as we went off to fish for the day.  Fly shop dogs are the best!

We met Sammy at the Fisheads Fly Shop in Navajo Dam (NM) as we finished paperwork for our float trip on the San Juan with Chris Taylor, “San Juan Streamin”.  Turns out, Sammy jumped in the truck with us and made the float down the river with us as well.  Sammy sat and watched as Chris rowed us downstream and sat up each time we hooked and landed a fish, never trying to get to it or getting in the way.  She was amazing and so much fun to have wth us.  She really liked one of the fish I caught too (see pic 2)!

It isn’t just float trips where we have these special friends join us.  We met our guide, Matt “Gilligan” Koles, Gilligan’s Guide Service, who showed us the Truckee River, at his home near Truckee before heading out to fish.  When we got to the parking spot and got out, he was joined by Elliot.  Matt asked us if we were ready to “bushwhack” a bit to get to some great holes, and of course we were up for it.  We encountered some great fish you can see in our post, “Gilligan’s Truckee”, but we had a blast watching and listening for Elliott as we waded the river.  He kept up with us every inch of the way and dutifully followed Barb and Matt as you can see (pic 3).

On our “Driftless Kick!” with Pete Cozad of Driftless Angler, we had the pleasure of meeting Pete’s dog, Teak (pic 4).  We watched as Teak ran and jumped to catch the frisbee Pete would throw on the grounds of The Sportsmens Club on the West Fork of the Kickapoo near Viroqua (WI).   What was so special was how Teak seemed to hang onto every word Pete was saying during our interview.  We’ve included a picture in this post, but to really see how Teak was listening, tune into “Driftles Kick!”.

Finally, a reprise of our favorite fly dog, Solomon.  You can see him in our 2016 post, “Fly Dogs” sitting on the welcome mat of TroutHunters Fly Shop in Island Park (ID) on the Henry’s Fork of the Snake.  Well, this year was even better.  We met Sue and Dud, Solomon’s owners and fishing buddies, to fish the Madison River on our “Madison Redux” with Steve Smith, Rivers Edge Fly Shop in Bozeman (MT).  The bite was on and it was an EPIC day of fishing, but what made it so special, was having Solomon with us.

Solomon LOVES to go fishing with Sue and Dud, and also LOVES to get in on the action when he can.  The picture above (pic 5) is one of our all time favorites.  You can see Sue downstream fishing and Dud (red cap) and Steve coming upstream following Solomon, who’d just jumped out of the boat and started running upstream to our boat.   Why?   Of course, we had a fish on!  When Solomon sees a bend in a rod, he’s on it.  We love fishing with Sue and Dud and always enjoy it when Solomon, our fav fly dog, comes along.

I”m sure when we get to Indy for Christmas, we’ll be heading to FlyMasters of Indianapolis fly shop for something.  We’re looking forward to being greeted by their shop dogs to wish them a Merry Christmas!

Ramble On!