Month: April 2017

The Missouri River and Craig, Montana, are two of our favorite places.  We were introduced to the river by Bozeman friends Sue Doss and Dud Lutton.   So, while we’ve fished the Missouri before, this was our official “River Ramble”  guide trip on the river.

We pulled into Craig at 8:30 on a beautiful, cool Saturday morning.  The forecast for the day was excellent, so, it wasn’t a surprise that Craig was bustling.   Trucks with drift boats were everywhere and anglers were anxiously waiting to meet their guides and get on the river.  We met our guide, Shane Wilson, at the Headhunters Fly Shop, one of three in Craig.  Once we got the paperwork completed, we were off to the river.

We put in at Craig which was new to us, as we’d always embarked from just below Holter Dam.  It was also kind of fun, given that we simply had to drive about 100 feet from Headhunters, past the one “sit down” restaurant, Izaaks, to the water, get in the drift boat, and head off.   At lunch, we interviewed Shane, on his drift boat, as we’d dropped anchor on one of the many islands that dot the river, many of which this time of year have geese on them (as you can hear in the interview).

Please click the video above to hear Shane describe why this river is so very special.

While we’re here in Bozeman, Montana, trying to outlast winter before heading back on the road, we decided to take a road trip to Yellowstone National Park.  We’d read about Yellowstone National Park’s “Spring Babies” in their April newsletter and wanted to see what wildlife was out and about.

We know you’re thinking, “Why aren’t you fishing there?”  Fishing inside the park is not allowed until the Saturday of Memorial Day weekend each year.  And… we will be fishing in YNP several times this summer along Slough Creek, Soda Butte, the Lamar and Yellowstone Rivers.  No… this trip was about seeing what wildlife might be found.

At this time of year, the only road open into YNP is through the North Entrance at Gardiner, MT.  Nothing other than a small general store is open in the YNP Mammoth Hot Springs area.  This road is kept open to a small Montana town, Cooke City, which is a snowmobiler’s dream in winter and it’s the only road open to the town.  Beartooth Pass from Red Lodge, MT, is closed for winter as is the road from Cody, WY to Cooke City.  Cooke City is also the gateway town to YNP situated just outside the Northeast entrance to the park.

So off we went, picnic lunch packed, headed to Yellowstone.  When we went through the North Entrance to the park, we picked up an Interagency Senior Pass for Barb.  If you are 62 or over, go online (extra $10) or to your nearest national park and get one of these NOW!  Why?  Today, its $10 for a lifetime pass.  Sometime later this year, it’s going up to $80.  I know I digress, but these passes save you a ton of entrance fees AND give you access to the most special places anywhere, our national parks and monuments.

As we drove into the park, we saw the usual elk grazing on both sides of the road, along with a bison here and there.  The steep climb up the road to Mammoth which follows the Gardiner River didn’t reveal any new wildlife.  At Mammoth Hot Springs, the smell of sulfur and the beautiful yellow of the hot springs reminded us of why we love this park so much.

We headed the only way we could, toward Tower Junction and onward toward Cooke City.  We have a favorite picnic spot along this stretch of park road, and while it was too early for lunch, we still had to stop and take in the view.  Normally, we set up our camp chairs and chow down on our gourmet lunch of a PB&J with some chips and a cookie.  This day, we took our first photo which is the one featured on our splash page of this post.

Along the road, we saw the “Spotters” out looking for bears and wolves.  You know them by their big telescopes, lenses and the antenna on their cars and trucks so they can stay in touch with other “spotters” in the park.  Often, you’ll see a dozen or more of them, lined up at spots just looking out into the park, hoping to get a glimpse of movement and find their prey.   We’d not seen anything so we rambled on toward Cooke City, driving along the Lamar Valley.  When we started to encounter significant snow on the ground and one of our fav pullouts to have our lunch was closed due to snow, we turned around.  As we passed back over Soda Butte, one of our favorite fishing spots of all time, we snapped a picture of it with banks still covered in snow.

As we passed back through the Lamar Valley, we decided to stop for lunch and watch the herds of bison grazing and roaming.  One herd decided it was time to cross the Lamar while we were having lunch (see Pic 2).  It must have been time for them to move to greener pastures.

As we left our lunch spot and headed back toward Tower Junction, we spotted a small “jam” of cars, with numerous “spotters” so we stopped to see what they were looking for.   It was a bear of course but it had moved out of sight.  We decided to move on and right before we were set to cross the Yellowstone River, a small herd of Big Horn Sheep came out of nowhere and decided to cross right in front of us.  We snapped numerous pictures but posted Pic 3 above, as it shows something that is also prevalent in spring, wildlife shedding its winter coats.  While we really didn’t see many “babies” on our road trip, we did notice all the animals already shedding.   While we were still parked on the roadway, watching the sheep,  a red fox trotted across our path (see pic 4).

When we went back to Tower Junction,we encountered another “jam” filled with “spotters”, but this time, there was a black bear far up on the hillside.  Before I could get our camera out, lens cap off and focused, it had disappeared into the forest.  We stayed there for another 15 minutes hoping it would reappear, but not this time.

As we were leaving the park, I’d mentioned to Barb that we’d not taken any pics of elk.  Lo and behold, as were were driving back down from Mammoth Hot Springs to Gardiner, we saw this elk (pic 5) snacking beside the road, showing off his “rack in progress” and keeping with the theme of wildlife, his winter coat shedding.

As we left the park, we remarked, “this doesn’t ever get old”.   We go into YNP whenever we’re out in Montana.  It draws us back again and again.  Its vast expanses.  Its amazing wildlife.  Its beautiful rivers full of cutthroat trout.  And yes, we’ll be back in July!

Ramble On


Madison Redux


Last year, we fished the Madison River both inside Yellowstone National Park and outside in Montana.  The Madison is one of those rivers that always produces fish and sometimes gives you an “epic” day on the water.  We had that epic day, inside the park, with Patrick Daigle of Blue Ribbon Flies in West Yellowstone, swinging flies in October.  We had another epic day on the wate,r outside the park, this past week with Steve Smith of Rivers Edge Fly Shop in Bozeman.

Barb and I were in a boat with Steve and our Bozeman friends, Sue Doss and Dud Lutton along with their dog Solomon, joined us for the trip.  We put in at Burnt Tree on a cold, breezy morning and were a bit concerned about even more wind and cold hitting us all day.  As it turned out, if it did get colder and windier, we didn’t care because we were ON fish all day.

We fished from the boat most of the morning but focused on the deeper buckets as we drifted downriver.  We were hitting fish all morning, both browns and the most beautiful rainbows, all in the 14″-16″ range, with a few 18″-20″ fish as well.  When we stopped for lunch with Dud and Sue, we shared stories and what was working.  It was all wire worms and small midges doing the trick.  Red seemed to be the color of choice for these hungry trout.

At lunch, we’d dropped anchor in a “fishy” spot, so after we’d eaten, Barb fished in a one person hole and I took over picture responsibility.  Bam!  Fish on… and what was so funny, was that about 30 yards downstream, there was Solomon, jumping out of Dud’s boat, and heading upstream to be a part of Barb’s catch.  Dud came running upstream to bring Solomon back to his boat, but once back….. BAM!  Barb hooked another fish and Solomon was on the move.  We did this another 4 or 5 times before pulling up anchor to begin our afternoon of fishing.

We’d had an incredible morning and couldn’t imagine the afternoon getting better, but it did.  Instead of fishing from the boat, we found spots to get out and wade fish.  In each spot, we hooked into fish again and again.  Strong, beautiful trout ready to bend our rods and boy did they.

We fished about 5 different buckets after lunch and at each location, we caught so many fish.  When we left to fish the next spot, we full well knew there were even more fish that could have been hooked in the hole.   You never want to use the “E” word but this day was EPIC!

At the end of the day, we floated downriver, enjoying the incredible scenery around us, the snow on the mountains and even a moose taking a peek at the drift boat as we slowly passed.  We’re still talking about how great the trip was and how Steve was a great guide.

Ramble On

As we made our way from the San Juan River to Bozeman, we happened to be going through Moab UT, which is base camp for many outdoor adventures, including trips into Arches National Park.  We looked at our fishing calendar which suddenly had a couple of openings due to SNOW on the Green River in Flaming Gorge and decided to hole up in Moab for a few days.

The first day we arrived in Moab, we parked the SaraLinda at the SlickRock Campground on the north end of town, nearest to Arches.  Once we were settled, we headed up to venture into the park for our first sojourn.  It was late, the park was closing at 7pm due to road work in the park, so we raced (at 45mph, park speed limit) deep into the park to see a few of the sights.  We walked about a quarter mile to get a better look at Double Arch (see Pic 1) and realized that we really needed to go all the way up into it to gain a greater appreciation of its size.  We also did our three nods looking up at Balanced Rock which we were told is actually the size of three school buses.  What our first day excursion told us was that we’d be spending at least a full day in this beautiful park.

The next morning we were up early and headed into the park again.  After stopping at the Visitor Center, we ventured up the winding road, heading again to Double Arch.  There were far fewer people in the park at this hour so our hike to the arch was much more peaceful (aka…. all the young ones were still safely in bed as were the tweens).  We made it to the base of Double Arch where Barb shook her head as I was determined to climb up inside the arch to get a picture looking out over the landscape.  It took a bit of “scrambling” but I finally made it (see Pic 2).  After slowly sliding back down on my backside, Barb and I headed off for the next set of arches.

Across the way from Double Arch are two “Window” arches aptly named, North and South.  What is amazing is that as you hike the path to see North Window Arch, you are looking everywhere to see where South Window Arch is located.  Nothing!  When we arrived at the base of NWA, I was able to coax Barb up under the arch for a picture taken by another hiker.  We traded a lot of arch pics with people from all over the world.

As we left NWA and thought we were headed for Turret Arch (the arch in our featured cover pic…that’s me inside the arch), disappointed we didn’t find South Window Arch, low and behold, it simply appeared, behind a rock.  Perspective was everything in seeing SWA as I later learned.  We continued to Turret Arch which turned out to be a very easy hike.  Again, Barb took in the view from a distance while I climbed up into the arch.  When I turned around, a beautiful view of BOTH “Window” arches appeared (see Pic 3).

After these three hikes, we were beat and ready for lunch.  We headed to an area in the park known as Devils Garden.  We grabbed a quick lunch of our usual PB&J, a few chips and an apple.  It’s our “go to” lunch everywhere… fishing, hiking, traveling and just hanging out.  We never get tired of it.

Our next hike was to Landscape Arch (see Pic 4) which is the longest arch of its kind in the world.  This was a longer hike, a bit of up and down, but not too bad.  On the way back I couldn’t resist running up a hill of sand weirdly tucked into the canyon walls.  On the way back from seeing Landscape Arch, we took side trips to Pine Tree and Tunnel Arch.

We had a bit of energy left in our tanks, so, we hit a few more arches before heading to a local brewery.  As we sat down and shared a nice Moab Brewery scotch ale, we looked at Barb’s watch and determined we’d hiked about 6 miles during the day… so, of course, we splurged with nachos to go with our brew!

The next day, we headed to yet another national park in the area, Canyonlands, as well as to a state park that got rave reviews, Dead Horse Point State Park.  The prevailing story behind Dead Horse Point State Park is actually pretty sad.

After another day of hiking, we made our way back toward Moab, our basecamp.  However, one more hike was in store for us.  We hiked up the side of a cliff; yes, even Barb had to climb this one, overlooking Moab to see some Native American petroglyphs (see Pic 5).  Very cool.  And we just had to make one more trip into Arches to see Delicate Arch which is the arch used in most all of the literature about the park.

Our time in Moab was done and we headed on to Bozeman for some fishing, R&R and seeing friends.  We had an “epic” day fishing on the Madison, but that’s another story.

Ramble On




We met Chris and Samantha at the Fisheads San Juan River Fly Shop in Navajo Dam, NM, on a cool morning.  Chris would be our guide for the day, and Sammie, his sidekick, was a beautiful and well-mannered Golden Retriever.  We were setting out to fish the “quality” water section of the San Juan.

When we put in at the boat dock, we were joined by a few other drift boats and a couple of fishermen already having waded out into the river.  Chris had tied on a couple of streamers that were actually setup to be fished like you fish a jig…  long strips followed by pulling enough to keep the line straight and tight.  This was necessary so we’d feel the strike of the fish and then….. strip set!

We missed several fish because we were still in our normal raise the rod tip mindset.  Eventually, we got the hang of it and started getting into some fish.  We had a great day on the water with Chris and Samantha and know you’ll enjoy this “Guide Talk” video interview with Chris, highlighting how to fish the San Juan and cutting in some great shots of fish and Samantha.  Enjoy!



After fishing the Lees Ferry Reach of the Colorado River with Lees Ferry Anglers, we took off for Navajo Dam, NM and the San Juan River.  Along the route, we noticed a right turn at Cameron, AZ that would take us to the Grand Canyon…. well, DUH!  Of course, we decided to head west to Grand Canyon National Park.

We arrived at Trailer Village RV Park inside GCNP around noon, got the SaraLinda setup and off we went.  We were anxious to get in as much as we could that first afternoon because the forecast for the next day was rainy and windy.  Nothing worse that hiking down a narrow trail with the wind blowing hard and the trail wet.  So off we went!

When we decided to go to the park, we consulted with our friends Chuck and Marty Raplinger, who’d actually hiked down to the bottom of the Grand Canyon with their daughters Christina and Jessica, a year ago.  They’d shared with us the details of their trip, hiking down Bright Angel Trail, camping at the base of the canyon, then hiking back up on Kaibab Trail.  Chuck told us the hike up was challenging, especially that last mile.  However, Chuck told us that a good hike might be the first mile down the Kaibab Trail to a viewpoint called Ooh Aah Point.

So, our first stop was the South Rim trailhead for the Kaibab Trail.  I knew Barb would be somewhat skeptical of hiking the trail due to it being narrow, with somewhat steep drop-offs and mostly, her fear of heights.  Not to be deterred, Barb and I started down Kaibab Trail for Ooh Aah Point (Refer to Pic 1 above – “Selfie”).  About 50 yards down the trail, Barb looked at me, said “give me the backpack”, and headed back up. .  She said “You go if you want, but not me!”   As I continued down the trail, I took a picture of Barb as she ascended the trail (Refer to Pic 2 above – “Bye”).  We were headed in opposite directions.

As I continued down the trail, two things struck me, first, the views were breathtaking.  Around each switchback of the trail, a new view unfolded with the shadows painting the landscape of the canyon in different ways.  Second, I knew that if somehow I’d convinced Barb to continue down the trail with me, she’d have already pushed me off the trail, down into the canyon.

Continuing on, I also noticed two kinds of hikers coming up.  First, those who’d hiked down to Ooh Aah Point; they were all smiling, a bit winded perhaps, but still smiling.   Then, there were those who clearly had hiked that day from the canyon floor, straight up the trail.  Now mind you, the Kaibab Trail, from the canyon floor up to the canyon rim is 8 miles long.  Those people were NOT smiling, most were breathing heavily and NOT wanting to say “hi” or even look up at you.  Their goal was simply to make it to the top.  Take a look at Pic 3 above…. this is the “Warning” sign along the trail.  It seemed a few of those coming up didn’t heed this warning.

The real crazies were those who’d decided to hike down to the canyon floor and back up in  one day.  Those, what is the right word…. um…… idiots, were the grumpiest of all.  You could easily identify them.  They had only a small backpack, if any at all, and were typically complaining loudly with their hiking partners… some very loudly.

In any event, I made it down to Ooh Aah Point, took my obligatory canyon photos and selfie (Refer to Pic 4 – “Ooh Aah”), took a sip of my water, and then headed back up.  About a quarter of the way up, I started to take stock of my breathing and the amount of water I had left in my liter bottle.  I started to wonder if others coming down were categorizing hikers coming up like I was.  I was hoping they would put me in the right class of those just hiking down to Ooh Aah Point, and not that “idiot” class.  I tried to make sure I at least smiled at those coming down as I gasped for air periodically.   Finally I made it to the top and hooked back up with Barb at the Visitor Center.

The remainder of our day was stopping at various lookout points along the Rim Trail.  We concluded our day by watching the sunset at Mather Point.  OK… to be honest, Barb had seen enough canyon views, she took the bus back to the SaraLinda and I met up with her after the sunset.

The next day actually turned out to be better than expected, other than it snowed on us several times throughout the day.  We went to the Desert View area of GCNP, climbed the watchtower there and took in more incredible views of the canyon.  We also stopped at more overlooks, especially stopping at those where you could actually see the Colorado River cutting its way through the canyon and one of the Class 8-10 rapids.  We went to the Tusayan Ruin, an 800 year old pueblo a short distance from the canyon rim.  It was so interesting to ponder what life was like for the Native Americans who made GCNP home.

Next, we visited several of the “historic” spots along the Rim Trail, including the Hopi House, Kolb Studio and the El Tovar Hotel. As we were walking back to our car, taking a short cut through another historic structure, the Bright Angel Lodge, a rainbow appeared over the canyon and we snapped the 5th Pic above.   Take a close look in the picture, in the lower left corner.  You can see a small ribbon of a trail going right to the edge of the canyon wall, a part of the Bright Angel Trail.  THAT is where Chuck, Marty, Christina and Jessica hiked and then down further to the bottom of the canyon on their hiking/camping trip.  You cannot even see the Colorado River from this viewpoint…. just that ribbon of the trail disappearing off a cliff.

Finally, we did what we always do at the end of a late March Saturday, we retired to the lounge at the Yavapai Lodge to watch March Madness.  More specifically, we were there to watch the KU Jayhawks play the Oregon Ducks.  Growing up in Missouri, attending the University of Missouri, you can imagine who we were cheering for….. Go Ducks!

The next morning we packed up the SaraLinda and headed east for the Navajo Dam State Park and the San Juan River.

Ramble On