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One Day On The Clark’s Fork

April 1, 2022

The Clark’s Fork is a stream with its headwaters near the town of Anaconda, Montana. It flows west and eventually joins the Columbia River. Hence, it is also referred to as the Clark’s Fork of the Columbia. Eventually, it pours into the Pacific Ocean west of Portland, Oregon.

My wife and I travelled to Montana in 1993 and 1995 to fish the Clark’s Fork along with other Western Montana rivers. I remember a long distance call to my father in Eugene, Oregon. I wanted to know exactly where to access the river. He said I needed to look for dirt ranch roads that led off the US 90 frontage road (the old road) a “bit down the road” from Warm Springs.” What the hell was a bit down the road? “Never mind,” I said. I was sure I would find the access points on my own.

I had heard a lot about this stream from my father who had fished there for over 60 years. I knew it was supposed to be full of big German Brown Trout. We were staying in a motel in Deer Lodge and my mind was full of anticipation as we got up in the morning for our first foray onto this stream. I found those ranch roads instantly and decided to give a whole morning just to fishing one stretch of this river.

My first choice for a fly was a Blue Winged Olive. It proved to be a winner. Boom! After just two casts, I had a good fish on. But then it happened; the little monster straightened out the hook on my number 14 Blue Winged Olive. I repeated the same scene over and over again that morning. Most of the fish were lost due to hook strength. Apparently I had bought some cheap defective flies back in Oregon. My wife finally landed a nice 20 inch fish but I was out of flies.

I decided (without rationality) that nothing but a number 14 Blue Winged Olive would do so I jumped into the car and headed back to Deer Lodge for some flies. The man at the sporting goods store must have thought I was nuts. I rushed in the door and asked if he had the flies I sought. He showed me to the case and I scooped up an entire handful and asked, “How much?” He asked if I was in a hurry. I said I definitely was and that I had an appointment with a few large fish a few miles up the road. He just shook his head as I left.

I sped back up the road and parked the car where I had early that morning. The time was now about 11 AM. As I entered the water, I heard a giant noise that resembled a gun shot. No, it was only a beaver that I had startled. I made my way down stream, casting as I went. Nothing! Then the sky shifted into a classic Rocky Mountain thunder storm. Boom! The day was over before it had begun.

We drove back to Deer Lodge and had lunch. All the while I was fixating on fishing the Clark’s Fork. Someone in the restaurant suggested that I drive west towards Drummond on that same stretch of frontage road. I asked why. “Whitefish!” was the answer.

After lunch the skies cleared and we were on our way again. I found a suitable place near where I was told to go and started fishing those Blue Winged Olives. Nothing! In a typical fisherman’s desperation, I tied on a number 8 Hare’s Ear Nymph. Bingo! I was doing business again and the Whitefish just kept coming one after another, interspersed with the occasional Brown.

When we finally got back to our hotel in Deer Lodge, I called my father again and told him about our successful day with a great deal of pride. There was silence on the other end until he finally asked, “So you found the road alright?”

For my father who was born 109 years ago in Austria. He always had a fine sense of humor and a superb cast, both of which I admired. Today is his birthday – Thanks for being a wonderful father!

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  1. I used to fish with an uncle. Never caught much but it was nice and peaceful. I remember seeing fly fishing in the film A River Runs Through It and it looked so elegant . I think the film was set in Montana, the scenery was fantastic.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Happy memories of your dad.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Happy birthday. 109 years ago was an entirely different world. And Austria to boot.
    I am increasingly amazed at how the world has changed. Must be getting old.
    Hope you are well… 🙏🏻

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Good memories of great fishing. Wow, your dad’s picture was in “A River Runs Through It!” Happy birthday, Mr. Allen.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Your grandfather. Caught my error.

    Liked by 1 person

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