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Posted By shefisher

After nearly a week of no phone or Internet access available, the flyfishers finally get to join the gallery of Montana's art.

Flyfisher Ennis MT

This is ART.  He flyfishes. At over 10 feet tall, Art is outstanding in Ennis, MT, a citizen of fine "mettle."

His catch is no doubt a steelhead. Art is always fishing so he doesn't get rusty.

Fishing carving

 Meet "Elm"er, known locally as "Stumpy." With his roots in Montana, he chose not to leave when he grew up, carving a niche here for his own branch of fishing.

He totes all his gear in his trunk. (Don't tell me you didn't see that last one coming!)

Posted By shefisher

Carved Tree Asked where you think are the top art meccas in America, it's not likely you would include Montana. Here, art is inextricably bound to this western lifestyle, both past and present. As such, it is both art and history.

In Montana's Historical Society Museum, the Homeland Gallery is a Show and Tell of Montana's history from prehistoric times through WWII. Indian art and practicality are showcased in an array of clothing, jewelry, and story-telling cave and teepee graphics. More well-known is Mackey Gallery featuring the art and wisdom of cowboy artist C.M. Russell.

Charles Marion Russell (1864-1926) was so taken with the idea of the cowboy life in the West, that he left his birthplace of St. Louis, MO, at age 16 to work on a ranch. Other than one short trip back, when he met and married his wife Nancy, his life and his heart stayed in Montana. Besides his well-known art, he was a writer, historian, and humorist. His lifetime spanned significant era changes in all the West, those of cattle-driving cowboys and the passing of the millenia-old Native American culture and dominance. "I came west 31 years ago at that time bar[r]ing the Indians an a fiew scatered whites the country belonged to God.[CMR]" Russell's painted and sculpted images have preserved those treasured times. He did move on, but never forgot his passion for those earlier days: "Like most men my age, my harte lives back on trails that have been plowed under." (1926)

Today's art in Montana is living everyday along the streets and byways. The 3-D fish sculpture in front of an Ennis bank is only one of many versions seen for miles around. Bigger than life carvings and sculptures of flyfishers pay homage to today's sporting lassos. Totems and tree carvings depict the state's fur, feathers, and fins. Even the 1/3-lifesize carving atop the Ennis cafe could be considered folk art of a sort, honoring Montana's mining heritage.

So there is art in Montana, out there among the life it imitates.


Trout Art Carved tree2
Ennis Cafe


(Nest in tree carving.)

 Fish Totem

Posted By shefisher

Fine Dining The sign caught my attention: Antler Tavern and Fine Dining. How could you not stop to eat here? Phil had indeed eaten here last year. Now he wanted to share the experience. His recollection paints "Trixie's" just as I saw it, too:

"I had lunch at this place today. It said, “For a family dining experience come in”. You drove up to the place on a gravel road. There were old cars, trucks and campers sitting around starting to rust. An old boat was posted “4 sale”. It looked like the Hell's Angels would walk out any time. Large boulders were placed so you wouldn’t drive through their place. You went in past people sitting out front that looked like they were here for the party last night. You walked to the door up a metal mesh ramp for handicapped and pull the welded horseshoes handle to open the door. Inside is a bar with a pool table and eating area. The only lighting are the beer signs and light coming in the few windows. I chose a table. When I went to sit down, the deer head on the wall was so low that I had to move to the other side of the table. The moose head was higher. I guess they wanted you to know that the moose was taller than the deer."

Trixis This year, only a couple of people were inside when we arrived. Later, though, the bikers did arrive, but they weren't the Hell's Angels. Menu choices were "Fine Dining" as long as you like fine hamburgers, fine ribs, or a good steak. Not one for hamburgers, I took a leap and ordered a Buffalo Cheeseburger; Phil ordered the Cowboy Burger - double beef. Both with fries. I felt like a sissy ordering Diet Coke instead of a beer to go with it.

We'd hardly heard a song and a half on the jukebox when the plates hit the table in front of us. Perfectly crunchy-crisped hot fries were piled alongside the steamy burger. Buns had been slathered with butter, or maybe oil, and toasted on the grill to a smootTrixish and golden finish. With all the standard burger fixin's piled on, it stood a proud 3 inches high. I looked it over carefully, planning my strategy. As no utensils had been given us, I finally broke down and asked for a knife. The lady looked at me like I'd suddenly grown a second nose, but she wordlessly retrieved and delivered a steak knife to the beerless wimp. Once the burger was halved, it seemed manageable.

Best dang burger I ever ate. Fries were to die for. Lip-smacking, chin-dripping, finger licking good. Burp. Fine Dining indeed.

Posted By shefisher

Yellow Warbler A lot can happen in 24 hours. We were camped at the Alder KOA. Some 100 miles ago we'd started on the Madison River below Quake Lake, breaking camp then fishing until noon. Some satisfying stonefly and caddis dry catches later, we headed on to errands and lunch in Ennis. Then we continued on to Virginia City. Think of mixing Old West cowboy movie towns with a little of Estes Park, and that's historical V City. This original capitol of Montana has been well-preserved for posterity - and tourists. We finished the day by scouting out Ruby River, a small stream with very large brown trout. Hold that thought.


The day's heat had sapped our energy. Chairs in the shade, a cool drink in hand, we sat relaxing for the evening. Our visitors were a yellow warbler, cedar waxwing, and a roosting Nighthawk. Evening lullaby and morning reveille were performed by Sandhill Cranes.

We set out semi-early to fish Ruby River. On the way we spotted many deer, including does and fawns. In the fields where the grass had not been cut, we spotted sunlit antlers. When the buck spooked and ran, he was joined by several other deer, their bushy white tails backlit in the morning sun.

Once at the river, I headed across the footbridge and downstream. After only a few casts, I saw and felt the telltale dip of line. I set the hook into a slow and cautious take. Only then did I feel the bulk and see a gold-sided submarine. I knew it was one of the big guys. Without a doubt it was the biggest, though maybe not the longest, brown trout I have ever landed. He was a hog with a hefty girth, and his head seemed as large as a bulldog's. My camera man wasn't nearby, so you'll have to take my fisher's word on this one. Wish I could show you, I truly do.

Now here's a first: we stopped fishing the lower section because of skunks and rattlesnakes.The worst of both were avoided, but it did add, umm, interest.

mural  In Twin Bridges, we saw the famous R.L. Winston Fly Rod Company but didn't get the tour. We lunched in a city park, watching the Beaverhead River roll by. A friendly man strode up and greeted us. After several minutes of chatter about the town and the area, this 50-year resident let us know that he is the mayor. He bragged on the passage of  Lewis and Clark, along with Sacajawea through this area. There are monuments, murals, plaques, a State Park, and even a county named for the famous two explorers and fur traders. Finally, he told us about a new bamboo flyrod company in town called "Sweetgrass."

We set out with hopes of a better tour this time. We found it, but no one was there. Disappointed once more, we drove out to the main road to resume our drive north. There, in the middle of the highway through town, at the main intersection, was Mayor Tom. We pulled up next to him, stopped and chatted for a few minutes. He seemed disappointed for us that we didn't get to see the flyrod shop, as someone is nearly always there. But we sure got a kick out of his homespun friendliness, and that we could stop right in the middle of the road and visit with the mayor. Twin Bridges is alright.

So now we are in the city, in a hotel in the state capitol of Helena. It's sort of nice to have some space, a nice bathroom and shower, and a regular bed. But one night will be enough. Without the cranes, who will honk and chatter our nighttime lullaby?

Posted By shefisher

Hebgen Lake MT It was a picture perfect campsite in a deep, dark forest. Just us, the lake, the birds, wildflowers and fish. Oh, and the mosquitos. And the rain - and rain. During the night, more rain along with thunder and lightning. But somehow we fit in some fishing. I caught my first Montana fish, an 18" chunk that put on a diving and running clinic. More fish followed, including a 20-incher. Phil, of course, caught many more in the two days, but that's normal on a lake.

PH Trout It looked like the rain might break on our second evening. Previous campers had left kindling and a large log. While Phil was napping, I decided to chop up the log and set up the campfire for later. Having no axe or hatchet, I had to get creative. Now, this wasn't a normal solid fireplace log. It had begun to decay and was breaking into chunks. It was also quite wet from the recent rains. I got a hammer and a long screwdriver. My plan was to pound the screwdriver into a crevice, then pry it up and away. It did the job, but it was work.

Phil had gotten up from his nap and sat down to watch me. He finally offered another solution. Taking the log over to a 3-foot stump, he lifted it over his head and whacked it down onto the stump. Smack! And again - smack! Easy as that the crumbly log was broken into campfire sized chunks. Leave it to a man.

CN Trout After dinner, I set out to start the campfire. The little teepee formation was all arranged, kindling was strategically placed. The wood was wet, the matches were puny, and now the wind was blowing. This was not going to work. I got the lighter from the camper. Click. Nothing. Click. Nothing again. Click. Ah, just enough to get things started. It took awhile but we finally had fire. Phil commented that he'd never heard of anyone building a campfire with a hammer and screwdriver.

Just about the time we could sit back and just enjoy it, we felt little drops. Then more, then more. We were soon running for cover. So much for a campfire.

Phil had run most of this same trip last year. He lamented, "It didn't rain this much on my whole trip last year. That's why I don't build campfires. They cause rain."

C: "I didn't build a fire last night and it really rained."

P: "But you thought about it."

C: "That's true, I wanted to but I didn't."

P: "Only because you couldn't find the hammer and screwdriver."



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