Although not labeled Part 3, this really is a continuation of the previous 2 stories. And while Part 1 and Part 2 require that each be read (in proper succession) in order to gain a full appreciation for the whole story, one could theoretically read Part 3 without having read parts 1 and 2.
After our slight error in judgment on what should have been the Thompson River Road, Jimmy and I arrived in Columbia Falls at around 3:30 PM and checked into our lavish suite at the Glacier Inn Motel. Not long after our arrival the remainder of the Firehole Ranger detachment stormed into town. There were now two white vans marking our positions. Marck, Morris, Nash, Goose, Jimmy and I were all gathered here on this day to ultimately fish the Middle Fork of the Flathead on Sunday. Between now and then we had a day to kill on the North Fork of the Flathead River.
The first order of business was to stop by Larry’sLary’s Fly & Supply for some river information and flies. Per instructions by the shop’s owner (with whom we would be fishing on Sunday) we found Lary’s in the corner of an old brick building in the heart of downtown Columbia Falls. We were a bit surprised to discover the shop locked up and dark but we reasoned that it was late on a Friday afternoon and the shop had probably closed early for a staff meeting or something like that. With our noses pressed against the window we peered inside: Lary’s appeared to be well-stocked despite its diminutive size and, aside from what you’d expect to find in a fly shop, one could also purchase Salomon trail running shoes if one were so inclined. I won’t say whether or not we would have been so inclined as to purchase said trail running shoes, but had the shop been open who knows what we may have bought?
Right next door, astonishingly, was the office of Outside Media, which also appeared to be closed for the week. Outside Media is co-owned by Shane and Hilary Hutcheson. Outside Media sponsors TroutTV, of which Hilary is a co-host. Hilary is also the proprietor of Lary’s Fly and Supply. It was all becoming very clear now: the Hutchesons are like the First Family of Columbia Falls. If not that they are at the very least a pretty big deal on this block of Nucleus Avenue.
Despite the lack of new trail running shoes the next order of business was to run around town in search of a place for Goose to get his Montana fishing license (the rest of us had previously purchased annual licenses earlier in the year). We stopped by the next closest fly shop in town and although we were unable to purchase a license at Arend’s Fly Shop, we were able to gather some intel on the North Fork of the Flathead River, which we would be fishing the next day. We also dropped some coin and picked up a few flies while in the shop (it’s the right thing to do when requesting free information on where to fish). While perusing the selection of different flies and discussing what weight tippet to fish with, Goose may have mentioned that he couldn’t cast worth a shit. The result of that comment was a 5 minute lesson on the parking lot casting pond.
We were finally able to track down a fishing license for our newly-certified master caster at the local grocery store. Since the grocery store also sold beer it seemed a prudent thing to pick up more. Content with out supplies we headed back to the Glacier Inn for happy hour on the front porch. We were happy to be in Montana again.
Dinner followed at The Back Room of the Night Owl restaurant (tasty food, by the way), after which, like moths drawn to porch lights, we returned to the porch of the motel. It was a beautiful, warm evening in Glacier country as we sat around pondering Goose’s curious lack of leg hair. It’s always a good time Nobody is safe from ridicule at a Ranger rendezvous.
Later that evening we were graciously joined by Shane Hutcheson and a half gallon of R&R whiskey. Having not previously met Shane, it was a pleasure to shoot the bull with him and learn about the area we’d be fishing the next two days. He’s quite the likeable fellow and we wondered if perhaps we might swap him for one of our guides in particular on Sunday. Unfortunately Shane had weekend commitments that prevented him from doing so, but he cautiously wished us well with regard to one guide in particular. The porch session could have gone on all night but we had fish to catch the next morning and Shane had a roof to replace. We bade Shane farewell as he walked off toward his nearby home, under the cloak of darkness, cradling an empty bottle of R&R.
Actually I’m kidding about the empty whiskey bottle: it wasn’t anywhere near empty. The same may not have been said about the bottle of Pendleton. I may be kidding about that, too.