Favorite Travel Quotes

"Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts."
-- Mark Twain
Innocents Abroad

"Stop worrying about the potholes in the road and celebrate the journey." -- Fitzhugh Mullan

"A good traveler has no fixed plans and is not intent on arriving." -- Lao Tzu

Too Beautiful To Keep? — A Fish From Montana’s Big Hole River

©Bert Gildart: “It is the largest brook trout I’ve ever caught in this part of Montana,” said Chuck Robbins. “Maybe not the longest, but certainly the heaviest.  I think it may go three pounds.”


Chuck Robbins, guiding in and around the Big Hole River for over a decade.


For the past few days Janie and I have been touring Big Hole River country with Chuck and Gail Robbins, good friends whom we have know for almost a decade.  The couple lives in Dillon, which is the small town in the southwestern part of the state where Chuck bases himself as a fishing guide.  Because the Big Hole is such a fabled fishing river, I have been anxious to learn all I can about the area and would be hard pressed to find a more knowledgeable couple – or a better guide than Chuck.


Because the river has been so high for this time of year, we have been bidding our time making short driving trips and have reconfirmed our convictions that this is a beautiful part of the state.  Dotted with but a few small towns such as Wisdom, Divide, and Jackson the area remains some of the state’s most undeveloped country.  At times the area can be brutally cold and extremely hot, and that may be the country’s salvation, preventing it from such ungodly over development as is now happening in other parts of the country.

PumpkinBugger-1 BrookTrout-3 ChuckRobbins-3

L to R: Art Bivens Conehead Pumpkin Woolly Bugger; brook trout; Chuck Robbins with largest brookie he has caught in Montana.

The country is high and is surrounded by lofty mountains such as the Pioneers and Beaverheads. It is cut by the 7400 foot-high Big Hole Pass. Add to that the Big Hole River, and this becomes some of the state’s most intriguing country, particularly because of its fishing.

According to Chuck who has made precise map measurements, the Big Hole flows for 188 miles. It begins near Idaho at Skinner Lake and finally empties in the Jefferson at Twin Bridges, Montana.


Because of the high water, Chuck felt we should float a 15 miles upper section between Fish Trap to the East Bank of the Fishing Access Site.  I was particularly anxious because we were still finding salmon flies in the bushes. Occasionally they’d take to the air and then hit the water, causing trout to go mad.  Though the waters were unusually high and murky for this time of year, I made my first tentative casts with much anticipation, and was rewarded almost immediately when several small brookies hit the Mepps spinner I had attached to my outfit. It was not, however, until we stopped near a small feeder stream that I finally landed one.  But it was small, and nothing like the one Chuck caught later in the day.

Chuck , who was also manning the paddles, did little fishing until we stopped near Deep Creek,  a point about midway along the river.  Here, several more feeder streams entered the Big Hole and Chuck began by affixing what looked like a “Woolly Bugger” to his line. Chuck, who is thorough, said that the fly was most properly called the Art Bivens Conehead Pumpkin Woolly Bugger, “After,” Chuck said, “the man who first tied it.”


Chuck wasted little time. He made a few tentative casts, and then within a few minutes landed several  few medium sized fish.  Generally, he releases most all the fish he catches but because Janie and I both like fish dinners, we saved several.  Chuck then cast again, and this time I saw his rod arc sharply.  Apparently he knew he had something different on his line, as he played it slowly, bending his body left and right and keeping the line tight. He played the fish for almost five minutes, finally landing it.


Too Beautiful to Keep


Too Beautiful to Keep!!

The fish was large, and Chuck said it was the largest he had ever caught in Montana. We both admired it and then Chuck said it was too beautiful to keep and so we released it.  We watched it as it regrouped, then suddenly, with a flick of its tail, reentered the swift waters of the Big Hole, where it made its home.

“Some day,” said Chuck with much satisfaction, “we might just catch  it gain. ”




*Nikon Strobes & Flower Photography




One Response to “Too Beautiful To Keep? — A Fish From Montana’s Big Hole River”

  1. Tom & Sandi Palesch Says:

    Dillon to Twin Bridges is a beautiful part of your great state. Wide valleys bordered with rugged mountains and lush meandering rivers brimming with trout and memories of historic days gone-by feed my nostalgic moments. It’s the real cowboy west and we appreciate your bringing back memories of our good times there, especially the trout fishing.

    Charles Kuralt spent his final days in that area as you know and loved that part of Montana which was quite a statement with all of his travels. But then again, you all ready know Montana is THE place to live.

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