Fighting The Chill in Montana’s Beartrap Canyon

Whiskey, trout and beer. Your standard winter fishing adventure

Well, I think we had a high of 32 degrees yesterday, but that was in town, in Ennis. Below Ennis Lake in the Beartrap Canyon, where the sun didn’t make it above the surrounding mountains until after noon and where the wind was blowing 20 miles an hour, it may have hit 20 degrees at best.

But, there was a goal yesterday, that being to lead Rick Bach, 24, a graduate from Syracuse’s journalism program, to his first Montana trout. Given that the Madison around town is gorged and that temperatures are typically lower the farther up the valley you go, I decided to try the Beartrap. By fishing the Trap, I figured, at least we would be close to a road that parrallels the upper portion of the river and that meant we could warm up as needed…in the Jeep Rubicon.

Another reason why I chose the Beartrap is because it’s one of the easiest places in

this portion of the state to catch a trout. And, previously, I’ve done well there with nothing more revolutionary than a GIE egg and a Brassie. Yesterday I didn’t even bother with the Brassie and just tied on GIE’s for Bach and me. I added a couple BB split shot and a strike indicator and we were off to the races.

Fortunately, it didn’t take long and Bach, who was standing on a sheet of thick ice, was into a trout, a fairly minuscule rainbow, but a rainbow nonetheless. Goal accomplished. We were freezing but we didn’t quit fishing. My hands barely functioned and the guides on my rod, a new Loomis NRX (sweet stick! More on it later.), were building solid with ice. We chipped the ice from our guides, slid on the massive blocks of ice, constantly blew on our freezing hands, and cast as far as we could with a downstream wind blowing our fly line all around. I think I landed three rainbows and a brown before we called it quits and headed for the Bear Claw.

While we sipped an instant warmer-upper—a shot of Old Crow—and followed it with a Rainier, I asked Bach about his current assignment, that being a trip around America, camping out of his Jeep and fishing wherever he can for whatever he wants. He’s penning his experiences for Outdoor Life, running it as a blog called, Fish America. All the posts are available at

According to Bach he’s stayed in 91 towns and fished in at least 25 states. His best meal during the trip was either the elk chili tacos in Arizona or the venison kielbasa and smoked salmon chowder I fed him last night. Or did we skip eating and just drink the High Life’s and Old Crow? Can’t remember for sure.

Bach says that Death Valley was the most amazing sight he’s seen on the trip. And Flagstaff, Arizona was his favorite town, followed closely by San Diego where he wants to revisit for a long-range attack on yellowtails. The best fishing he’s experienced since he began the trip last June was in Virginia Beach, Virginia, where he speed-jigged for amberjacks. His partner landed one amberjack that measured more than 50 inches and Bach landed a 47-incher and a 42-incher. He says the 42-incher almost got eaten by a tiger shark before Back successfully landed it. The largest fish  Bach’s taken was a 150-to-200-pound blacktip shark while fishing out of Islamorada, Florida. Ah, Islamorada. Bach gets a little stary-eyed when talking about it. Says he loves the place and stayed drunk for a full week while fishing there. It’s there, too, where he got to fish with Clarence Clemons, the sax man for Bruce Springsteen. And Bach is a Springsteen nut so that was a big deal. Including the Islamorada portion of the trip Bach says he drank uncountable numbers of beer. He added, “Regarding drinking, last night it seemed like a good idea to drink that straight whiskey, but that may not have been the best choice I ever made (it should be noted that Bach stayed at my house last night and this morning, in a fairly foggy state, he slipped on one of my daughter’s bathtub toys and totally wiped out while taking a shower!).”

Bach says the best fighting fish he’s encountered on this trip was the amberjack. The most surprising fish were the sea-run cutthroats he chased in Puget Sound while visiting Seattle. “I didn’t even know that fishery existed and it reminded me of beach fishing in Jersey where you look for surface activity and then cast to the fish.”

Overall, Bach has landed 48 species of fish on this round-the-nation trip. He says the most difficult detail about the trip was sleeping in the back of his Jeep Rubicon. “You don’t sleep in, ever. You just get up and drive or fish.” When asked how many women made it into that Jeep he pleaded the fifth and said with a smirk, “No comment.” When asked how eager he is to take an office job he said, “I’ll probably go to work for one minute and regret the decision.” When asked how long he’ll live in Jersey before he moves West he said, “I’ll try to hold out for one year, but I’ll be lucky to make it that long.”

I also asked Bach if he had any regrets about the trip and he noted that he didn’t make it to Alaska and that he shouldn’t have poured that final whiskey last night.

Bach is trying to get back to upstate New York to visit family for Christmas and then his adventure will end. I asked him, “Would you do it again?” and he lit up and said, “Oh yea.” Right now, he’s talking to Outdoor Life and anyone else who will listen, trying to secure an assignment for 2011.

Again, check out his blog at www.

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One Response to Fighting The Chill in Montana’s Beartrap Canyon

  1. Pingback: The Ten Most Incredible Fisheries I’ve Ever Experienced | Catch A Cure

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