A River Runs through It: Follow Norman Maclean through Southwest Montana.

Fly Fishing in southwest Montana
Fly Fishing in southwest Montana

Southwest Montana’s creeks and streams open for general fishing this Saturday, May 17th. So it only makes sense that I would write another post about the greatest of fishing books: A River Runs through It. Whenever I read A River Runs through It, I get the urge to scurry into the woods and maybe try my hand at fly-fishing. Unfortunately, my outdoorsmanship evokes more Patrick MacManus (who once said his casting technique has “the exact same motions as those of an old lady fighting off a bee with a broom handle”) than Maclean. I much prefer spending my time tramping through the willows, falling into creeks and eating sandwiches to perfecting a cast that achieves the perfect unity of theology and art, but that’s just me.

If you love fishing (even if you’re terrible) and love A River Runs through It, then you’ll love this list A River Runs through It’s Southwest Montana places:

Wolf Creek-In 1937, when the story takes place, Norman lives in Wolf Creek, near his wife’s family. The little town is an extremely popular basecamp for people hoping to fish the Missouri. Seven miles north, the fishing mecca of Craig celebrates the opening of fishing season with the annual Craig Caddis Festival.

Helena-Norman’s brother Paul works a news report in Helena. He spends most of his time at the bar of the Montana Cub, the oldest still operating private club west of the Mississippi.

The Montana Club, circa 1915. Courtesy: http://www.helenahistory.org/montana_club.htm
The Montana Club, circa 1915. Courtesy: http://www.helenahistory.org/montana_club.htm

Elkhorn River-Norman describes at length a day of fishing on the Elkhorn River with his brother and brother-in-law. To be honest, I don’t know what he’s referring to. I think he might be talking about Elkhorn Creek (which flows into Willow Creek, and from there the Missouri) just north of the Gates of the Mountains Wilderness Area, but I could be mistaken. Any thoughts?

Roger’s Pass-On their way to fish the Blackfoot, Norman and Paul cross the Continental Divide at Roger’s Pass, famous for having the coldest temperature on record (-70 F) in the continental U.S. On their way down, they would have passed through Lincoln. Norman also writes of Paul taking the “Nevada Creek Road” which is now MT 141.

A barn near MT 141
A barn near MT 141

The Big Blackfoot-the titular “River”, the Blackfoot flows from its headwaters near Roger’s Pass to Bonner, where it joins the Clark Fork. The Blackfoot is one of Montana’s most famous blue ribbon trout streams.

The Blackfoot River, near Ovando
The Blackfoot River, near Ovando

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