The Complete Fly Fisher – Wise River, Montana
Big Sky, Big Country, Big Fish
“In our family, there was no clear line between religion and fly fishing” I reads the opening line of Norman McLean’s classic Montana novel A River Runs Through It, and the same can probably be said of most folks in this state, the spiritual home of fly fishers everywhere.
People come from all over the world to try its world-class streams, which offer more fish per mile than anywhere else. The whole trout family is represented here (brown, rainbow, brook, cutthroat, and grayling), and the scenery isn’t too bad either.
The legendary Big Hole River and its sibling the Beaverhead have few rivals for quality fly-fishing and remarkable mountain scenery. The area’s most famous lodge – numbered among the top fishing lodges on the planet by John Randolf, the publisher and editor of Fly Fisherman magazine – is the Complete Fly Fisher. Its location on the Big Hole and proximity to the Wise, Beaverhead, Bitterroot, Clark Fork, and Missouri rivers means excellent fishing, and its small size (fourteen guests is the limit) fosters camaraderie and a family-like atmosphere.
Almost everyone seems to be a return guest, back for another week of catching rainbow and wild brown trout in quantities unsurpassed elsewhere, but even novices can pull in the big ones, with the help of the lodge’s skilled instructors. Owners David and Christine Decker promise not just a wonderful time, but even a subtle change of perspective.
Dining on the lovely riverside porch is taken as seriously as fishing, and is far more sophisticated than you’d expect in this pristine wilderness, surpassing the fare many guests find back home. Special requests are taken, but why bother when Chef Lori Dooner consistently comes through with creations such as sea bass baked in parchment with a citrus vanilla vinaigrette, followed by a mean chocolate crème brûlée.