The South Fork of the Flathead River is home to the wildest cutthroat trout fishing in the American West. The river flows 40 miles through the Bob Marshall Wilderness — Montana’s largest — and has some of the cleanest, clearest water you will ever see. The only way to access it is by mule or by foot, and trails to the confluence are at least 20 miles. Due to its remoteness, it receives light fishing pressure and the result makes for some of the most-willing trout in the world. Here are the resulting photos from a five day packrafting trip in pursuit of those wild fish. Enjoy!
Shot 1: Greg and Tom hiking 20 miles through burnt forest in the Bob Marshall Wilderness.
Shot 2: Floating opposed to mountains on Young’s Creek toward the S. Fork of the Flathead confluence.
Shot 3: Fly fishing in the distant stormy mountains.
Shot 4: The wildest cutthroat trout in the world in hand.
Shot 5: Paddling a packraft 40 miles down the emerald waters of the S. Fork of the Flathead River.
Shot 6: Approaching the takeout at Meadow Creek Gorge’s Class IV water.
Shot 7: Packbridge to the final camp with a wisp of campsmoke in the trees.
The fishing lived up to the pre-trip hype. We hooked up on the second cast and it never quit. The river, too, surpassed expectations and lent itself to a truly wild trip. The long hike, lightning storms, logjams, low water, narrow gorges, and excellent fishing all led to long days ending in exhausted dinners around the campfire. The Bob Marshall Wilderness is big country. It’s remote, wild, and austerely beautiful. You have to really want it to get back there, but once you do, for all these reasons, you’ll find yourself fly fishing in heaven.
By Tim Gibbins
Ranchers have been living and working along the Rocky Mountain Front in Montana for well over a century. It’s a rugged landscape where the Northern Plains meet the Rockies. Grizzly bears still wander out onto the prairie. Wolves still howl along the ridges at night. Ranchers and small towns still stake their claims in this wild landscape.
Common Ground, the beautiful short documentary from the talented filmmaker Alexandria Bombach takes a close look at the personalities grabbling with modern issues in this stunning landscape. Through interviews with ranchers and outfitters, Bombach provides a unified voice for the rural people who live along the Rocky Mountain Front and how they feel about the 400,000 acres of public land that is unprotected and faces the threat of development.
Local ranchers, sportsmen, and conservation leaders have teamed up with state politicians to protect the wide-open spaces, massive mountains, and abundant wildlife along with the heritage of the working communities that live within this landscape. The legislation is known as the Rocky Mountain Front Heritage Act, and it’s in Congress now.
Common Ground is one of this year’s selected films at the Mountain Film Festival & Tour, is sure to win the minds and hearts of people who advocate for wilderness preservation.
By: Tim Gibbins
This past March several friends from Bozeman, Montana traveled out to Cooke City, Montana to explore the backcountry terrain. For anyone with a thirst for nipple-deep powder, it’s the place to be.
Sixty miles from the nearest town, Cooke City is on the border of Yellowstone National Park, and from the looks of it, it offers the backcountry experience of your dreams.
Check out this video of Todd Kirby, Mark Rainery, Ian Dodds, Nathaniel Murphy, and Shane Stalling shredding the Montana backcountry. Over the course of two trips, and four days, videographer Eli Weiner captured the riders sending backcountry booters, bouncy pillows, and gnarly lines.
It doesn’t get any better than this.