there is a saying that adventure travel is only adventurous after the fact. during the trip it is more like a day-long pain in the butt. sometimes fly fishing is like that. it is not until the last rays of the sun (or later for those madison river evenings) slip away that the day starts to become fishing stories. gathered with friends around a table of food and drink the eats become more epic, the flies smaller, the wind louder, the misses more painful and the mistakes become more hilarious. it is here in this moment that the memories are cast. and it is here in this place, at this time that you need a cold one, a fried one and one on a bun. or something like that. Follow my blog with bloglovin

Island Park breakfast and lunch

If tiny yogurts and bananas from the hotel aren't doing it for you check out Sweet Peeps food truck. The last time I was there it was just about a mile north from the Grub Steak. Foil wrapped breakfast sandwich ready and waiting. Scrambled eggs, cheese and bacon on an insanely good biscuit. Tasty. Cheap. Fast. And friendly.

If you plan on standing in day on the Henry's Fork waiting for a slightly less educated trout to swim by you could do yourself a real solid and stop by the Grub Steak before pulling on the waders. Delicious and quite large sandwiches can be had from the lovely ladies that run the place. Stick a couple beers in the river to cool and you have something to look forward to when you get tired of waiting on that fish.

The Big Hole

The Dewey Bar
Melrose, Divide, Wise River, MT
One of the best things about The Big Hole is that there are a series of no nonsense, you better be driving a truck, Montana bars at every little town and take out. They are sometimes little more than plywood on barrels (Melrose Bar) and they are all staffed by locals who can greet you with a cheery "watchya drinkin' hon?" (The Glen Bar), or the long stare (the bar just up the road from Wise River Club).

You may learn about bunco from hungover ladies of a certain age (Wise River Club). You may hear a story about a hunting guide who left his client out in the snow. Lost. And how he lost his drinking spot. (The Glen Bar). You might hear about a busted hip (Divide Bar). Or why orange juice and beer taste good together (The Hitchin Post). If you are lucky, patient and quiet, you could learn the finer points of fishing a 7 wt rod with two streamers (porch of the Sunrise Fly Shop).

Food is usually chips, pickled eggs or maybe a frozen pizza. But the beer is cold and the company authentic. So leave your city boy attitude outside, pull up a stool, order a can of Rainier's and dive in to real Montana.

Rio Pico

Rio Pico is an awesome little town with almost nowhere to stay unless you count a small handful of rooms for rent (next to the garage, in back of the bar, on top of the barn, in the middle of a field of dirt) that would not look out of place in the state penal system. More dogs than people, more dust than dogs this sleepy little town just might one of the coolest places to chill out and chase big fish.

Uncle Tio's

The only place we found that actually serves food at a table. Opens at 9 pm. No menu. You eat what Uncle Tio's wife is cooking. One night chicken, one night milanesa, steak the other. The food is simple, hot and good. You can get seconds. Free. You will be the only outsider. The rest of the crowd will consist of the same 6 guys sitting around a big table bullshitting and watching football. Every now and then a middle-aged guy will come in with his wife or girlfriend for a night out.

The Gaucho Bar
I have no idea what the name actually is, but I think it might be Franco's. Inside you will find bottles of booze, Fernet Branca and gauchos. These are no theme park cowboys. Chilean-born, Italian blood and straight out of a spaghetti western. These are real-live, real drunk, shit on the espadrilles, dagger in the sash, smell like livestock, beret-wearing cowpokes. Friendly, welcoming and bemused to see some gringos in pastel fishing shirts. 

Uncle Tio's Bar
Hey, Uncle Tio also owns the only other bar in town. Pool tables, an ancient foosball table and Uncle Tio's daughter as barkeep.

Fly Fishing Eats: Hebgen Lake, Montana

Fly Fishing Eats: Hebgen Lake, Montana: "The Happy Hour Burger A sample of the wall and a pint of amber Fried Creamed Corn. I kid you not. The Happy Hour Bar. They call ya 'hu..."

Cooke City

So you are fishing the 'Butte late in the afternoon on an Indian summer day. There is one cut that you have to fool. One fish that you must have out of a day's worth of fish. If you do not succeed the day will not come to a glorious end complete with harps and a gospel chorus, but instead will end in recriminations and a black hole of self-loathing that will eat your fishing confidence for the entire winter. So... you do not want to screw this up.

#22 beatis emerger. Bing. Bang. Boom. Done.

Depression averted you realize that you haven't eaten all day. You really can't stand another baloney, mustard and tortilla "sandwich" and the protein bars are all gone. The Roosevelt doesn't hold any allure either. What to do?

Well campers, why not head on over to always friendly Cooke City where you can meet real-live Romanians. It's only a few short miles from the "Butte. Fewer if you happen to be on Battery Flats. Cold beer and 'eh (with the exception of the Miner) food awaits.

Miners Saloon is hands down the best place for a burger, pizza, beer and a Fernet Branca and coke, although the bartender will abuse you for the last order. He is under the impression that the proper way to drink Fernet is as a shot. The pizza here is a really good imitation of NY-style pie. Greasy, cheesy, foldable. If you fish through sunset expect a wait.

The hardware store and bakery next to the Super 8. Good breakfast burritos and cakes.

Beartooth Cafe  has a real friendly staff, pretty good food and excellent beer selection. It's always a wait, but they have a nice outdoor waiting area where you can watch the locals from Eastern Europe wander by while sipping you beer. Occasional neck-snappers are seen.

Soda Butte Lodge Prospector Cafe makes me want to say "Beeeeetch Creeeeeek." Thumper Rule applies

Hoosier's Bar might be your best bet in town. Have that baloney sandwich on the river, catch one more fish and then spend the rest of the night here listening to Van Halen on cassette tape. Watch the owner yell at people for using the restroom and not buying a beer. Drink PBR. Drink more PBR. Buy rounds of PBR for the house. Notice that you and your buddy are the house. Pay $10 tab. Stick #22 beatis emerger back in hat.

Yellowstone National Park

Bears, bison, wolves... they are all here in large number. Good food however is not. It is a bit of a source of constant frustration that such a wonderful, magical place can be ruined with overpriced, overcooked, often unpalatable food. There is really nothing redeeming about the food the lodges produce, some is just worse than others. Rather than sticking to a few American classics like burgers, pizza, chicken fried steak, etc. they try and get fancy with gourmet dishes that contain multiple ingredients. If it takes more than 3 words to describe what you are going to eat - run.

There are secrets to getting a decent slice of pizza in the park, but you will have to figure that one out on your own. It should only take a night or two at the bar to make the proper connections.

Or you can go the cheap and easy route and eat salami and cheese on a tortilla. Go crazy and put a little brown mustard on it. If you want to step it up a notch your local grocery store has wonderful, salt-rich bags of Indian food that you just plop in boiling water for a couple minutes, or as I learned last year, just leave them in the car all day for a perfectly lukewarm, no hassle dinner. Tasty and filling. And it replaces all of that salt you sweated out. Remember, you are here to fish, not dine. That potato chip in your hand is merely fuel for the next day's stalking of fish.

La Despensa

Never had a better empanada
Lower Limay. Cross the foot bridge. Walk till you come to a fisherman's ladder. Look left. Order homemade empanadas and Quilmes. Watch chickens. See goats. Scratch dog's ear. Repeat.