Wednesday, November 25, 2015

In recognition of back-roads trucks

Can you guess which member of our family has the best ground clearance, all-wheel drive, thick tires and a towing package? Boges the dog would be a good guess, but it's our "back-roads truck" lovingly known as "the Schplowa".

If you're going to the foothills of the Scapegoat Wilderness, a BRT will get you there.
Back-roads trucks are basic necessities for many sportsfolks, can be considered reliable fishing buddies, are usually well-used alternate/second vehicles and are often named, spoken to and otherwise beloved.

Mine is a 1998 Ford Explorer XLT (see above - yeah it's got rims). Key features:
  • It's been lifted a bit, which helps on the mountain Jeep trails
  • A V8 for pulling trailers over mountain passes
  • All-terrain tires for traction and rocky Jeep trails and eastern Montana's "gumbo" roads
  • All-wheel drive, which is huge on gumbo two-tracks and slick winter roads 
I dread the day I have to find another, but I'll be looking for another Explorer.

The BRT's Bitterroot office.
The back-roads truck is closely related to the fishing-guide rig (commonly a Toyota pickup with a topper and stickers) and the Western Mini-Van. These respected breeds are commonplace at bridge pull-offs, boat ramps, trailheads and campgrounds. It could be anything from a diesel work truck to a specialized cargo van, and while this trite homage awards them a little recognition, a good back-roads truck deserves high accolades and a place in the sportsman's driveway.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 2, 2015

Fly rod juju

I have a soft spot for underdogs and am drawn to the random - a quirk that extends to fishing gear. Sometimes, the older and less practical the rod, the more I love it. This love is born of intrigue and kinship of spirit, not performance.

For example, a few years ago I broke a big-fish slump at the Redacted River fishing a Wright and McGill Sweetheart 7-8-weight that I literally pulled out of the garbage. I figured that if it'll cast, it deserves to, and I could use a 7-weight. That day we landed six fish over 20 inches including a thick 25-incher that remains the biggest to-hand brown I've seen.

I came upon another old Wright & McGill in an auction that was a no-brainer. It's a PF-7, which stands for panfish and 7-weight. It's fiberglass, 7-feet long, has square blanks, and is wrapped in rainbow colors. Perfectly random and glowing with juju. (Incidentally fly-rod manufacturers - wouldn't "Juju" would make a good model name?)

I brought it to a carp pond in eastern Montana in May and it controlled the multiple-pound fish with aplomb, including a 10-pounder. But being that it's not a very practical rod, I shelved it until this past Saturday when I fished with a friend I don't get to fish with very often. I thought it worthwhile to harken the PF-7.

Halfway through the day, I admitted that I regretted it. My friend chuckled, having questioned the decision from the start. It is quite heavy and does not cast big flies well, and it was a streamer day. But my love for the rod became want and determination, and a big one was soon thrashing on the line.

My lucky charm is in the lower right.
It's by no means a record-setter, but it was a great fish for the river. Courtesy the old, short, colorful, quadrangular, perfectly random PF-7.