Thoughts on the Road

Thoughts on the Road

Wheels hitting the pavement are as iconic to a fishing trip as rods and waders. For the 99.99% of us who don’t live on the Madison River, road trips are the first step to accessing the hundreds of millions of acres of American public lands that offer more wildlife and fishable waters than one could ever scratch the surface of. Although we at Colter Backcountry advocate for a boots-off-the-pavement approach once you arrive, the drive is a crucial step that we know well and love dearly.  

Places that have roads running near them often have a reputation for attracting people. If you’ve ever been to a National Park with a name like Yellowstone, Grand Canyon, or Yosemite, you know how crowded the roads can be. Sure, it’s cool to spot a bear with cubs right from the safety of your car, but waiting in constant traffic jams and hearing the noise of traffic is just not what most of us who fish hope for on our trips. Fortunately, abundant natural beauty, public access, and great fishing extends far beyond these iconic destinations (not that these spots are not worth exploring at some point).  

As a hint, look at a map—ideally a nice red Delorme atlas. Anywhere that is public or conservation land will be marked, and places that are managed as a National Forest, BLM, or National Wildlife Refuge are almost always going to be far less travelled than their National Park neighbors. More solitude, with plenty of fish and beauty? That’s our kind of destination.  

I took this approach on a recent cross-country move which took me right across Wyoming. As the plains melded into sagebrush and mountains arose in the distance, my urge to drive up through the picture-perfect Tetons or the geyser- and trout-filled meadows of Yellowstone was stifled. Instead, I stuck to portions of the state that everyone drives by to reach those places, and found exactly what I came for: solitude, vibrant nature, and some outstanding fishing.   

Two days on two special rivers in Wyoming was hardly enough time to explore, but there is never as much fishing as you hope for. Lined with cottonwood trees and surrounded by wildlife like great horned owls, trumpeter swans, eagles, and ospreys, these out-of-the-way places offered a beauty more than the postcard-perfect vista. The fishing conditions were not perfect, with recent storms filling the river with debris, but that didn’t matter. The hoot of an owl at sunset, the flocks of ducks taking flight in the morning and the gently flowing rivers with no people in sight were more than enough to put these places on my must-return-to list, with a few hard-fighting trout also contributing greatly.  

The demands of a cross-country move prevented me from lingering. But as I drove away and continued westward, the memories of these Wyoming detours stuck. My advice? Stray from the beaten road. It won’t be the route that Google ever picks, but it will be the route you will remember. Make every road trip an exploration, and don’t be afraid to get a little lost. Oh, and make sure to pack your rod and Thorofare Net—you never know where you might end up.  

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