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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
We laughed. We figured the realtor must have gone all out to impress us. We were 5 or 6 miles down the paved portion of Rock Creek Road when we saw the bighorn sheep crossing sign. And now, a half mile later a flock of 30 or so had leapt the low slung wooden fence to our right and were milling about in the road, slowing our progress to a crawl as we nosed our way through.

That had to be her ahead of us, just easing out of the other side of the flock. Who else would be driving a sparkling clean black Caddy into the heart of Rock Creek country? Any doubts we harbored faded a few minutes later when she left the paved road and hit the gravel portion of the road doing about 35, shrouding us in a cloud of grit. A true Montanan, she barely slowed for the deepest potholes as we followed her the eleven, sometimes teeth-jarring, miles to the first of two cabins we were scheduled to see. She had properties to show and other places to be.

The fix appeared to be in.

As we pulled up to the cabin, the clouds parted sun-lighting the cabin in a dazzling glow, illuminating the metal green roof like a bright emerald, highlighted against the cold black of the rocky scree field that climbed the slope of the mountain that rose from the back yard. The first thing my wife saw was that green metal roof, something she had always wanted.

The owners greeted us cheerily. To steal a phrase, they had us at hello. And it only got better. The cabin was perfect, one bedroom, living room with wood stove, spacious kitchen, a little mud room, with light lacquered pine everywhere. Additionally, there was a detached "guest cabin" and a perfectly finished bunk house with attached utility/storage garage. Off the grid, but with solar power, back-up generator, satellite internet, well, septic, and working plumbing in the main cabin. On the far end of the property sat a functioning but unused deluxe outhouse with attached storage for the owner's pontoon boat and related fly fishing gear.

It came with most of the furnishings, some of them custom crafted.

It had an antlered elk skull over the front door and a bearskin rug on the wall of the bedroom.

It was a five minute walk to Rock Creek.

It was obviously treasured by the current owners with many simple yet very personal touches around the property, including "the Zone" that they had carved out of the base of the scree field as a place to relax as the sun set and to watch the stars rise in the Montana night.

What was not to love? I watched the stars rise in my wife's eyes as we talked with the owner's about fishing Rock Creek, the life they had built over seven summers at the place they called Fallen Rock, and their hope that those that followed as owners would embrace the spirit that seemed to flow through the property.

It was perfect for us. It fit. There was room for family and fly fishing friends. Great places for the grandchildren to play and explore, get dirty and get hurt. But, it was off the grid, and thus - a cash buy.

We had kicked the tires until our toes hurt and looked under the hood until our eyes bled. Then, hearts yearning, we bid the owners goodbye, and drove away without looking back.

We followed the real estate agent at a fair distance as she rocketed down the dusty road for about a mile to a small dry cabin. There we met the listing agent and suffice to say, we looked at the cabin. It was in our price range but needed 3-5 years of work and money to be the place we wanted, but affordable. So we had the parameters. Fortunately we still had two years to find the perfect place.

The listing agent did turn us on to a section of the river that was a bit remote but had fished well for him and a friend that morning, the first time he had fished Rock Creek in two years.

After lunch at one of empty campgrounds along the creek we found (approximately) the place the listing agent had directed us to earlier that day. A fifteen minute hike brought us to the stream.

It was 87 breathless degrees without a cloud in the sky. The summer had been hot though Rock Creek had not been subjected to the Hoot Owl regulations that Montana had just lifted from most of its streams and rivers. The water was a pleasant 64 degrees. Perfect conditions for wading wet. Probably not perfect fishing conditions, but, after 30 years of not fishing in Montana, it was time to wet a line.

The spruce moth hatch, we had heard, was the most prolific seen in years, so we tied on a couple that had been mouldering in my fly box for a decade or so and began flailing the water.

I managed to bring an 8-inch cutt to hand after a few casts, but just wasn't happy with the way the fly looked on the water. I changed to a bushy, size 8, elk-hair caddis, thinking that if I couldn't fool a fish maybe I could at least scare one.

Two casts later, a "scared" fish scared me with the intensity of his big splashy rise and strike so vicious I heard his jaws clap shut from 30 feet away when he missed the fly as I jolted it off the water. Composed, I took him on the next cast.

"You might want to tie on the caddis," I casually suggested to my wife. She did, and then caught and released seven fish, all between 13 and 15 inches, in the next few minutes without moving a step. She hit the Rock Creek Trifecta, cutts, rainbows, and her first brown trout ever, during which time I caught and released a single (but good) fish.

The fix was in.
Water Vertebrate Salmon-like fish Fisherman Fish

Deary's first brown trout ever.

"Can I get another of these flies from you?" my wife asked. "The fish have shredded this one."

"Do tell." I replied. Cut a fisherman, he bleeds envy. It was time to cut a deal. "Do you mind if I toss a cast or two in that slot while you re-tie?"

"Have at it," she replied. She could afford to be gracious …. and, she needed the fly.

We both took a couple more good fish from the slot. They were fresh, frisky, and full of fight (can't get more alliterative than that, at least in a treatise talking trout).

Water Plant Fluvial landforms of streams Natural landscape Tree


Water Shorts Water resources Hat Plant


It was sunny, warm, and the fish were on what we had, just about perfect, and then, as it always seems to happen at times like this, the wind kicked up. At first, it came from our right and then, when it was just enough to start dicking with our casts, it switched around and came from behind, with just enough force to push our casts effortlessly upstream. And it stayed exactly like that for the rest of the day.

The fix was indeed, in.

And that's the way the rest of the day went. I had a great day, and Deary out-fished me, declaring the five or so hours we spent on the water the best day of fishing she'd ever had (and she's no slouch). She sat contentedly the last half hour and watched me as I ferociously, and unsuccessfully, tried to even the score. We walked hand-in-hand, fly rods in the other hands pointing the way, the half mile or so along the dusty, quiet road back to the car and started the journey home.

A week or so later, back home, RV unpacked and stowed we starting working on round two. Back we went to cruise Zillow and we traded a few emails with our realtor in Missoula. Our plan, we told her was to come back in September, about a month away and do some more looking. She mentioned in passing that the owners of Fallen Rock had gotten a little flexible and they had also been talking with a "CEO from California" who was coming to see the place in September and had plenty of cash on hand. It's a two- year plan, we reminded her. "We need to keep on looking."

Clarity comes at odd times, often unbidden from the blue, or spurred by simple thoughts. I was driving home one afternoon when it came," the place on Rock Creek is completely furnished. We don't have to do a thing, except go there, and …. it's perfect." I reasoned, "We've spent a life time robbing Peter to pay Paul, so why not for this" though this time it would probably feel more like an armed robbery and might involve several Peters.

Being married for nearly 40 years can lead to some uncanny moments. Shortly after I got home I said to Deary, "I've been thinking. We should do it." She didn't ask what or how, she knew. She lit up as she said, "Rock Creek? Oh good, let's do it."

We put an offer in the next day. Our realtor told us the owners had hoped we would be the buyers because they felt we "got" the spirit of Fallen Rock and what it meant to them. They countered reasonably. We accepted with a caveat, they had to leave the bearskin rug, because every cabin needed one. They accepted and graciously threw in a dozen hand-tied, self-designed, special flies that were their go-to fly on Rock Creek.

We hunted Pete down like the elusive prey he is, shook him (and several of his clones) 'til every last coin fell out and closed the deal three weeks later.

In mid-October we met up with the owners at the cabin and they walked us through the procedure to close the cabin down for the winter. My youngest son Sam, who had recently relocated to Bozeman, met us there to help out. We got the keys, spent the night, and then said good-bye until next May.

It's going to be such a long winter.
 
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