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David Sparks Ph.d Road Hawgs
by David Sparks Ph.d, click here for bio

Program: Sportsman's Spotlight
Date: June 15, 2017

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As most of you Sportsmen’s Spotlight regular listeners know, I love to catch up with Field & Stream’s Senior Deputy Editor, Colin Kearns on a regular basis to find out what’s going on seasonally in this fabulous outdoorsman’s magazine. Today I had a question about an article that appeared in the June issue. It said thrill rides followed by Road Hawgs. Road Hawgs?

Strike Gold

Lace up your hikers and make the lung-burning trek to one of the many alpine lakes in the Wind River Range that hold big golden trout. Hotspots are tightly held secrets among local anglers, but the Pine Creek Drainage is an excellent place to start your search for gold.

High Steaks

It may be cowboy kitsch, but don’t miss the traditional Western cookout at Pinedale’s Pitchfork Fondue. Hosts Matt and Liz David skewer Wyoming sirloin steaks and dip them in a vat of boiling oil until fried to your liking. Tea and lemonade are also provided, but anything harder is BYOB.

A Grand View

With the Tetons rising high above, it’s easy to get distracted by the scenery while floating the Snake River north of Jackson. If you can focus on the fishing, you’ll be rewarded with big brown trout and native finespot cutthroats, which feed aggressively on the surface starting in midsummer. Check in with Grand Teton Fly Fishing for river conditions, fly recommendations, and half- or full-day guided trips.

Scenic Route

From here, the itinerary takes you through Yellowstone National Park, home to spouting geysers, bubbling mudholes, and any number of otherworldly attractions begging for attention—not to mention some great fishing just off the highway. If nothing else, rinse off the road-trip rank with a quick dip in the Firehole River.

Flooded Forests

In 1959, a massive landslide briefly dammed the Madison River and formed the deep, still waters now known as Earthquake Lake. The stubby fingers of pine trees reach from the surface and provide fishy cover for an abundant trout population—and rumor has it, there are some truly giant browns in the lake. For the best opportunity at landing a local legend, drop a small dry fly among the flooded timber at dusk. Hot Fly: Baetis Sparkle Dun

The Big Time

You’ll pass a lot of amazing trout water on your way to Divide, Mont., but the iconic Big Hole River is worth waiting for. Mid June typically marks a big salmonfly hatch on the river with trophy trout feasting on the bugs. If the salmonflies aren’t hatching, however, roll a Bitch Creek or Kaufmann’s along the bottom near heavy cover to target the biggest of the Big Hole’s browns.

One Last Cast

With 12 great-tasting beers on tap, including several local brews, Mac’s Last Cast in Dillon is the perfect watering hole to cap off your road trip. Opt for something from Montana’s Philipsburg Brewery, such as the crowd-­favorite Haybag Hefewizen.

Fly Guys

Since the early ’80s, Duranglers has been the region’s go-to fly shop, and few people hold more local knowledge than cofounders John Flick and Tom Knopick. The staff here will clue you in on what’s biting where—but don’t expect them to spill all their secrets from behind the counter. Instead, book a guide for a day on the Gold Medal Animas River.

Local Flavor

If you’re looking for a little local color, you can’t do much better than stopping inside Blondies Trophy Room in Cortez, Colo. Grab a cold beer and the bar’s famous 4-H Burger, which tops a beef patty with cheddar, sauerkraut, and a grilled kielbasa. Stay too late and you will probably need something to steady your casting arm the next morning. If that’s the case, there’s no better remedy in town than the Wake and Bacon Bagel and a coffee from the Pie Maker.

Cutt to the Chase

The Dolores River can get crowded during peak season, especially the lower section. Solitude-seeking anglers should sneak away to the river’s upper reaches and its many feeder streams. Stoner Creek, in particular, provides an excellent fishery for beautiful Colorado River cutthroats. From the Twin Springs trailhead, head down into the canyon to access the creek’s trout-filled pocket waters. Hot Fly: Potter’s Fathead Moth.

Cliff Dive

While you’re here, don’t miss Mesa Verde National Park just east of Cortez. Crash at Morefield Campground, just inside the gates, then get up at dawn to catch a ranger-led tour of the amazing ancient architecture hidden high on the cliff walls.

Two for One

McPhee Reservoir, Colorado’s ­second- largest lake, is unique in that it offers both a warm- and coldwater fishery. Smallmouth bass, rainbow trout, and even kokanee salmon swim in abundance here. The hard-fighting smallmouth bass grow to 2 pounds or better and regularly smash Yum Crawbugs tossed into the rocks up House Creek arm.

Right to the Corner

Take Highway 491 south out of Cortez, then head west on 160 for a slight detour to Four Corners. Make like a tourist, and snap a quick selfie at the exact point where Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, and Utah come together. After posting the pic on Instagram, haul ass east toward Farmington and the legendary San Juan River.

Honest Abe

Construction started on Navajo Dam in 1957, and the next year Abe Cortez opened up a motel and café. Abe’s Motel and Fly Shop is now an area institution on the San Juan River, where local guides and flyfishermen gather to share info and tell tales about the river’s world-class trout fishing. Most of the rooms are equipped with a kitchenette, but don’t miss the café’s Mary Jane breakfast burrito smothered in homemade red chili.

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