After spending the morning chasing trout on the Yellowstone in Livingston, Montana, Mark and I began the three-hour drive to Wisdom. Although we were pretty tired, our energy level shot back up when we stumbled upon the Wise River. We stopped in the local fly shop to pick up patterns for the Big Hole and learned that the Wise is very overlooked and underrated. Fishing it would give us a break from the wide rivers and let us switch into stealth-mode on a tight white water stream.
Frank Stanchfield at Troutfitters told us that while most of the trout in the Wise are small, you can get a nice surprise from bigger cutthroats and brookies if you work hard enough. The road into the stretch he recommended seemed not often traveled, and the landscape screamed “grizzly country.” We attacked with tiny parachute Adams’ and started raising fish fast, but getting a perfect drift in seams between the rapids was tough and sticking the hook in the mouths of these little guys wasn’t easy.
With forty more miles to Wisdom, we only stayed a few hours. The bigger fished never showed, but one look at this hidden treasure and I know for certain they’re in there. We could have easliy spent a whole day exploring this river. This Wise River rainbow may not be big, but what it lacks in size, it makes up for it sheer beauty.
The access road (above) to the stretch of the Wise River we hit wasn’t the worst trail I’ve ever driven on, but blown tires or engine trouble could have been disastourous since there’s no such thing as cell phone service out here. Our Jeep Commander got us and all our gear in and out of this gorgeous spot with no trouble, but if you make the trip to this river, be sure your car is in tip-top shape to avoid a long walk back to the main road through prime bear country. — Joe Cermele
Editor’s Note: Joe Cermele is an associate editor at Salt Water Sportsman, one of our sister publications. He’s writing an article on this trip for Field & Stream’s print magazine, and we conned him into sending us regular updates for this blog from the road.