A fishing truck

Do I keep an old pickup truck on the road a little while longer?
bug splattered montana license plate
Photo: Todd Tanner

I might not remember it like it was yesterday, but I do remember it. It was the Spring of 2000 and Jones flew into Bozeman in early April. We spent a little time at my house up on Skunk Creek Road and then jumped into my brand new Toyota Tundra — the limited edition in metallic grey, mind you — and headed for the Bighorn. I don’t remember which boat we pulled behind us, or where we stayed, but I do remember the unmistakeable new vehicle smell and the back seat crammed full of gear because I hadn’t had the cap installed yet. Oh, and I remember that the Bighorn fished like the Bighorn, and we caught a bucketload of nice fish.

It was one of those wonderful trips where everyone else on the river did well nymphing the Bighorn’s riffles and pools, while Jones and I focused on the skinny inside bends with our dry flies. We cleaned up on big trout that nobody else saw sipping BWOs in eight inches of water. To be honest, that’s exactly how you should christen a fishing truck not a week removed from the dealer’s lot.

And that long-ago Bighorn excursion was only the first of my truck's epic fishing adventures. I can’t tell you how many road trips have followed that first drive to Fort Smith, but over the years we’ve visited a veritable “who’s who” of classic western rivers, from the Henry’s Fork to the Missouri to the Madison to the Bitterroot to the Beaverhead to the Ruby to the South Fork to the Green to the Clearwater to the Salmon to the Yellowstone to Silver Creek. The Tundra has made the long drive west to the Washington coast for steelhead, and the longer drive north to British Columbia’s legendary Skeena system, along with all my annual pilgrimages to the Elk. Other than a rear spring that broke outside of Jackson Hole, Wyoming and a seldom-used AC unit that gave up the ghost a while back, the truck has been an absolute dream.

Thirteen years ago it even made the mad, pre-dawn, 95 mph dash to the hospital in Sandpoint, Idaho when Molly’s midwife told us that the baby wasn’t coming out on his own and it was time for an emergency C-section.

toyota tundra in field
Photo: Todd Tanner

All of those memories, and many more, went through my mind earlier today as I waited to hear from the surgeon (the mechanic). It’s funny. You wouldn’t think that an old hunk of metal, covered in Big Sky road grime and dinged up from a thousand run-ins with rocks and tree branches and the occasional wayward shopping cart, would elicit much in the way of an emotional response.

Hell, it’s just a truck, right? It’s an 18 year old, been-there-and-back-again, beat-to-hell truck. But strangely, I was rooting for it. I’m not quite ready to part ways with the old Toyota — at least not until somebody is making a great electric pickup that runs on wind and solar power.

I just got the call. $3,800, give or take, for a truck that’s probably not worth more than $2,500. $3,800 to fix the brakes and repair 200,000+ miles of accumulated Rocky Mountain abuse, dished out by dirt roads, washboard and pot holes. $3,800 to make the old Toyota safe enough, and mechanically sound enough, to drive down to the Henry’s Fork and shoot the fly fishing segment for our new documentary film, In The Heart Of The Rockies.

fishing trip photo
Photo: Mike Sepelak

So that’s the decision I need to make this afternoon. Do I spend $3,800 to keep an old Toyota pickup truck — a truck that, through great good fortune, has transported some truly legendary fly fishermen, as well as any number of old friends, my retrievers, my wife and my son — on the road for a little while longer?

Shit. Guess I’d best grab the check book ...


Keep it! The taxes alone on a new, or new to you vehicle will be similar or more than the one time $3800 repair fee. Signed, my 2002 F-150.

Smart move. Resale, even on a Tundra that’s been hit by an RPG, is alarmingly high.

I recently decided to keep my old 100,000 mile plus bike rather than invest ten grand in a new one. That ten grand will buy a lot of gas and tying materials! Good luck with the repairs!