Truckin' to the river

What a long, strange trip it's been
fishing truck
Photo: Jeremy Roberts / Conservation Media

My fly fishing is starting to rust. That’s never a good thing when you’re in love with your angling.

I’ll get back to the rust in a minute. First, though, I wanted to share a few things I’ve noticed over the years.

I was in my 20s when I realized that most folks — including yours truly — had to leave home to enjoy a truly stellar fly fishing adventure. There was no way I could walk out my suburban front door and dive into the kind of wonderful, transformative experience that I would find in the glossy pages of a magazine. If I wanted to chase native trout in the shadow of the jagged Tetons, or raft down a remote wilderness stream in British Columbia, or dodge brown bears on Alaska’s Moraine Creek, I had to drive into the city, stash my vehicle in long-term parking, and get on a jet — or really, a series of jets — that would eventually transport me to the destination of my choice.

When adventure called, my only response was to call my travel agent. Which, to my way of thinking, was a serious issue. Travel is both expensive and time-consuming, and it also requires a fair amount of planning on the front end. It’s simply not a good fit for those of us who prefer our outdoor escapades to fall under the heading of “frequent and spontaneous.”

There was a solution for that particular issue, of course, and I grabbed it with both hands. I packed up my truck with my fly rods, shotgun, bow and rifle, then cleared a space on the passenger seat for my golden retriever and drove west towards the setting sun. I eventually ended up in a place where the mountains were bigger, the trout more plentiful, and grizzly bears and wolves roamed free in landscapes far wilder and more alluring than the pastoral valleys and ridges of my youth.

Long story short, I traded the idea of the occasional trip to the other side of the continent for a home on the edge of a vast wilderness; a place where the only things necessary for a story-book adventure are a fly rod and a 4WD pickup with good tires.

I’ve owned a number of solid trucks over the years, along with some pretty serious SUVs. My current rig, which I purchased brand new back when the Clintons were still in the White House, is a 4WD Toyota Tundra that has explored countless dirt roads and sketchy two tracks in pursuit of the great unknown.

Some years ago I found a remote, gated dirt road, off of another dirt road, which was preceded by a couple more long and lonely dirt roads, in the Canadian province of British Columbia. The gate, as luck would have it, was wide open, and a sign that was conspicuously free of bullet holes informed me that my friends and I happened to be there during the one month of the year when the road was open to motorized traffic. There was a massive mountain looming straight up to our left, and a gorgeous river in the ravine falling off to our right, and my map — this was before you could pull up directions on your phone — told me that the road paralleled the river for some miles before reaching a dead end high in the wilds of Canada.

As you might imagine, we did what any sane, God-fearing fly fishers would do in those circumstances. We drove past the open gate and headed up the dirt road for parts unknown.

We eventually found a spot where a massive logjam — it looked almost like beavers the size of elephants had built a dam from thousands of huge trees — separated the river’s far upper reaches from the fertile waters below, and we ended up spending a good portion of the day just upstream from that impenetrable barrier. My guess is that there are larger and heavier and more aggressive westslope cutthroat trout living somewhere else in North America, but I have to confess that I don’t know exactly where that would be. I will say that the stretch of water above that goliath log jam sported elk tracks on the banks, and wolf tracks alongside the elk tracks, and some of the very best fishing I’ve experienced in my 61 years on the planet.

I haven’t been back since — there are always new roads to travel, and new spots to explore — but if I decide to give it another shot this summer I doubt it would be an issue. It’s less than five hours from my Montana driveway to that particular dirt road, and then maybe another hour in 4WD to a place worthy of any angler’s daydreams.

Sadly, though, my truck and I are both growing a little long in the tooth. To be frank, I’ve noticed recently that we’re both starting to rust.

My rust, as you can imagine, is mostly metaphorical. My back is balky, my knees crunch just a bit at times, my shoulders are sore, and the rest of me seems prone to the aches & pains that are the legacy of a life lived well.

The Tundra’s rust, on the other hand, is all too evident to anyone who walks by and looks closely. I don’t anthropomorphize my truck — it’s just a rig; it’s not a friend or a family member — but I’m afraid that at 22 years and change, its days of exploring and adventuring are rapidly coming to an end.

Which leads me to wonder which new 4WD pickup will eventually replace my ancient Tundra. I’ve been doing a little late-night web surfing, and a fair amount of research, and I’m truly hoping that my current ride will be my last gasoline-powered vehicle.

Rivian is making a brand new electric pickup — the R1T - that received an Editor’s Choice award from Car and Driver magazine. Not to be outdone, a recent Road & Track headline proclaimed: “The Rivian R1T Proves That the Perfect Off-Roader Is Electric.”

And while I’ve never owned a Ford in my life, the new F-150 Lightning — Ford’s new all-electric pickup — sure seems to be calling my name.

Some folks — the less adventurous ones — might see an EV (electric vehicle) as a bit of a stretch right now. I’m not one of them. I like the idea of a quieter ride, and better traction, and less maintenance, and more room for my gear. It’s much, much cheaper to drive an electric vehicle than a gas or diesel rig. I’m intrigued by the F-150 Lightning’s ability to power my home in the event of an electricity outage. I also think it’s wonderful that an EV would allow me to avoid gas stations for the rest of my life.

(Chevy and Dodge fans, don’t despair. Both the Chevy’s Silverado EV RST and the Dodge Ram 1500 EV should be available in 2023.)

I should also mention that there’s one more thing pushing me toward an electric pickup. I absolutely love the fact that electric vehicles don’t pollute the atmosphere or diminish the magnificent world our grandchildren will inherit when we’re gone. As attached as I am to my Tundra, and as grateful as I am for 22 years of performance and dependability, I’m looking forward to stashing my waders and my fly rod in an electric pickup and heading out for parts unknown.

It’s time for a new adventure.


The notion that electric vehicles are non-polluting his naive. Living here in Utah we find that most of our electricity is provided to us from Rocky Mountain Power comes via coal fired power plants. That hardly qualifies as non-polluting. I suspect the same is true in Montana. So, unless you have an impressive photovoltaic array at your place I don't think you should make that claim.

Yup. Plug your electric car in, charge it good and strong, do your shopping on-line, we'll getcha every time just to keep your dirty lights on. -- Darrell Scott

I looked at the electric option but both the Rivian and Ford list ranges of just over 300 miles and the estimate while towing is about 50% of that. Stayed with a 21 Tundra with a 38 gallon tank which gives us about 450 miles with the camper on and about 375 to 400 with camper and towing.

Good article! I was not expecting it to be about electric vehicles. The commenter above me mentioned mileage and towing mileage, think it's a great point. However, I think that as the technology improves the speed, torque, mileage and overall performance of electric vehicles will dwarf gas and diesel powered engines. More power stations are going up all the time and will soon be more common than gas stations. Really excited to see where the off-road electric vehicle industry heads!

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