Bleisure Bits: Convention diversions in Big Sky, Montana
BIG SKY, Mont. (AP) — The morning stretched ahead of me with my breakfast meeting finished and my lunch meeting hours away. So while the rest of the conference attendees headed for the next presentation, I played hooky to try hooking a trout on one of Montana's blue-ribbon streams that just happened to be across the roadway.
Big Sky, located 50 miles north of Yellowstone National Park, is an out-of-the-way setting for business conferences and conventions. Those lucky souls whose annual meeting or company retreat is held there will find endless outdoor diversions when an escape from the elbow-to-elbow meetings is needed.
Skiing, hiking, mountain biking, rafting and golfing are steps away. Wildlife viewing can be had in Yellowstone or just outside the hotel door. For a quick moment of solitude, shoot up the tram to the top of Lone Peak and take in the views from the platform more than 11,000 feet (3,350 meters) above sea level.
And then there's the fishing.
The conference I was attending was at a resort in the Gallatin River canyon, with easy access to the river that was just too tempting to resist. A five-minute walk across a meadow led me to the river's banks, where the churning and burbling water drowned out the noise from the highway, along with any thoughts of the conference.
The Gallatin can be challenging for a novice fly fisherman like me, but there are many fly shops in town ready to hand out advice on where to go and what to use.
I slipped on a pair of waders, tied on a stonefly nymph and stepped into the river. I began casting, trying to hold my feet steady against the blown-out river still high from the spring runoff. There wasn't another person around, and I would only see one raft full of happy floaters pass during the entire morning.
After a while of working a patch of soft water at the edge of a fast-moving part of the river, a 10-inch (25-centimeter) brown trout bit into my fly. I reeled it in carefully, but not carefully enough — it broke free just as I pulled it to the bank.
That was the extent of my luck for that stretch, but when a spot on the Gallatin has played itself out, there are countless others to try. I threw the rod and reel in the car and, still in my waders, headed south to explore the numerous turnouts, campgrounds and bridges upstream headed to Yellowstone park.
I made it back in time for my next meeting, sunburned and sweaty, and I spent the rest of the conference sitting through group discussions and making small talk at banquets. But it was a comfort to know that the river was just outside, ready for my next cast.
If You Go...
BIG SKY RESORT, MONTANA: http://bigskyresort.com/ . Mountain biking, zipline, golf, tram ride up Lone Peak, skiing.
GALLATIN NATIONAL FOREST: http://www.fs.usda.gov/main/custergallatin/hom . Hiking, skiing and snowmobile trails.
YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK: http://www.nps.gov/yell/ . A quick trip south from Big Sky. Wildlife, geysers and more.
FISHING: There are plenty of fly shops between Bozeman, Montana, and West Yellowstone, at the park's entrance, but advice and guided trips can be found in Big Sky at Gallatin River Guides, http://www.montanaflyfishing.com/ , and Wild Trout Outfitters, http://wildtroutoutfitters.com/ .