Friday, June 29, 2012

The Weekend 10: Best Fishing Bars

A few years ago, I was sitting in the Moose Bar in downtown Dillon, Mont., with a group of friends after a day spent hiking into a backcountry trout stream south of town. We'd pulled native west slope cutthroats and not-so-native brookies from a creek that, with a running start, the average guy could leap across.

Then, sated by the tug on light fly tackle, we ventured back to Dillon in search of a cold beer or two.

As is usual, a beer or two turned into several beers. Eventually somebody brought over a round of shots. We eventually graduated to gin and tonics, and by the time the sun set over southwest Montana, we were a bit "over served."

It was then when I looked, bleary-eyed, across the table we'd chosen and noticed an older woman--not a lot older, but old enough to be described as older than me--looking me in the eye. I nodded politely and smiled, and continued some pointless conversation with my buddies. The lady stood and walked to the jukebox in the center of the room, and moments later, proceeded to dance by herself to some classic vinyl tune that escapes me now that I'm sober.

We continued our litte party... the drinks never seemed to get empty, and the evening stretched into the night. I lost track of the woman in favor of cracking filthy jokes with my friends.

A few minutes later, I looked across the table, and there sits a younger fellow--not too young, but young enough to be described as younger than me. Again, I nodded and smiled.

He nodded.

"My mom wants to dance with you," he said, gesturing over his shoulder at the older woman, who'd found her way back to the jukebox and was busy dancing solo to "Stairway to Heaven" and eyeing me again, somewhat seductively.

Needless to say, I didn't dance with this dude's mom (or anything else, for that matter). But it was the first time I'd had a woman and her son team up and try to get me on the dance floor.

And it's just one of the tales from The Moose that make it a great place to have a cold one after a day on the river. So... without further adieu, here are 10 "fishing bars" you ought to visit if you can:

10) The Moose Bar, Dillon, Mont. Right on the Beaverhead, and an easy drive from other famout southwest Montana rivers--the Big Hole, the Ruby and Madison are all within an hour or so, it's perfectly situated for that Montana fix we all need now and then.

9) Captain Tony's, Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. Twitter follower Dave Maynard of Fish the Baja nominated this iconic little tavern situated where the Sea of Cortez meets the Pacific within sight of the Drinking Dragon. It's a bit glitzy for me, but then, so is Cabo. The best part of Baja is along the Sea of Cortez side, past San Jose del Cabo, where the roosters run in the surf. That said, I caught sierra mackerel from a panga just off the beach within sight of the harbor, and my wife, kids and I enjoyed a few cold drinks in this fine establishment.

8) The Blackback Pub and Flyshop. Facebook follower Daniel Morgan nominated this fine establishment. If it has the words "pub" and "fly shop" in the name, it has to make the list, right?

7) The Lander Bar. This iconic watering hole is about as Wyoming as you can get. Not too from from the Wind and the Popo Agie rivers, it's a favorite stop on the way to points north and west, and a cold beer won't set you back a fortune. Plus, my friends Russ Schnitzer, Mike Sepelak and Sean Anderson wouldn't forgive me if this place didn't make the list.

6) The Murray Bar, Livingston, Mont. I've never been to this bar before, but, in an odd twist of fate, my family and I will be staying in the hotel above this fine establishment next week for a Paradise Valley wedding. My friend Todd Carter swears by it... and if it's good enough for him, it's good enough for me. Of course, he also likes the "bar" under the awning of an RV parked at the carp flat. No telling where he got that idea...

5) The Palm Street Pier, South Padre Island, Texas. We'd had a tough morning on the wind-swept flats of the Lower Laguna Madre earlier this year, and we were desperate for a little cold beer and whatever else we could muster up back in town. We wandered down the street from the Inn at South Padre (best hot tub in town), and ventured into the Palm Street Pier. There, overlooking the green waters of the Laguna, we salved our spirits with cold beer, fresh gulf oysters and a host of lunch entrees ranging from fish and chips to burgers. Oh, and they advertise one very cool amenity: free sunsets.

4) The Victoria Tavern, Salida, Colo. During my time as transient newspaperman "back in the day," I spent a few saucy nights at "The Vic." Situated a block from the kayak course on the Arkansas River, the Victoria is a great spot to get off the highway through town and really see Salida, which might be one of the most underrated fishing towns in the Rockies.

3) The El Rancho, Durango, Colo. "The Ranch" is often referred to as the "El Rauncho" by the locals, but don't let that fool you. They love it, and rightly so. After a day spent chasing trout on the underrated Animas River right through town, The Ranch is the perfect hole-in-the-wall dive to disappear into and get your drink on.

2) The Sip N Dip, Great Falls, Mont. I've never had the pleasure, but I've heard the stories. Mermaids, cheap PBRs and an apparent tradition of drunk dialing your friends at 2 a.m. (yep.. I'm a victim) give this spot, not too far from the famed Missouri River, a prominent spot on the list.

1) The El Paso Bar and Grill, Ellsworth, Wisc. A couple years ago, while on a marathon two-day tour through the Driftless Area with my friend Steve Kinsella, we stopped at this road-side joint for a burger and a beer. Inside, we found exactly what were after, and then some. To say that a nice, corn-fed, Midwestern waitress flirted with us is putting it mildly. Later that night, we both double-checked the lock on the door at the cheap motel we stumbled across, because one of us--ahem--gave her the name the establishment where we were resting our tired eyes after a couple days of fishing.


  1. "We eventually graduated to gin and tonics", sound like a reoccurring Montana experience! :-)Have a great time in Livingston. Let's get together soon and fish in the park again.


  2. I once played "Rock, Paper, Scissors" with one of the mermaids at the Sip N' Dip. Crowning achievement of my life.

    Great list. The Melrose Bar holds a special place in my heart. Defintely, worth a visit when you fish the Big Hole.

    Any bar in Dillon during Labor Day weekend is also a worthy addition.

  3. I love Dillon bars, cowboys, fishermen and women who make bad decisions ... or so I'm told, anyway ;)

  4. The Salty Dog in Homer, Alaska. Good place to hunker down after October Steelhead in the Anchor River.

  5. Hey, If you are going to use my copyrighted photo of Dillon's Moose Bar without my permission, the least you could do would be to give me a photo credit.

    Carter Young

  6. The El Paso Bar and of the best for sure! I can't tell you how many nights I spent there after fishing the Rush.

    Anyway, a fine list indeed. And you're right, you would have heard from me if number 7 didn't make the cut :-)


  7. Your blog is very informative for such people who like carp fishing like me and all the pictures are beautiful but I have some questions about carp fishing What are the differences and/or advantages between using a pod set-up, a goalpost or quad set-up and just a plain rod-rest set-up? Or is this just a personal preference?

  8. Dillon closes up at 10 pm on, don't try to find food or drinks on that day! Blacktail Station has the weirdest hours... Maybe Moose was open though, I don't know.

  9. My oh my, this list could go on. Since Papa Joe's in Islamorada is no more I'll give a nod to the Lorelei. Guides, locals and tourists make for an interesting mix in a place where it pays to stick around long after happy hour.