I’ve owned a lot of vehicles over the years that would qualify as fishing cars: 1972 Toyota Landcruiser; 1964 VW wagon; 1984 Toyota pickup; 1996 Tahoe (got a little carried away on that one); 1976 Datsun wagon with flooring that consisted of offset printing press plates secured with Bondo.

But my all-time favorite vehicle was inspired by the album photograph from Hot Tuna’s 1972 Burgers album. In the shot the band was riding inside a classic car from a bygone era and I knew I had to have something like that for my flyfishing wanderings while living in Missoula, ostensibly going to college in the early seventies.

One day while wandering down south Higgins Avenue something sparkled to my left on the far side of a used car lot alongside and above by the Clark Fork river. There was my motorized fantasy turned real – a 1949 Ford Sportsman Woody Convertible with maroon body. This discovery coincided with having a healthy checking account at the time, so I took a test drive, dickered with the salesman a little, and wrote a check for $3,500. Next stop was the East Gate Liquor Store where I loaded up on Mumm’s Champagne and ice, my apartment for appropriate angling appurtenants (including a color and my girlfriend), and then we motored regally then up the interstate to Rock Creek like a couple of carefree movie stars with little more to do than sip champagne, smoke pot, and idly cast to trout.

Some say youth is wasted on the young, but not this fine day, not at all. The day was glorious, warm, and partly cloudy. The stream never looked better as we took in the spacious view afforded by the top being retracted. The browns, rainbows, and cutthroat cooperated. Afterwards, the wine was icy, wonderful, the view fantastic in the Kodachrome glow of a western Montana sunset. Trout rose vigorously to large mayflies that flitted about above Rock Creek. A crescent moon crested a timbered ridge and some coyotes began to talk among themselves. We were happy.

So if the interior of the automobile pictured above looks old and tattered, please consider that this writer is somewhat that way after a lot of years banging around the West, but his memories are clear as finest crystal.


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