Real Montana

Real Montana

Dehmer, Kurt
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A trip to Three Forks, Montana, is the kind of pleasant, reassuring reality-check that most people in these confused times could use. Sitting back a few miles from the confluence of three of the most prized trout waters in the world, the town proudly claims a grain elevator as its tallest building. The SUVs here are called pickups, used daily for obscure things like hauling cattle to market; they’re customized with dents, gun racks, and a dozing cow dog on the tool box. Yep, Three Forks is still Montana the way it’s supposed to be, and the best way for the wandering fly-fisher to experience this dusty authenticity is to call Bud Lilly and book a couple nights at the Angler’s Retreat.

Just a long spit from the coffee shop and crawling distance from most of the bars, 16 West Birch Street’s whitewashed exterior, complete with Romanesque-style columns, brings to mind the bawdy houses glorified in B-style western movies. However, the Angler’s Retreat is actually a reincarnated railroad hotel lovingly cared for by the Lilly family since the early 1900s. Adapting to the changing times in 1994, the Lillys fully restored the hotel, transforming it into a down-home Montana fishing lodge run by real Montana folks.

In charge of the facilities these days is Bud Lilly, whose modest demeanor and easy, straightforward manner of speaking belie his importance in the sport of fly-fishing and its place in the annals of area history. It could be said that Bud has forgotten more about the fishing in this area than most of the younger Johnny-come-lately guides swaggering around these parts will ever know. Call to book a reservation at The Angler’s Retreat, and Bud will throw the fishing tips and trip ideas in for free.

The décor of the Angler’s Retreat reflects Bud’s passion for fly-fishing and the outdoors. Without giving too much away, one could say that the old hotel was refurbished by a fly-fisher for fly-fishers, keeping their basic needs in mind. The Angler’s Retreat is self-service, which means you do your own chores. The hotel has a variety of rooming options depending upon individual tastes or group needs. These accommodations vary from single rooms sharing a bath, to suites with kitchenettes, to a deluxe private cottage at the rear of the property. At the Angler’s Retreat, visitors are guests of the family and may come and go as they please—just lock the door behind you. Clean, unique, and authentic, the Angler’s Retreat is the perfect choice for a short get-away or the company fishing retreat. Space is limited, and reservations are required. For more information contact the Lillys at (406) 284-9943.

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