Seven participants and one volunteer from the Long Beach PHWFF program fished the Bighorn River in eastern Montana for the tenth year. Ten years. We always stay at Leaning Tree Lodge in Ft. Smith and get spoiled by owners Rachel and Mark Stroda who offer outstanding hospitality, extraordinary food, great guides and lots of pampering. Being fully wheelchair accessible, the Stroda’s can accommodate most types of disabilities including paraplegics. Ours was the first PHWFF group to stay at Leaning Tree in 2009 but several others have made it a regular stop in the years since then.
After flying into Billings, MT Total Transportation provides shuttle service for the two-hour drive to Ft. Smith (also for ten years). On the way we stopped at the Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument for a very interesting tour of the memorial to those who fought here: Custer’s 7th Cavalry and a combined Lakota-Northern Cheyenne and Arapaho force.
For three days we fished with guides from Stroda’s Montana Fly Fishers, fishing from drift boats and also stopping to wade. Everyone caught fish. Some caught very big fish. These are healthy fish that tend to run and fight hard, so it’s always exciting.
One vet who is relatively new to fly fishing said afterward: “I came home beaming from the enjoyment of being with my comrades on the famous Bighorn River, catching all those spectacular trout. Words alone can’t cover all I want to say about this trip. Thank you for this wonderful opportunity.” Another veteran participant said “All three days were amazing. Each day I had on the river was fantastic. The guide got me casting pretty good! Thank you so much.”
As always, we want to sincerely thank Mark and Rachel Stroda, all their guides and those who help in the lodge. You make this a very special trip every year.