2018 Montana Fly fishing Camp with Craig Hospital & access unlimited
Words by High Fives Athlete #78 Tim Burr
Out on the water, in Big Sky country, with good company, catching fish – That’s a recipe for a great experience.
This was my second trip to Montana with High Fives and Access Unlimited, so before we left CO, I thought I knew what to expect, and the anticipation was mounting. The Itinerary read:
- Day 1: Fish.
- Day 2: Fish.
- Day 3: Heli rides, RZR offroading, shooting, and more.
Now you understand my excitement!
We arrived at the Silver Bow Mountain Club (which is absolutely beautiful) in the afternoon and proceed to enjoy a fantastic meal and catch up with the other athletes and Montana friends. The trip was extra special right away because all the High Fives Athletes on the roster were friends already. There was no need for ice breakers. We went straight to listening to classic Jasmin Bambur stories.
The next morning started with amazing food, and we then loaded up and headed to the river. With help from four full-sized Access Unlimited dudes, I was lifted, while in my chair, into the front of the boat and tied there. This happened while the boat was still on the trailer and hooked to the truck. Once I was in place, they backed the trailer into the water and unloaded the boat. It might seem complicated – but I’ll tell you – it’s the best system for loading a quad into a fishing boat, which is no small feat. Then, guide Steve Winkles rigged the rod and strapped it into my hand with an adaptive glove that looks like it’s for boxing, but keeps the rod tight in my fist. We were on the water for the rest of the day.
Winkles lined up the boat in perfect position, showed me where to cast, and instructed me on the perfect drift. It only took a couple minutes with this system and I was on a fish. Our first day on the water, I caught mostly whitefish, which swim and smell just like every other fish, but are less desirable than trout.It didn’t matter to me though, hooking whiteys was awesome! By the end of day one I had landed 10 fish. Day two produced 18 fish, counting whitefish, rainbow trout, and brown trout. Just to make it that much more enjoyable, the weather was amazing and there was room for Deatra (GF and BFF) to hangout on the stern and share this experience with me. Pre-injury I brought Deatra whitewater rafting a handful of times so just being back on the water together meant a lot.
Day three was a huge one. There was no specific schedule so I slept in a little. When I rolled out of my room, Steve Miller was there and said, “can you be ready in 15 minutes for a chopper ride?” to which I replied, “*insert expletive* YEAH!” This heli tour was different than I expected, mostly because we didn’t drive to an airport to load up. Instead we rolled out into the lodge’s back yard and were prepared for takeoff. The helicopter was a three seat micro-heli, and I got shotgun. The pilot showed me all of the things within my reach that I shouldn’t touch because they were instruments of the aircraft. Next thing I know we’re buzzing the river and mountains on a roller coaster ride from heaven. We spotted a moose from above, and saw rock climbers headed up a steep face far below us. After doing a lodge fly-by, we landed and watched as other athletes took turns in the heli.
Next activity: RZRs
Leaving our wheelchairs behind, our crew of RZRs went to explore the area we had flown over in the morning. This was equally as gripping and wild as the heli ride, since Tucker Larrieu was driving our rig. Creek crossings, steep climbs, loose descents, and full tilt cornering had passengers me, Deatra, and Tucker’s mom Wendy pressing our imaginary brake pedals but still wanting more.
The Silver Bow Mountain Club has a killer and surprisingly accessible trap shooting setup in a canyon near the lodge. The Access Unlimited crew met us there with our chairs and after a safety talk, the clays started flying. We all took away one big lesson from the trap shooting competition: Wendy Larrieu and Deadeye Deatra are not to be messed with while they have a shotgun nearby. I would leave it there, but I think the team will appreciate that I mention that you can mess with beloved volunteer JP as much as you want. Because he’d be the first to tell you he couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn with a shotgun.
It’s most important to note what the feelings are after a trip like this. If you’ve ever been around any of the individuals involved, you are aware of the energy, positivity, and excitement that surrounds them. These are highly contagious and lingering feelings. On top of that is the change in mindset that I always notice after new experiences facilitated by High Fives, Access Unlimited, and others like them. These people push you to try things that other people would tell you aren’t possible. A lot of times they’re things I don’t think are possible for myself. But they push and make these things possible. They invent the processes and equipment necessary for a C5 quad to fly fish on the Big Hole river! This fact can’t be taken lightly! Find somebody else who does that. I’ll wait… This is where the change in mindset starts. If they can make it possible for me to catch 28 fish in a weekend, then my normal day challenges associated with paralysis pale in comparison. Someone more well read than myself would have a quote that speaks to the fact that our problems are relative and when you reach such a seemingly unattainable goal, the next impossible goal starts looking possible. There are at least a hundred things a day to be frustrated about, in all of our lives, but a trip like this can show you that if a very complicated task can be completed, our simple daily tasks become accomplishments.
I appreciate every single person that makes these experiences possible and I hope dearly that you see the impact you make and feel the gratitude that we as athletes send your way.