MISSOULA, MONTANA - There are fishing purists who throw fits if another angler comes within 100 feet. In general I agree with this principle. But not in June, not in southwestern Montana. As fat, ugly salmonflies hatch and die by the thousands on Rock Creek, some 20 miles east of Missoula, the trout spend a good month slapping the surface of the 52-mile freestone river, and they don't care how many orange or yellow stonefly imitators are floating over their heads or how many hacks are elbowing for backcasting room on the shoreline. So go, fight for space, get tangled in the cottonwoods, splash around. You'll still catch fish. Purists: There might be some open water above mile 21 on Rock Creek Road, where the holes in the road turn back sedans.
Fly into Missoula, secure a vehicle with four-wheel drive, and rent a fully furnished cabin on the creek (from $95; rockcreektroutbums.com). For fishing advice delivered by a gravel-voiced old-timer who knows every riffle on the river, stop at Doug Persico's Rock Creek Fisherman's Mercantile, just off I-90 (rcmerc.com). Warm up in town with the aspiring novelists at the Old Post Pub, where the food is bad, the music is slightly better, the waitstaff are beautiful, and the hatch chart on the wall is to be trusted, for the most part (oldpostpub.com). Afterwards, drink and gamble around the corner at the Oxford Saloon. If you're still on the poker table at 4 a.m., the bartender will serve you a free chicken-fried steak (the-oxford.com).