One thing often leads to another or, as is the case today, a couple of things led to other things, thanks to an article by Joe Brooks in the October, 1964, issue of Field & Stream magazine titled, “River With a Past…and a Future.”
The Clark Fork of the Columbia River in Montana was, as late as 1955, classified by the Montana Water Pollution Control Council as an “industrial river” and unfit for use by the public. The water was dead, poisoned by waste from the copper mines outside of Butte and the smelter at Anaconda. Driving along the river on U.S. Highway 10 every summer, Joe Brooks groaned at the sight of all that water that couldn’t support life as he made his way to fish above the Clark Fork in waters such as Rock Creek.
In 1964, word began to spread that fish were once again being caught as far upstream as Drummond, 50 miles closer to the source of the pollution than before (but still more than 50 miles away from it). Encouraged by a friend to give the Clark Fork a whirl one day, Joe and his wife, Mary, brought in a “total of eighteen fish with an average weight of three pounds, a score we’ve seldom matched anywhere.”
That evening, back in the comfort of Rock Creek Lodge, their experience was confirmed by De Yip Louie, a magician performing at the fair in Missoula, who had just had his picture taken for the Missoula paper with a 4-pound, 12-ounce, trout he’d caught that morning. Joe Brooks took his picture for Field & Stream with a 2-pound rainbow.