Inside Jimmy Kimmel’s Robb Report Bucket List Adventure in Montana
The large onyx stones covering the banks of the Gallatin River are coated with a few inches of fresh powder—remnants of a passing snow shower that blanketed Big Sky, Mont., and its immediate surroundings the night before. As the late-morning sun clears the tops of the conifers of Levinski Ridge, its rays bathe the adjacent embankment and steep cliff face rising up from the water’s edge in a warm glow—a warmth that belies the chill in the air and in the river’s flowing, shadow-cloaked waters. A gentle breeze blows snow from the pines that line the shore, filling the canyon with occasional swirls of drifting ice crystals. The landscape is a snow-globe scene come alive.
At the center of this frozen vista, Jimmy Kimmel wades up to his mid-thighs in the river, a fly rod in hand and a smile upon his face. He watches in amusement as his friend, the acclaimed chef Chris Bianco, stands waist deep in the near-freezing water farther downstream and struggles to break away the ice that has formed on the line at the end of his own rod. Upriver, their friend Adam Perry Lang, also a celebrated chef and the most experienced fisherman of the three, carefully maneuvers his way over slick, ice-covered rocks and casts his line toward a swirling pool near the Gallatin’s center. “No reasonable person would think to do this,” Kimmel said as he pulled on a pair of waders at the Yellowstone Club lodge about an hour before. “In fact, it wouldn’t even occur to me to fish for trout in the mountains with fresh snow on the ground.”
But Kimmel has come to Big Sky during the first week of December for precisely this purpose. When Robb Report approached the late-night TV host about fulfilling one of the experiences on his own personal bucket list, this river came readily to mind. The Gallatin, like all of Montana’s waterways, teems with wild fish, an irresistible lure for seasoned anglers. Indeed, the state’s rivers and their tributaries have not been stocked for some 60 years. According to Geoff Unger, the lead fly-fishing guide at the Yellowstone Club, the river’s frigid water, which remains cold even in the summer, promotes a robust population of rainbow, brown, and cutthroat trout. “That’s what makes Montana such a destination for fly-fishermen,” Unger says. “They want to catch wild fish.”
The Gallatin, however, has an additional draw for Kimmel: It is where Robert Redford shot many of the fishing scenes in the 1992 film adaptation of Norman MacLean’s novella A River Runs Through It. “Most people think fly-fishing is very complicated, and it’s not something that they want to try,” Kimmel says. “It’s not particularly complicated, and you can become proficient at it pretty quickly if you’re interested in it. When you do get an idea that you might want to go out in a river and put on this unusual costume and try out this rod and reel that is not the one that your grandpa taught you to use, you watch a movie called A River Runs Through It; and when you see it, you’re entranced. It’s a beautiful film. The fishing scenes are really something very special. I love the book, too, and just seeing the towns that are mentioned in that book on the local maps is exciting and fun. But to fish in the river where that movie was shot is a very special thing.”
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