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After shoring up our supplies at Stein's IGA in Troy, we turned right onto Highway 508, following the Yaak River north through a 7-mile canyon to Yaak Falls, a formidable cascade adjacent a forest service campground. The pocket water of the canyon has a reputation for good rainbow trout fishing, but it's a rugged walk down to the water. Above the falls, the river flattens out, meandering through willows and grassy meadows. Undercut banks supposedly hold monster brookies, and a tenuous population of rare Columbia River redband trout mingles with the usual mix of cutthroat, rainbow and bull trout.
Our first full day in the valley had been a sunny exemplar of late July, and we wet our lines above town amid the shallow riffles of the Yaak River's main fork. We'd hoped the small water would serve up easy action on attractors, but had no luck. Wading wet, we covered about a half-mile of water without a strike before giving up. We hadn't come to work hard—for fish or otherwise—so instead of slicing into our store of summer sausage and bagels, we headed into town for cheeseburgers and local color at the notorious Dirty Shame Saloon. The Dirty Shame and the Yaak Tavern—which adjoins the camper-friendly Yaak Mercantile—pretty much constitute the whole settlement, or at least its visible public life.
We found Dirty Shame owner Gloria Belcher working alone that afternoon, her hands full as she whipped up tasty fare for five customers hungry for a late lunch. (The excellent mango salsa suggested culinary ambition that seemed surprisingly out of place, though not at all unwelcome). Taking time for cheerful chitchat, Belcher recounted her efforts to fix up the joint after years of benign neglect. The recently completed remodel uncovered dozens of bullet holes in the walls, she said, pointing at the spot where she'd hung a decoration to conceal the hole where a round had pierced the door leading out to the deck. The most recent target of a trigger-happy drunk was a recalcitrant eight ball on the pool table, but that happened before she took over the place, she told us.