On-the-Water Music Venues

Because fishing and fiddling go well together.

The browns had started to rise just as Sam Bush was taking center stage. Twenty yards of dimpled St. Vrain trout water was all that separated me from Planet Bluegrass amphitheater and a full night of music in Lyons, Colorado. The urge to tube my rod prematurely and forgo my well-designed plan was tempting, but I knew the river had something left to give. A final fish slashed at a wildly swung caddis and made a couple runs before coming in. With my gear stashed I made my way through the crowd to my tarp. I stood for some time in my wading boots, wiggling my toes to better feel the parts of the river I’d taken with me. I looked out across the crowd, beyond the stage, and back to the canyon water. Then Sam began to play...

Mishawaka Bellvue, Colorado

Mishawaka amphitheater, discovered and constructed by motorcycling homesteader Walter Thompson in 1916, sits close enough to the Poudre River that it would no longer be legal if it weren’t grandfathered in nearly 100 years ago. It’s an intimate space for the seven hundred or so lucky enough to get a ticket. Because there’s no fixed seating at the Mish, the amphitheater has a vibe similar to a small indoor venue. Musicians like Keb’ Mo’, Bruce Hornsby, Leo Kottke, and, of course, Leftover Salmon, have added their music to the constant sound of the Poudre, flowing just a few yards from the stage. Though new ownership recently closed the popular camping spot next to the venue, a variety of dirt-nap tent sites are still available. Or, for $10, you can purchase a roundtrip shuttle ride up and down the canyon from Fort Collins, using Mishawaka’s shuttle reservation system. The adjacent stretch of scenic pocket water holds both browns and rainbows, and unlike many of Colorado’s rivers, the Poudre offers a vast amount of public water. themishawaka.com

State Bridge Bond, Colorado

Before State Bridge played host to String Cheese, Dark Star Orchestra, and the Infamous Stringdusters, the area alongside the Colorado River acted as a retreat for miners, trappers, gamblers, pioneers, cowboys, and saloon girls. Today, the venue attracts a similar crowd, many of whom are fishermen. This stretch of the Colorado—between Steamboat Springs and Vail—offers an excellent drift for boaters and easy access for wade fishermen. With this much water to cover, chucking streamers is often the go-to method. First-come, first-serve BLM campgrounds are located a half-mile from the venue, and can be accessed by a free shuttle service. For State Bridge royalty there are cabins, yurts, and teepees. With a general store, bar-andgrill, and bathhouse, State Bridge is almost selfsufficient. And a liquor store is coming. Until then, the traditional Sunday “Bluegrass and Bloodys” is your best bet. statebridge.com

“The Bridge” Three Forks, Montana

Jefferson, Gallatin, and Madison: good dog names for a Montana fisherman. And just where would a Montana fisherman go to enjoy live music? Why, “The Bridge” of course. This 140-acre piece of musical real estate sits in the Jefferson River Canyon between Cardwell and Three Forks, and features a natural amphitheater that can hold some 5,000 people, acting as a hub for multiple festivals and concerts throughout the year. “Rockin’ the Rivers”—an annual three-day-festival at The Bridge—is the venue’s most popular shindig. A distinguished list of axe men and women have graced this rockin’ occasion, including The Doobie Brothers, George Thorogood, and Peter Frampton. And heads-up, all you Tesla/Rick Springfield fans—both are playing at this year’s event, August 9-11. Camping at The Bridge is something like a small FEMA village, with spaces for RVs, pop-ups, and the all-humble tent. Food vendors and multiple bars scatter throughout the venue, keeping everyone fat, happy, and ready to party. Any direction you head from there, you’ll quickly run into hundreds of miles of blue-ribbon trout fishing. If you’re looking for the source, just head six miles north to the Missouri Headwaters State Park.

Les Schwab Amphitheater Bend, Oregon

The Les Schwab Amphitheater sits alongside a slow moving stretch of the Deschutes River. Anglers can chase the river’s notorious redbands—a large, native strain of rainbow unique to the area—or head downstream near Maupin to find summer steelhead. (Due to the afternoon “tuber” hatch, it’s best to fish the Bend section of water in the morning or evenings.) The venue can hold 8,000 people and hosts a variety of summer events including the Bend Brewfest. Because of this amphitheater’s ample size, ticket holders are encouraged to bring blankets and chairs to stretch out on the grass. While there’s no on-site camping, the venue’s location within the historic Old Mill District offers plenty of lodging options. In addition to hosting the likes of Willie Nelson, John Mellencamp, and, this year, Michael Franti and Steve Miller Band, the venue also offers “Free Summer Sunday Concerts,” for before or after the salmonfly hatch. bendconcerts.com

The Green Parrot Key West, Florida

A self-proclaimed “shit kickin’ fisherman’s honkytonk,” The Green Parrot is a welcome reprieve from all the glorified cheeseburgers being pushed in the Keys. Since 1890 the establishment has catered to Navy men, artists, hipsters, hippies, and nomads; through it all, the music and charm remains. Where else can you find “The Green Parrot Ukulele Association?” This once-a-month gathering of hardcore uke-nuts is only one of the Green Parrot’s many strange yet comforting musical attractions. The venue regularly hosts a variety of artists on its intimate stage throughout the week. Bands like Yo Mama’s Big Fat Booty Band, Papa Grows Funk, and the Hep Cat Boo Daddies, are bound to expand your musical horizons. Located just two blocks from tidal waters, The Green Parrot can act as a jumpstart or a cool down to a day of flats fishing. Saltwater fishing requires being in the right place at the right time, and if you’re stationed at one of the Green Parrot’s bar stools during peak season, at least you can say you tried. greenparrot.com

The Gorge Quincy, Washington

If you’ve ever wanted to hook a smallmouth to the roar of 20,000 screaming fans, this is the place to do it. With the Columbia River as its backdrop, The Gorge is one of the most scenic amphitheaters ever conceived. Tom Petty, Dave Matthews, Phish, and Pearl Jam, have all played The Gorge. If you’re looking to catch a drumstick from performers this big you’ll need to get “PIT” tickets––the closest you can get without boarding the tour bus. Reserved seating is available, as well as a large general admission area on the back lawn. If a single night’s show isn’t enough, there’s the Sasquatch Festival: a hodgepodge gathering of indie, folk, and pop musicians, plus stoners. When the music stops at Sasquatch, the debauchery begins. The Gorge offers camping options for anyone who promises to obey the 2 a.m. “quiet time rules.” While the campsite does provide a general store and hot showers, there is not a shuttle service to the amphitheater; so planning your transport ahead of time could save a long walk. Fishing along this stretch of the Columbia was described by one local shop owner as “possible.” But Quincy is less than an hour from the Yakima River, which offers plenty of trouty options. gorgeamphitheatre.net

Tipitina’s New Orleans, Louisiana

New Orleans has long been considered the birthplace of jazz, but it’s also garnered fame as an outstanding redfish destination. Tipitina’s—located along the banks of the Mississippi—has brought Cajun culture and bayou flats fishing together at last. The venue’s name pays tribute to the Crescent City musician Professor Longhair, who was considered one of the greatest rhythm and blues artists of his time. When a group of musicians opened it in 1977 (as a place for Longhair to play gigs during his later years) they appropriately named the club “Tipitina’s,” after one of Longhair’s favorite songs. From its humble beginnings Tipitina’s has expanded into a two-story establishment, capable of entertaining 1,000 people. Stevie Ray Vaughan, Bonnie Raitt, James Brown, and Widespread Panic, are just some of the talent to have graced this venue over the years—all a short drive from tailing redfish. Louisiana’s Plaquemines Parish offers over 2,000 square miles of fishing opportunity, all beginning just outside the Big Easy. tipitinas.com