The Yellowstone River looms large in every angler’s imagination, but few have ever seen the whole waterway.

“Where the Yellowstone Goes” answers that need, compressing a 30-day fishing trip into a 90-minute documentary that premieres in Missoula this Saturday. Director Hunter Weeks gathered several friends and a scrambling team of camera operators to paddle each bend in the river from Yankee Jim Canyon to the North Dakota border.

“They fished, but also they talked to people who lived along the river,” said Rick Marcum of Grizzly Hackle International Fishing in Missoula, which helped sponsor the premiere at the Wilma Theater. “They got into what’s going on with environmental issues.”

The trip took place in September 2011, shortly after a pipeline leak spilled more than 60,000 gallons of crude oil into the Yellowstone. The boaters balance the spill and rip-rap controversies with shoreline residents who display a deep and historical love for the river.

They also chronicle the pleasures of Bloody Marys at an Emigrant bar, a sheep drive in Reed Point and the “cake ladies,” Fritzi Idleman and Tia Kober, in Park City.

“I love the fact you kids want to be Lewis and Clark all the way across,” Idleman tells the floaters while whipping up a cake for their larder. Reminiscing about her birth on the farm in 1928 and the arrival of indoor plumbing in the ’50s, she jokes “You guys think you’re really, really roughing it, but you’re not.”

True to a fishing film, Weeks and Co. catch everything from Yellowstone cutthroat in the Paradise Valley to 20-pound carp on a fly around Miles City. They also encounter lost sheep, island sand storms, prairie thundershowers, and friendly pilots who fly their cameras over the Badlands of eastern Montana.

Film executive producer Jason C. Miller grew up on the Bitterroot River, and said the film gives a good perspective of what it’s like to have a river as a part of one’s life.

“I wanted to see that kind of vision shared with people that don’t get to experience it,” Miller said. “People from cities just don’t get to see a life like that. The main character, the Yellowstone River, is something other films just don’t have. When you make a documentary this unique and beautiful, it’s bound to get some attention.”

“Where the Yellowstone Goes” shows in Missoula Saturday at 7:30 p.m. in the Wilma Theater.

The Grizzly Hackle will present a pre-screening barbecue at its 215 W. Front St. shop. starting at 5:30. Members of the film project will be present for the screening.

Reporter Rob Chaney can be reached at 523-5382 or at rchaney@missoulian.com.

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