October 14, 2012

Backcountry Travel, Butt Sliding, and Wild Trout

It is getting colder but no snow as of yet, even on the high country. I took the opportunity of the nice weather to drive up and get the cabin ready for winter. While I was there I decided to do some backcountry travel and hit a hard to reach section of one of my favorite rivers.

This spot is really difficult to get to. There is no easy way to get to this creek; you have to work for it. First you travel for 15 miles on dirt roads. Then you either hike or, in my case, drive your Rokon Scout, for 2+ miles cross country on an old abandoned, tree infiltrated, road grade until it ends. Next you cross country ride through the fir forest until you get to the edge of the canyon. Finally you hike your way down 600 feet at a 45-50 degree slope (sometimes you do some serious inadvertent butt sliding) and at the bottom is the creek. It's hard to get to but worth it. There is not another person for miles, but there are wild cutthroat trout a plenty.

My Rokon Scout. It's an amazing all-terrain conveyance

A look down into the canyon

The other morning it was 51 degrees F on top of the canyon, but only 31 in the creek bed. There was ice around some of the rocks! Winter is not too far off, for sure! The sky was crystal clear; not a cloud around, but not to worry, the sun never hits the water this time of year -- the canyon is too deep and the walls too steep. I hiked in my wading boots and carried my Chota Hippies in the Zimmerbuilt Guide Sling. I wore my Handi Pak Insta-Net on my belt. This setup seems to be good for doing this sort of high intensity fishing. All of these items are compact and easily worn or carried while hiking through trees, brush and maneuvering around rock outcroppings.

Another view into the canyon -- you're about half way down now. The creek is just visible at the bottom.

The creek was beautiful. The water was a little low but not bad. It was gin clear though. Because there can be some nice sized fish hidden in there I used the Daiwa Kiyose 43MF. When fishing kebari I used 4X tippet, but when using dries I went with 5X. I started with a two fly kebari set up. I took three small cutthroats in the first 10 minutes. Nice start!

A view of the creek from the steep slope

You're finally down. Look at that nice water. Oh, and look at that slope you just came down!

The first fish -- a small guy.

After about 30 minutes of no other fish, while working my way upstream, I came upon a nice broad pool. There was one fish sporadically rising in the eddy on the upper end of the far side, so I decided to change over to an attractor pattern dry. I went with a #10 Grumpy Frumpy. I began working my way slowly up the pool. Using the 43MF in its fully extended configuration I easily could cast a 20 foot level line (plus 6 feet of tapered tippet) to reach all areas of the pool without scaring away the fish. I took 4 fish and missed that many as well. In clear water, when I can see the fish rise up from the depths to take the fly, I tend to pull the fly out of the fish's mouth! I need to say "God save the Queen" before I set the hook!

The pool
One of the fish

Since the attractor worked so well I decided to keep it on. I worked my way up to the next pool and took 4 more cutthroats. All were about 10-11 inches.

Another section of the creek

Another fish taken on the Grumpy Frumpy

About 2 pm I decided to head back downstream to where I entered the creek. When I got there I noticed a fish rising in a large pool just downstream, so I had to try for him! I slowing crawled to the top of the pool and hid behind a large granite boulder. I cast the Grumpy Frumpy to the top of the pool and let it ride the current tongue into the pool. Wham!  I set the hook set and pulled a 12 incher to hand. Two casts later produced another but smaller fish.

A few casts later, after the fly was beginning to get water-logged, I hooked into a nice fish. The fly was cast 45 degrees down and across and then slowly swung across the current. Since it was water-logged it was acting as a large gaudy wet fly. At the classical point in the swing, directly downstream of me, the fish took the fly.  I fought him in the pool but then I realized that I'd have to bring him up through the current tongue because I could not go downstream to him.  Remember that boulder I was hiding behind? Well, it blocked my way. There was no way around it. Despite 5X tippet, the 43MF brought the fish in sweetly and I measured him at 17 inches. Nice fish!

The large pool

The best fish of the day. A healthy 17 inch Yellowstone cutthroat.

So, after releasing that nice fish it was time for the slog out of the canyon. The hardest part is getting started. I swear the lowest 20 feet of the slope is a 60 degree pitch! After a whole lot of grunting and backsliding I finally got up to where the slope was an easier 50 degrees. Thirty minutes later I was on top of the canyon. No heart attack this trip! My GPS waypoint directed me to the Rokon and after resting a bit and drinking some water I rode back out to where I left my pickup truck.

What a day. I love this place. It is so isolated and peaceful. It was a hard slog but worth every thigh-burning minute! I'll be back next year, and the next............


  1. Great report Tom. Stunning creek and Cutts. I am a little jealous of some of the country you have over on your side.


    1. Hi Paul,

      I am sorry that I didn't get to fish with you this season. I still want to get over to the Big Wood during the winter. Maybe we could hit the water together at that time!



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