Friday, February 27, 2015

A Pretty Good Creek

      I knew it was special the very first time I went there. It was in 1973. Grandma and I were newlyweds, poor college students without two nickels to rub together. God saw how helpless we were and tweaked the moose license draw to get me a bull license in this area. We had a pretty fair idea of where we wanted to go, and on a bright shiny morning in October, we arrived. We put in a good camp next to a small meadow and waited for a bull moose to stroll by. We waited a long time. No moose. So we went for a drive. The road descended in switchback after switchback down a steep ridge. It was washed out and rutted and rough. There were rocks in the road ranging from the size of a cantaloupe to the size of a rhinoceros. It was narrow. If we had met anyone coming up the ridge, I have no idea what we would have done. After an hour of this insanity, we finally reached the bottom – and the creek. Not just any creek, but a pretty good creek.
The Apprentice
  There were no moose there that day, but you would have had to be blind to miss the fact that this creek had fish. Lots of fish, and some pretty nice fish. We actually had to ford the creek twice before the road gave out and we faced the return trip. We hadn't found a moose, but we had certainly found a pretty good creek. Decades passed. We went back from time to time. The road was just as bad, maybe even worse, but the fishing was pretty darn good. Rangermom and Apprenticemom came along. So did Mama B. We didn’t fish there much anymore. They liked small brook trout and lots of them, so Story Meadow was more our speed. But in time, the Ranger came along and so did the Apprentice. Long Rifle came along and married Mama B. And the fellas wanted to catch a Cutt-Slam.
     So we set off in search of four subspecies of cutthroat trout. The third one was hard. This was a case where the third time is definitely not a charm. Rather, it’s a curse. It was a long day. We started the day on our very own home water. It took us a while to get on to catching those fish, but everyone had Cutt Number One by noon. When I asked if they wanted to shoot for Cutt Number Three, they were game. And I knew a pretty good creek.
     It was a long drive. We didn’t even hit the bad road until maybe 4 PM. And the bad road was really bad. My father usually described something really distasteful as being like “nine miles of muddy road” but that would have been an improvement here. We didn’t get on the water until after 5 PM. We tried fishing the
The Ranger
surface, but nothing was happening. Then Long Rifle spotted a pod of fish deep in slow water. He caught one. They stayed there. The Ranger caught one and lost it. It went right back with the others. He hooked another and brought that one in. The Apprentice hooked its twin brother and brought that one in. All told, as you can see from the photos, it was what we consider a pretty good day of fishing.
       It’s hard to say why this creek is such a special place. It’s remote, that’s for sure. It’s a great place to fish, that’s for sure too. But not long ago, I was going through my grandfather’s diary for the year 1918 – less than two years before his untimely death. He had been riding to check several bands of sheep far over the divide when he apparently decided to take a day off to fish. He bee-lined it straight for the creek. Like the grandson he would never know, he was a man of few words when he talked about his fishing that September day: “Went fishing on the creek. Had a pretty good day.” For almost 100 years, it’s been a pretty good place for a pretty good day.


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