It is with great pleasure to announce that the inaugural Bob Marshall Wilderness trip has exited the backcountry after nearly 60 miles of hiking, many fish landed, and countless memories made.
Following airport day (7/14), the group made camp at Monterey Creek campground on the Blackfoot river. For those of you who don’t know, the film and book “A River Runs Through It” is based on this river and the surrounding area. After a pizza dinner, our group hit the hay in order to be well-rested for a the long day ahead. The following morning, we began our backcountry prep day which consisted of organizing our food, clothes, fishing gear, and group gear. We also met with our horse packer to come up with a plan for our departure in the wilderness the next morning. After our prep duties were completed, we fished that evening and hooked into a first bull trout of the trip. While reeling in a small cutthroat, a bull trout roughly 20 inches in length ate it and we were able to land it!
On the morning of the 16th, we hit the trail from the Lodgepole Creek Trailhead. With our food, tents, and some personal gear on horseback our packs were nice and light for day one. After 15 miles through burnt Forrest with minimal shade, we arrived at upper Young’s Creek where the group got into the first fishing of the backcountry with several nice cutthroat landed.
The next morning, with full packs, the group headed toward the confluence of Young’s and Danaher Creek, which create the South Fork of the Flathead River. Upon reaching camp around noon, the group split up, one going up Young’s and one fishing the South Fork. Three large bull trout were caught, along with lots of healthy westslope cutthroat.
The next morning, our group headed down another seven miles to Big Prairie work camp, home to the last wilderness outpost of its kind. We caught dozens more fish that day, including another bull. The following morning our group woke up and stopped by the Big Prairie ranger station. for a glass of Kool-Aid and some cookies along with a history lesson of the area.
We then made headway toward the White River and our 4th night in the backcountry. The White River holds some of the clearest and most pristine water out there. After setting up camp, half the group headed down to the confluence with the South Fork and the other half worked their way up the White River. We experienced another evening of great fishing until the sun had gone down and we turned the headlamps on to hike back to camp, where most of us chose to “cowboy camp” under the big sky of another beautiful Montana night.
By this point the group had grown more efficient at packing camp and hitting the trail early. Without a single complaint, we carried on another five miles to camp near Big Salmon Creek. After a hot hike, we cooled off in the river and even body-surfed on sleeping pads. This area produced another bull trout and countless cutthroat, and was the first campsite where we were able to stay two consecutive nights. We set our tents on a bluff overlooking the river and thoroughly worked all stretches of water in all directions. On our layover day, some of us made the short trek up to Big Salmon Lake to enjoy incredible views and a nice swim. Others fished tirelessly up the South Fork and were eventually rewarded with more bull trout. We also started to hook into some larger cutthroat in this area. That afternoon, we saw the beginnings of the Colt wildfire near Seeley Lake in the form of a big plume of smoke. Thankfully we were more than 20 miles away and were unaffected by the burn.
Before hiking out of the Big Salmon site, we used a nice quiet morning to individually reflect on our time in the backcountry while taking in great views of the river. Our final campsite was another 9 miles downstream, and the crew made light work of the hike. Tents were set up and flies were in the water by 3 pm. One of the longest bull trout of the trip was landed shortly after. Others were content after seven days and dozens of cutthroat, and soaked in the river or relaxed around camp. By this point, the South Fork had grown fairly large and more difficult to cross, and wade fishing was taxing. Despite the challenge of trudging through the slick rock, the boys continued to bring cutthroat to the surface with big, bushy dry flies. The final hike out led us to seemingly endless dirt roads which were quickly followed by much needed showers.
We're excited to be back to the comforts of the 'real world', but already miss the backcountry. With just a couple more days, we'll get some more great fishing in before taking off to head home. It's been a truly unforgettable trip - we're excited for the guys to get to share more stories.
Until next time,
Will, Will, Zach, and the crew