2007 (June 27 - July 3) Montana / Idaho

Discussion in 'Trip Reports with Pics' started by Chris Scoones, Jul 3, 2007.

  1. Chris Scoones

    Chris Scoones Administrator Staff Member

    The usual:

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    Just back from a trip with the boys. I was pretty amped to get the fishing started regardless of drive time so I left at 2:30AM to pick up Scot in Spokompton. That allowed for a quick float the same day on Henry's Fork.

    Some quality time in Box Canyon on Henry's Fork, floating it through a couple times and milling about up at the spillway. Scot's buddy Coop, one of local guides, gave us the nickel tour. Brought in a few toads, one pulled Scot into his backing. Most of the time we were nymphing with the standard Pat's Stone / trout poop dropper, effective but I was not on my game in any way. Oh well, learned a lot on the Henry's Fork and did get to swim a few. Brought my nymphing back up a notch. Scot spent some time reminding Coop who taught who, and requires that Coop must now refer to him as Mister Kuchta.

    27 mile float on the SF Snake for the salmon fly hatch. If you haven't floated the SF Snake it's big water but fishes just like any other stream you're used to, especially in the braided sections and there are many. Fishing with salmon flies was hit and miss. Standard Pat's Stone dropping something or the other produce as well as anything, as well as tossing streamers here and there. Swam some toad browns. Scot got reminded by the local Sheriff that even if the fourth in your boat was a last minute addition there needs to be a floatation device for everyone in the boat. It cost Scot 80 bucks but the comedy of f'n with the officer, f'n with Scot in front of the officer, etc, was worth it to me, especially since I didn't have to actually pay it. ;-)

    Visiting some upper Madison spots that usually produce well. Did put a couple sweet fish our way but the people were many and the salmon flies on the down turn, just not quite enough for them to key into. Explored some places I had not been to before, never can seem to spend as much time on that river as I'd like. Good memories there.

    The not so usual.

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    We explored a stream with no name. While the idea of exploring sounds harmless enough, this day it was an event that deserves some reflection. This is one of those times where the events effort is hard to describe so that the reader may comprehend the difficulty, especially when described by this guy who doesn't have a writers skill set.

    About the streams canyon.

    There are no trails and the bush lining the entire stretch is dense enough to block any attempt at passage. Most of the time you move by wading or when that's not an option traversing boulders which are smooth and upwards of 15ft high, usually 4-8ft. The canyon walls are many times sheer cliffs coming right down along side the stream. Even when the walls are less ominous the sides are still right there, locking you in. The walls get higher as you go until the area of the takeout where the walls are approx 1500ft or more.

    The wild life is to be respected. Worried warnings about the snakes that don't rattle their presence, are very aggressive and large enough to catch the attention of a herpetologist. Coop's dog Brew (A badass Boykin Spaniel) came along and can be expected to find the snakes and alert us with vigor. Moose in numbers, a few of which slowed our advance as we needed to give them as much space as possible. Fresh bear scat spotted throughout the day. Big cats. All of which usually not pose much of a risk but down in the canyon they didn't have easy exits either so chances were better of close encounters. A bit spooky down there.

    We setup a shuttled vehicle at our takeout. The plan was new even to Coop & Scot who have spent time there before. They had gone in but not all the way through as it was difficult enough already. What they had done before left those they took (very few) stating they would never return again due to it's difficulty. The plan for the day was based on ease of exit opting for one of the only known game trails that could be easily found with switchbacks to the top. The river miles were estimated, we were on the water at 10AM with packs, lots of water, enough food for a day hike, strung rods, get on with it.

    Skipped the 1st mile getting clear into the canyon where this stream shines. Westslope cutts in every part of it. Concentrated at pools as you would expect but all water including skinny held fish, all of it. Pools were sometimes comedy with multiple teen'rs coming after your fly. Sometimes heartbreaking with 20+ inch fish clearly coming off from the bottom rising 8ft or so, stopping 3 inches short to give it a long look and turning back. That or missing a vicious take. Or teaching you that 4x wasn't enough. It was bitch'n.

    Kept our distance from each other half of the day, fishing every part of the stream on the way through but keeping the pace up as well. I lagged behind taking photos and being held up by sheer excitement over some of those missed toads in the first section as the others continued ahead. At one point I really needed to catch up. While doing so I was on a good pace, crashing through water and getting the full extent of just how many fish were there (spooking them out) and in all the spots you wouldn't normally target automatically. I past by holes that were awe inspiring by any streams standard, but here almost cookie cutter bend after bend.

    We fished together then on. Scot did his thing with the video camera shooting Coop while he brought in a few. Fishing continued and while not on fire, good by any other streams standards. Personally I was happy by this, as it was fishing, not catching we were after and that's what we found.

    All good things come to an end, and by 7PM when we had expected to find our spot to go out it was decided to turn up the speed and hump it down at a quick clip to ensure we still had light to spot it. We were already pretty spent navigating the river but still, the next couple hours we moved fast. At the start of that move we were probably 7 miles in and at approx 10 miles with legs starting to get rubbery, still no outlet, and we lost light to the point where moving on the river was no longer a safe option. There was just enough light on the canyon wall to survey it a bit and it was decided getting out there was our best option. Not being much of a climber I didn't decide that, but agreed quietly to the logic.

    Three quarters of the climb, about 1200ft, was a 50 degree scramble up loose shit. Then it got steep as actual wall exposed for the last 300 yards. A mix of rock and sage to hold on to and while not completely vertical it was rock climbing and doing so in the dark by head lamps. Coop's an able climber, a bit of a loose canon with regards to climbing safety (reads, rocks coming by Scot and I when we were still exposed) but otherwise in good shape and doing the work of testing routes up and reporting back. Scot’s about the same except a lot more experienced which was to my benefit as I had him pointing out the route all the way through, and otherwise saving my ass. About the worst part of the climb was during iffy holds my sling pack kept falling over on my side, shifting weight and making it difficult. But if I'm honest, my difficulty wasn't the damned pack but the fact that I've never been a climber and wasn't in top shape. Still, I guess I wasn't the only one starting to get a bit light headed from the last three hours push. Not sure on the exact timing but it took close to 90 minutes, likely longer to reach the top.

    Once up top the expectation was that the jeep was at the end of the field on the edge of a draw. Once we came the first draw, no jeep, no road of any sort, damn it. The draw was large and while nothing like getting out of the canyon, it was an additional 750ft climb. It went like that, one draw after another, a long field after another, when after miles of pushing and our fourth draw crossing and me starting to fade hard to the point where Scot & Coop were getting farther head, all of sudden there they are taking a break at some trees. The road we found which was really just compressed grass from a few trucks, stopped abruptly at the tree line and deflated us quite a bit, although there was still some humor at how f'd this was. Coop and I were ready to sleep. It was now close to 1AM, Coop & I ready to crash for a bit (sun up was only a couple hours off) but Scot got us back up yet again. Prick. Moving forward, stumbling and dizzy having run out of water and food, we found the little road hadn't ended and following it another 1000ft, there was the jeep welcoming us with water, as soon as Scot could find the keys.

    I had long forgotten that Brew was with us. Seeing him at the truck made me realize just why so many folks around there are impressed by him. His training includes being thrown out of the boat and made to swim the entire Box Canyon float and during which he's not allowed to touch the banks, ever. All of that sounds impressive but when the fact that the dog stayed up with us the entire day on that stretch, to include the climb out which got technical, I just can't say enough about him.

    From there it was about 60-90 minutes before pulling through any gas station that was open at now close to 2AM. Cookies, microwave pizza, tons of gas station crap, more liquid. Still, this AM I weighed in 14lbs lighter then when I left.

    On the drive home the next day Coop called. All the maps were brought out and examined carefully this time. We covered 17 miles. If we would have stayed the river, it would have been close to 20 river miles. Badass day trip which I hope to repeat some day with better planning.

    Scot, Coop, thanks guys.
  2. Curtis

    Curtis New Member

    That sounds like one hell of a trip!!!!!!!
  3. greyghost

    greyghost Member

    great read + great photos = excellent report. Thanks

  4. fullerfly

    fullerfly Calvin Fuller

    Right on Chris, Thanks for Sharing!!! Sounds like a blast

  5. John Hicks

    John Hicks Owner and operator of Sea Run Pursuits

    Chris that was a great report. Sounds like you guys were on an adventure of biblical proportions. Right F-in on!
  6. flybill

    flybill Purveyor of fine hackle, wine & cigars!

    Awesome report and pic's Chris! Sounds like you should have spent a few days in the canyon though. I'm tired just reading about the day and hike out! :clown:
  7. Diehard

    Diehard aka Justin

    Sounds like a bad ass trip!
  8. Scott Salzer

    Scott Salzer previously micro brew

    Damn, I gotta hit the road for some of those longer trips. Thanks for the report!

  9. Roper

    Roper Idiot Savant

    Sounds like Team Rugged +....
  10. Mingo

    Mingo the Menehune stole my beer

    Cool story Chris. I was huffing and puffing reading the rock climbing shit and I was thirsty at the end!
  11. papafsh

    papafsh Piscatorial predilection

    Great sounding adventure, Chris. Ah, for the days of youth again!, but hey at least you guys are making the most of it.
    That muley die'n right at the waters edge like that is just so unsual, what a cool deal to have seen that! and what a brute he was too.
    Thanks for sharin' :thumb: