So here I stood on top of a mountain, the plan is for three days up high on a “greenback” cutthroat stream that I had never visited or seen… … another first. The backpack is strapped on tight, my new Schaafe Creede 4 wt. (well new to me) is in my hand and the world is at my feet. So I head down the trail, and down the trail is the optimal word, it is one of those trails that starts straight down and means it. The first few hundred yards felt pretty good but then the steepness makes it tough just hiking downward and really starts the worry brewing about the hike back up in a few days. And with my age rising quickly and my weight rising even quicker that uphill stroll out always make me worry as I hope it won’t become an overnighter of a hike out. Well my mind struggled with those thoughts until I reached a large open park where the view of the valley below drove anything but awe and wonder from my mind. The view was so spectacular that my burning lungs and my shaking legs were forgotten, and trust me that takes a hell of a view.
As I began to think I might not make it down the rest of hill the sweet, sweet sound of running water somehow floated up to me. There was a trout stream buried behind that hill and under the cover of those trees and it was all mine. The first sight of the stream always brings the thrill of stream dream anticipation and the most beautiful fact of all, that means that I can take the dang back pack off in just a little while and that first moment of release out of the straps of the backpack is always one of the greatest moment of any backpacking trip.
I set up camp and pumped some water in record time. That first sip of fresh cold filtered stream water is also one of the greatest moments of a backpack trip, but it paled soon enough to the first look at the stream
But that isn’t near as cool as the first cast, which fails to match the first fish which by the way was on the first cast
The good thing was after the first fish there was a second, third and fourth … … too many to count in fact.
These fish were absolutely gorgeous, I had caught some greenbacks yesterday but today’s experience let me really study the fish. It has been said that brook trout are the “dumb blondes” of the fish world and I totally agree with that thought and would add that these beautiful fish with their red coloring and strong sharp black freckles were the “freckled redheaded farmer’s daughter” of the fish world, robust, active, vivacious and full of life and fun, man were these fish fun. Every pocket and riffle held fish and they were eager to hit a dry, in this case a big royal wulff stimulator and they didn’t sip or slap but absolutely crushed the fly. Sometimes even coming out of the water missing the fly on the first slash only to acrobatically turn in the air and grab it on splashdown. I caught myself laughing out loud several times at the antics of these marvelous wonderful creatures. I can’t tell you when I have had more fun fishing pocket water up a small canyon back upstream to the camp site.
The camp was situated right at the head of where the stream came pouring out of a string of beaver ponds scattered across a very large nearly treeless meadow parkland. The first beaver pond above camp was as picture perfect as any fishing spot could ever be. It practically screamed FISH and based on the view I was betting it was a large fish as well.
As I framed the picture, I saw in the left hand corner where the water flowed out of the beaver dam leaving a strong current coming into a deep pocket of slow water. Somehow I just knew that would be the place. I snuck carefully in place making sure not to cause a wake or to disturb the hole with my shadow. My approach was nearly flawless and soon enough I was standing on the gravel bank stripping line off the reel. The sound of the Lacey made Adams reel stripping line seemed loud enough to wake the dead in the silence of the open meadow park and I was afraid it would spook the fish, but my worries were for nothing as I saw rise rings suddenly form in the very corner I was targeting. I made several false casts feeling the line lengthen with each one, I felt it the little four weight flex deeply but powerfully preparing for a fairly long delicate cast. I was in perfect casting sync as I lined up my last false cast just outside the pool so there wouldn’t be any shadow or flash as I had heard these beaver pond fish were spooky and tricky. I veered my cast at just the precise moment in my back cast to let it drift absolutely perfectly to make it land ever so gently on the water……….. Hey what the hell …… how the heck did I get all of this line wrapped around my head … … and why was my fly stuck in the tall grass 25 feet behind me. …. … oh well whoever said I was a good fisherman must have lied. Ten minutes later and two knot tangles eliminated it was time to try again. This time believe it or not I didn’t screw up the cast … … and just like a video on Saturday morning TV fishing shows, my fly disappeared in a solid swirl as soon as it hit the water. Somehow despite my usual nature I managed to set the hook. The fish felt heavy and lively as it busted water toward the sticks of the beaver dam. I applied heavy pressure with my new best friend the little blonde Schaafe and she responded beautifully turning the fish at the last minute back to the relative safety of the shallow water at the base of the dam allowing me to quickly enough beach the prettiest fish of the day. What a way to end the first days fishing in this small piece of heaven.
By the time I had rested, eaten a small snack and had a small bourbon and stream water, hey its not like I had a watch or anything and I was sure it was 5 o’clock somewhere. The sun was starting to sink behind the mountain top casting a beautiful shadow / sun contrast across the ponds and the park, so I grabbed my camera to go exploring.
After venting whatever fishing urges I had for the day and whatever photographic urges I had I settled back into the camp and cooked my usual steak and corn for dinner by the last dying light of day and settled in next to the fire for a Cuban cigar and a little more of my bourbon. Can life get any better … … I don’t think so… … two more days in this heaven to dream about.
I awoke the next morning to that wonderful rushing water sound just outside my tent, I relaxed and snuggled into the warmth of my sleeping bag concentrating on that wonderful sound, well perhaps I concentrated on that sound a little too much cause the running water thing turned internal and I had to shed the warmth of bag and tent to go get rid of some myself. As I stood there watering the lawn I gazed across the beautiful open park I saw a group of five elk standing in the open grass as smooth and graceful as you please. They weren’t more than a couple hundred yards away. I stood and watched not daring to move until I had burned the sight into my brain and then turned to try and grab my camera for a picture. By the time I had rustled around in the tent searching for my camera and finally crawled back out to take the picture the elk had headed out the back of the park to the tree line. I tried one shot to see if I could catch them in the distance … … which failed but the shot turned out pretty enough to be worthwhile even without the elk.
The morning was so pretty with the dew shinning in sun that I took a couple more quick pictures,
And did exactly what the rest of you would have done… … went fishing. This time I went up stream fishing through the beaver ponds by stalking though the grass banks and flipping casts into the ponds from a distance, which turned out to not be nearly as difficult as I had originally envisioned and practically every cast where I could land the fly on the water without raising a wake or casting a shadow ended with a feisty cutthroat being hefted over the grass at ponds edge. The pond fish were lively but a little stunted in size but who could fault them for their exuberance and beautiful colors.
But soon enough I found myself heading out of the open park up the east branch of the creek. The first few hundred yards yielded some nicer fish but the downed trees and small canyon made fishing tight. But after awhile it opened up into a gorgeous meadow trout stream
Which yielded yet another really fabulous little cutthroat.
All in all it was another great day of fishing. By the time I had strolled back to camp the sun was setting again so you guessed it … … it was time for a bourbon and stream water and some more picture taking. If these pictures aren’t as good well maybe I might have had bit more bourbon than I should have, it was a pretty god bet I didn’t have to drive anywhere.
As I returned to camp there was just enough light to boil some water to cook my backpackers alfredo and get a fire started. As I began eating the storm clouds gathered quickly over the mountain tops at the top of the park. I smelled the rain in a single whiff as I heard the first hard big drops start to pepper the grass halfway across the meadow, the sound progressing toward me audibly as it was lost in a blinding flash of light and clap of thunder that made me jump two feet into the air. For the next couple of hours I feed wood to the fire to keep it banked but hissing in the steady downfall of rain drops and sat damp but warm watching Mother Nature put on a light show of unequaled magnitude. The streaks of lightning were so awesome that it made me feel insignificant against the huge backdrop of this place and the power of the world around me… … but surprisingly that also made me feel that my problems were also insignificant against the true meaning of it “all” which was comforting at a level beyond explanation. I finally fell asleep listening to the rain on my tent and the thunder rumbling on down the valley leaving me in peace and slumber.
I woke the next morning to sunshine, sad that I had to leave this part of my adventure but content in my memories of the place and still knowing that I had much more to come.
I snapped a few last pictures and began the long climb out of my beautiful greenback creek valley.
Last view of the creek
A cabin on the way back uphill
A last look at the valley from the top
I still had two more nights of camping ahead of me in another location but I will save that for later … … part three still to come.