Spotted Bear River

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Monday, September 4, 2017

We realized somewhere driving in yesterday that we had not bought fishing licenses, and it was a long, rough drive back to town. Besides, the fly shop would be closed for Labor Day weekend. Well, we would just have to show them our lifetime fishing licenses from Virginia and the yearly license we bought in British Columbia. Then tell them we were just old farts who forgot to get a license when we went to the fly shop.

We drove south toward the Spotted Bear River stopping to take pictures at a beautiful overlook of the South Branch of the Flathead River. The big river was down considerably, as was the reservoir. They haven’t had rain measurable rain for 78 days. We saw a sign for a ranger station and wondered if they would sell a license. As we parked in front of the station, I checked for a wifi and found they had one. If they didn’t sell it, we could go online and get one.

We walked in and met Terry He was retired from the Forestry Service, but had come in to help while others were busy fighting four fires. I thought about Jane-Ashley’s warning about not getting trapped by a fire. We were certainly in an area where you could get trapped. There is only one way out. Well, you can go back on either side of the reservoir. The fires were on the other sides of the mountains. I was comforted knowing this busy ranger station was working hard to fight the fires. If this valley was in danger, they would clear us out.

Terry apologized for being slow, which he wasn’t. He had to answer the phone as he went online to fill out the licenses for us, along with a conservation fee and an ALS number. Then he pulled out a map and marked areas to fish Spotted Bear. We thought about how lucky we were to stumble upon this guy.

Kelly’s friend, JC Hanks, had gone in at mile 1, telling us it was a 45 minute hike in. We passed that one and went to the next at mile 7. The bumpy road stopped at a cliff overlooking the river. This was a perfect area to camp with a fire ring and a beautiful overlook of the river. There was a lightly-traveled trail going in both directions, but we didn’t know if either went to the river. After walking it a bit, we opted to try another easier spot. That made it the falls, behind a horse and mule staging area. There were some nice-looking, fit mules in there. Apparently trail rides were a popular thing here. It’s also hunting season, and I’m sure they use these animals to ride into remote areas. My GPS showed trails going everywhere for miles and miles long after the roads stop.

The falls were not really a waterfall as I had expected, but they were beautiful with clear, bluish water rushing over, around and through solid rock. One pool in the middle looked like a swimming pool. In another there were probably 200 trout, so we started fishing. These had to be stocked trout as I have never seen that many fish in a pool, but we could only entice the little ones to bite. We fished up and down from the falls with minor success. Surely this was one of the most fished areas on the river. You can keep two fish under 12”, but we didn’t find dinner.

Then we went back down and fished behind another campground, another area that is heavily fished. We had the similar results, but it is a gorgeous area where Spotted Bear meets the Flathead. Kelly kept two small fish that wouldn’t be enough to feed two.

  2 comments for “Spotted Bear River

  1. Jane-Ashley Skinner
    September 12, 2017 at 9:09 am

    Ugh. Beautiful pictures, but I wish you’d listen to me. Here are a couple of things I have learned living in fire country:

    1. Many people who depend on tourists for their livelihood can not be trusted. They will continue to encourage folks into the area given they only have a few months of the year to make money.
    2. Wilderness areas are inherently dangerous during fire season. There won’t be enough resources to go around to make you a priority. If you get yourself in a pickle, and someone does come to your rescue, remember you are putting others in danger. Plus, there are so many fires in the West, resources are spread very thin.
    3. The wind will shift the fire and the smoke. It’s no fun to wake up and feel as though your chest is being crushed because you’ve been breathing smoke all night.
    4. Be conscious of lightning–especially dry lightning. Game changer.

    It is a scary thing that you don’t have consistent WiFi. Make sure you keep up to date with the fire news. Unfortunately, this information is sometimes a day or more behind. Things change fast.

    Sorry to be such an alarmist, but, unfortunately, we have too much experience with fire living in Big Sur.

    It’s beautiful here in Virginia. Come on home, now. September and October are peak fire months.

    P.S. Do not burn an open fire under these situations. Just don’t. If you’ve seen a fire ring, it means someone is breaking the law. I can’t imagine open fire is allowed anywhere in Montana at this time. Hopefully, the idiot who had a camp fire is no longer anywhere near you or any other wilderness area in fire country.

    • September 13, 2017 at 8:51 am

      All great points Jane-Ashley. The only fire I have built was in Michigan back in July. Can’t even use the Cobb Grill to cook on. We are in Boise now. Kelly and Rhonda are heading south to Moab, while Martha and I will gradually head back through the northwest to Vancouver. Slight rain here today and some greatly needed snow in the mountains.

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