Monday, July 9, 2018

Cowbone and Darkhorse Lakes

For a couple of summers solid, I completely focused on fishing mountain lakes. But in the summers since, life's other obligations and summertime joys have been our foci.
But last weekend we made it up to a couple of lakes in the distant Beaverhead Mountains near Salmon, Idaho. We booked the a forest service cabin and had a few days to poke around. Two of the lakes were Cowbone and Darkhorse Lakes. Here's the report I wrote up for the a updated edition of my book:

Cowbone Lake

A pretty westslope cutthroat caught and photographed by Liz at Cowbone Lake.
Although less scenic than Darkhorse, Cowbone Lake boasts larger trout in my experience. Liz and I landed eager 2-year-old 8- to 10-inch cutts quickly on a beadhead brown Bugger, and also a big and beautiful 16- or 17-inch 6-year-old. Fish were rising sporadically to no known hatch on the windy early July day we visited. It's mostly tree-lined with a few spots where a backcast is easy. There are a few noticeable dropoffs where anglers might want to toss their flies. I couldn't find an inlet but did find a few small springs around the lake. The outlet heads Cowbone Creek. I don't believe there is natural reproduction here.

Darkhorse Lake

Darkhorse Lake.
Darkhorse is up there with the most beautiful lakes I've been to with its deep silty aquamarine water beneath the talus slope and granite ridgeline that makes up the Continental Divide. It's peanut shaped with the eastern end being shallow and the western side deep. We did best fishing the narrows and the deep end. It also appears to be spring-fed and sans inlet, but the out flow comprises Darkhorse Creek which provides the bulk of the Big Hole River where it exits Skinner Lake. 
We caught small 2-year-old westslope cutts and small wild rainbow trout. If the rainbows can spawn, I don't know why the cutts couldn't but we couldn't find evidence that they do. We didn't find many risers when we were there, but the fish would eat Buggers and little pink stuff. There is a wide open spot on the north west end adjacent to some scree that hosts a beautiful spring waterfall and ample room to cast and eat a sandwich. 

Alpine Lake

Alpine Lake seemed shallow and I don't believe it holds fish.

Getting there 

Most lakes in the Beaverheads are a long way from anywhere, and these two are no exception. From Dillon, head south on I-15 for about 20 miles. Take the exit for Clark Canyon Dam and head west which puts you on Montana Highway 324. Take this for about 20 miles until you get to Bloody Dick Road (sorry for the profanity). Turn right and stay on this as the road gets progressively bumpier and becomes FR 181, past Reservoir Lake to a left onto FR 7330 where you'll see a primitive road sign. FR 7330 was not as good of a road as we'd been told, even up to the creek crossing northeast of Cowbone Lake. There were many downed trees across this road and it was very wet in places. We had it on three wheels at one point and were quite jostled; I'd classify it as a Class II Jeep trail. We drove about 1.5 miles up the road in our Explorer before we parked. From there, we followed the road up to the creek crossing nearest Cowbone and hoofed it off-trail the very steep half-mile to Cowbone Lake. If you're in moderately decent shape, I'd recommend this avenue (with the aid of Avenza Maps). From there, we followed the CDT to Alpine and Darkhorse lakes, and on to the Darkhorse Mine. We took the authorized trail back to the Explorer, which was still fairly steep and much longer. Your distance depends on how far you drive up FR 7330.
Access is also possible by taking Skinner Meadows Road out of Jackson, Montana.
The nearest gas and/or groceries are about 60 miles away, at the truck stop at Barretts on I-15.

For more reports like this, and maps, check out the Flyfisher's Guide to Southwest Montana's Mountain Lakes! Look me up on Facebook to order a copy direct from me.


Monday, June 11, 2018

Cabin fever

So the truck camper didn't work out for us. It just wasn't quite what we'd hoped it would be slash couldn't take us as high up the Jeep trails as we'd hoped. We sold it a few months ago, and while we plan to get a camper again in the future (a pull-behind), we've dedicated this summer's adventures to staying in cabins.

We have four trips planned:
one to the Bloody Dick Cabin in Montana's Beaverhead Mountains
one to some new yurts near the Missouri River Breaks
one to the newly opened Green River Lakes Lodge in the Wind River Range foothills
one to some private cabins at Fort Smith on the Bighorn River
and one to the Axolotl Cabin near the Axolotl Lakes in Montana's Greenhorn Mountains

Our first trip is to the Bloody Dick Cabin - which we refer to as the Beaverheads Cabin so we don't have to say that name. Hopes are high for getting to some lakes above the cabin, but hopes are also tempered by some reports of the cabin not being in great shape. We're planning to stay five nights; we'll see.

From there, we have the yurts, Green River Lakes (I'm particularly excited about this), the Bighorn, and finally, the Axolotls. The point is, I'm stoked. Not all will go as planned, but we'll have our fun. Stay tuned...

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Brother Boges

Our brother Boges

We said goodbye to Boges three weeks ago. He was pushing 14 years and had developed kidney disease and bladder cancer.

I learned about a month after adopting him that he "wasn't great" with other dogs. He tore into a friends' dog and they became ARCH nemeses, and I learned that I couldn't trust him with many other dogs. So I had a decision to make: Do I want to keep this dog who is going to have to be separate from other dogs in a dog-crazy part of the world?


We'd shared our first heart to heart and became forever partners.

That was not his final incident; he bit seven people in total.

One, a former co-worker, was later convicted of possessing child pornography and sent to federal prison which made Boges something of a hero. Others he bit were strangers, and others were very nice people so I can't say he had a nose for bad people, but maybe once he did. He never broke skin.

He once completely unzipped a muskrat on the East Gallatin River, while on a six-foot leash attached to my arm. With two vigorous head shakes, this poor skrat was completely and impressively disemboweled. My eyes got big, and we slowly stepped back and went home. He was an impressive predator at times.

In 13 years, he killed 13 snakes. He would sniff them out, sometimes literally from underground, shake them, swing them, and toss them until they were good and dead.

Infinitely loving and loved, we will miss you forever.

Day 1 together
Day 2
With mom in Yellowstone, the day he pooped in the car
His first camping trip, at Hyalite

In Duluth

In Duluth, 10 years later.

Pooped in the "Bison"

At Red Rock Creek

In the Pioneers

In the Wind River Canyon

On an eastern Montana pond

Always photobombing

In Wyoming
On the upper Upper Green

In the Wind River Range

On the Kootenai
Oop, oop! (He had a "particular fondness" for the ever-gracious Tim Linehan)

Up Beaver Creek

On the Braid

In upstate New York
Never got skunked, but got quilled. On the Beaverhead.

The rare new friend. A random dog we met on a walk.


Going trick or treating.

At work.

At Willow Creek.

On the Bitterroot

At Red Rock Lakes NWR

Up Bear Trap Canyon

At the Kitchen Sink

Family photo on the Bitterroot 
Family photo on the Bitterroot, II.

Steelheading in Idaho

Wading the Lower Madison

"Ghosting" at the East Fork Cabin 

Getting comfortable at Hebgen

Staying afloat.
Up the Dearborn

On Lake Superior

Investigating UFOs

On Fort Peck
Up the West Fork. 
Going for a ride

At Goblin Valley

Pooped after a float

On the Marias

With Shep. Even more so now.