Fly Fishers' Republic

The View from Trout Lake

March 25, 2007

by Leonie Krieger

The View from Trout Lake

It was a beautiful summer and we’d made it through to day nine of a two week camping vacation in Glacier National Park. That was no mean feat; two years careful planning and plenty cajoling went to persuade my husband Jo away from his creature comforts. Normally we, no, make that I, endure a vacation fed hotel breakfasts put up in fancy accommodations. My husband loves it that way, but I confess it grates on me pretty darn quick. Talking with fellow inmates at the Oh-so-nice Lodge, is comfortable, but I like to share my airspace with nature’s free spirits. Call me an old hippy, but once in a while I like to get back to nature and feel the grass between my toes. I want to experience the smells, the sights, and the sounds of the wild dawn.

So there we were, nine days in, camped out in Glacier toward the upper edge of the tree line. Peering out from the canvas that morning, I contemplated daybreak. A deep Prussian blue sky burnt to a pale azure with a swathe of pale orange fringing the peaks. The sky speckled with the last night stars, I was reminded of the brookies back home. “What more could anyone ask for,” I whispered to myself. “Breakfast,” grunted Jo with a crusty morning grin.

Now, I was never the kind or woman that jumped to the beck and call of any man. And that’s still true today. And Jo, well he’s a man there’s no denying it, but upfront, I think of him as a partner, with extras. He pulls his own weight at home and in the field, we share most responsibilities, and I guess that’s one of the reasons I married him; slaving after someone was never my plan. On occasion, I appear to concede that position, but often that’s less a sacrifice and more a diplomatic card played to advantage. Cooking up breakfast isn’t that hard anyway, and on that occasion it was definitely small chips for the day’s returns.

Emerging from the tent, a quick wash in the stream woke me up ready for breakfast and a morning of fishing. Not quite dutifully (You better believe it!) I set some coffee on the fire and skewered bagels, which I staked out to toast while the coffee came to a simmer. As I poked the fire in a moment of reflection, Jo crawled from our tent and headed for the trees, before finishing his morning rituals with a brisk scrub-up in the river. Over breakfast we discussed our plans, just the two of us amidst the sounds of morning birds.

In the hazy morning light, we broke camp and looked over our map; due down at a reserved spot in a park camp that evening, we made an early start. As chief guide, that’s with a very small ‘g’, I started us out for the next lake. With compass and map, the mountain trails weren’t hard to follow and we pressed on toward promise of ‘larger than average Cutts‘. While the far side of the mountains basked in a glorious sunrise, we moved in morning shadow. We made Trout Lake by seven-thirty.

Stepping from amongst the trees we arrived at an old weather beaten and sun bleached logjam at the lake outflow. We paused to watch the water over which hung a low and fine mist. Fish rose quietly along the near shore and out along the jam and judging from the mayfly skins on the rocks we figured there had been some good hatches recently. So it was with a dry and dropper setup that Jo and I picked our stations for the morning show. After stashing our packs and stringing up our rods I made for the stone shoreline at the end of the jam, while Jo headed to fish off the tree trunk boneyard. That was a tricky spot, but worth it for the chance of better fish.

After a slow start catching perfect little Cutts on hares ears, things started to pick up. I paused to watch trout rising close in to shore and along the logjam. Large brown mayflies crawled from the water to hatch. Trout were picking them off where they could, and taking fresh duns when the morning breeze flushed them onto the water. Switching to a single size 12 dun boosted results, and for a while I almost forgot Jo. Taking a brief time-out from the action I could see he’d rung the changes and was getting his share. As the sun broke over the peaks, the hatch reached its most heavy. The action was frenetic, with fish on nearly every cast. The only pauses were for changing waterlogged and threadbare flies.

So preoccupied was I at that point, that when a shout came across the lake toward me it took a moment to register. As I lifted my gaze, I could see Jo in something of a predicament, his cry was one of fear! It turns out that so caught up had he been in fishing the hatch he’d followed the fish to the far end of the jam, right up close to the trees. On reflection I don’t think anything would have come of the confrontation, but at that moment, evidently Jo did; so as he stood there perched on his piece of timber watched by a grizzly bear from off another log, Jo cried out my name. I’d like to think I’d have been more cool headed, but either way, Jo figured he’d gotta get out of there, and in something of a hurry! While a bemused bear looked on, Jo started into a brisk log hop. Unfortunately he picked the wrong route and soon enough his passage turned into something more akin to the sport of log rolling, with expected results. Dumping Jo squarely in Trout Lake, the jam gave way. Unimpressed by Jo’s performance the bear raised it’s nose in disproval and vanished back into the bushes.

Reflecting now, I suppose we should be grateful the only damage was a wet set of clothes, some drenched flies, and a little dampened pride.

Today, when we venture into the backwoods you can hear Jo a mile off. He has a nice new set of jangling bear bells… and a new nickname.