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countr21 08-27-2012 01:25 AM

Beautiful headwater in the Montana backcountry
There is a trophy golden trout lake in the Crazy Mtns of Montana that I've been meaning to get to for a few summers now. It's known well for two things: large goldens and its difficult accessibility. I've heard the hike is off trail and very difficult. But I've seen pictures online of the lake and and its large I know other folks have made the trek. So I figured I would give it a look.....I was confident I could probably make the hike, I was just worried that I could find the way. Well, I didn't make it......half way thru the hike there is a creek you have to cross but it's way deep down in a canyon about 200 feet deep. And you must find a place in the canyon to make a scramble down to the creek. I walked up and down the ridge all day long and I couldn't find it. This is one of those places that you have to have someone else show you how to find the way or you're not making it. Freakin' shame too......the thought of holding a 20 inch golden in my hands seemed like the perfect way to cap off the summer. I was pretty devastated......... :(

My attitude was pretty cracked and I was feeling very sorry for myself. As I walked back down the drainage I noticed how pretty the main creek was. There was a section about a mile long filled with amazing little waterfalls and plunge pools. The stream looked like storybook trout habitat. Every fifty yards was another beautiful waterfall or chute. It was gorgeous. I figured if I couldn't make it to the lake there was time to savor this little headwater stream. A backpacker's version of turning lemons into lemonade.....

The creek was absolutely loaded with 10-12" rainbows and cutbows. There were brazen little guys in every plunge pool and pocket. I caught about 30 fish in two days and the only fly I needed was a size 16 black wooly worm with an orange tail. I doubt these fish see but a handful of anglers a year, and they were quick to pounce.

I don't know why I don't fish more of these types of headwater streams. I hike past dozens of them every summer on the way up to the high lakes. On stillwater smaller fish just aren't very exciting but on headwater streams they all of a sudden become a blast. I found a lovely campsite that other folks had used and there was a nice grill at the fire pit so I enjoyed some eleven inch rainbows for dinner for two nights. I've always baked my trout in tin foil but grilling them was much better!!! They were absolutely delicious with the grilled taste. I do have a small backpacker's grill that I think I may have to start bringing along on backcountry trips. It weighs a pound but I think it may be worth the extra weight!! :rolleyes:

storybook trout habitat

Best trout I've ever put in my mouth. Grilled over campfire coals, S+P, tartar sauce :icon_bigg

all but two of my fish were returned to the water unharmed

coolkyle 12-01-2012 09:30 AM

Re: Beautiful headwater in the Montana backcountry
My whole life I've driven past the Crazies and wondered what it was like in those beautiful mountains. Thank you!

mcnerney 12-01-2012 10:03 AM

Re: Beautiful headwater in the Montana backcountry
Countr21: Wow, I don't know how I missed your great trip report and photos when you first posted this, but thanks to Coolkyle for bringing it back up. That was some beautiful mountain stream to explore, congrats! I have to agree how tasty those mountain trout taste cooked over a campfire. Never thought about backing those little packets of tarter sauce, excellent idea, thanks! Sorry you didn't make it into that trophy lake, maybe there is a better approach to avoid the canyon section. I wonder if Google Earth would help?


cochise 12-01-2012 10:16 AM

Re: Beautiful headwater in the Montana backcountry
Gorgeous Stream!! That's a special looking place.

williamhj 12-01-2012 10:26 AM

Re: Beautiful headwater in the Montana backcountry
Great post and pictures. Thanks for posting them.

newby 12-01-2012 12:29 PM

Re: Beautiful headwater in the Montana backcountry
That cutty is beyond gorgeous. I wish we had more of those types of streams in Arizona!

Ard 12-01-2012 02:12 PM

Re: Beautiful headwater in the Montana backcountry
Memories; I can hear that old song play when I see these type of posts. The fact that there are so many people telling of their experiences on this forum is just one of the things that keeps me logging on every day. I'm not sure if it is because of getting older or a side effect of living where I do but I don't do the deep hike to the head waters any more. I have, and they always were great adventure, many trout cooked over the fires and many places I may never see again. This is a good thread for sure! Here there are not many trails that will get you to where someone is not already at via helicopter - float plane - or river boat. Because of that I use the boat to explore but I still have a handful of little streams that I walk to and I never tell a soul where or which they are. That way I can still have a little memory material for the future.

Like Larry, I never spotted this thread when it was posted but as you can see it made me reply :)

dean_mt 12-02-2012 11:09 PM

Re: Beautiful headwater in the Montana backcountry
Great trip!

That looks like a river I stumbled upon with a friend about 10 years ago in the Nyack Wilderness section of GNP. Those plunges and sheer walls. I got stopped once in a similar situation, deep canyon steep slopes in central Arizona. You never forgot those experiences. But I hope you can get to the lake sometime, those a secret and special places.

That cutty, that's a Yellowstone Cutt isn't it?

il_wi_fishing 12-03-2012 07:36 AM

Re: Beautiful headwater in the Montana backcountry
now this is the type of post to read on a monday morning, thanks for priming the pump and setting the tone

dharkin 12-03-2012 03:34 PM

Re: Beautiful headwater in the Montana backcountry
What a great post and fantastic photo's. Your facial expression is priceless.........looks like--------"Can I eat this?" Too funny.

thanks for sharing.

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