In Search of a Creek

A gentle little stream in a mountain meadow.

It was nice to have some thundershowers in early July. It’s funny how a little bit of rain will help revive a lawn more than running sprinklers. Still, if we want to keep our rivers running, we’re going to need a lot more than an occasional shower. We need some serious rain.

 Our son, Kevin, and his family, have been visiting here, and, of course, Kevin and I went fishing. It’s what we do this time of year. When we get together again, this fall, we’ll go pheasant hunting. It’s what we do.

 While we enjoy the outings, the drought is making it a challenge.

 We fished the Big Hole River one day, and while fishing this beautiful river is always rewarding, it’s sad to see how low the upper part of the river is for early July. On the bright side, wade fishing is easy, with shallow water, and lots of privacy and solitude. Where just a few weeks ago, during the salmonfly hatch, there was a constant parade of drift boats and rubber rafts, this morning we didn’t see a single boat on this stretch of river. What boat traffic there was, was on lower stretches, where tributaries add more flow to the river.

Another Dog on a Rock photo. a couple weeks earlier, this rock was totally underwater.

 For figuring out the next day’s fishing, I recalled a conversation with a Kansas outdoor writer friend, David Zumbaugh, a few weeks ago. He and his wife had been on a western vacation, and we got together one morning after an overnight stop in Butte. David was enthusing on fishing a mountain creek in the upper Big Hole valley. The fish were both plentiful and willing, according to him.

The drive along the upper reaches of the Big Hole is pretty, though the river looks extraordinarily low, with hardly any current.

Still, the upper Big Hole valley, with its vast stretches of green fields, is always impressive. The early mountain men dubbed these mountain valleys “holes,” such as Jackson Hole, and others, but this valley was truly a “Big Hole.” Driving through the little community of Jackson, I mentioned to Kevin that the hot springs there were visited by the Lewis & Clark expedition, and they made stops there on both their way to the Pacific and on the way back.

We found the turnoff for the creek (which shall remain nameless), driving a gravel road across ranchland and then up a Forest Service road. I was wondering where the creek was, but we spotted a turnout and Kevin said, “There are willows down below.” I drove in and, sure enough, there was a pretty mountain stream, flowing gently through a mountain meadow.

With two Labrador retrievers with us, we didn’t exactly sneak up on the creek, though even after Kiri had checked things out, I could see rises at the upper end of a deep pool.

 Kevin went a little farther upstream, where he reported that his black Lab, Kota, was fascinated with the skeletal remains of a moose that had likely died during the winter. Other predators had cleaned off all the flesh, but there was still evidently enough aroma to be interesting.

We wandered around in this stretch of the creek, exploring a bit and hoping to not break a leg in various beaver channels through the swampy creek bottom.

I enjoyed fishing that deep pool, catching around a dozen little brook trout, mostly six inches, or smaller. If I’d thought about it earlier, I would have brought a cooler with some ice, for a fish dinner, or appetizers, to be more accurate. But, without ice, I released the brookies back to the creek.

We took a lunch break, finding a shady spot to set up some chairs where we could relax while having lunch and swatting deer flies.

We talked about the fishing, and he expressed his frustration that, while he had some rises, he hadn’t actually hooked any of those willing little brookies.

 He took it philosophically, though, noting, “There’s probably more distinction in NOT catching any fish in a brookie stream like this.”

 Paul Vang’s new book, “Golden Years, Golden Hours,” is available at How Novel, The Second Edition, Isle of Books & Books, or online at

2 thoughts on “In Search of a Creek

  1. Always remember that creeks are usually on private property. Respect those properties and fish only with permission

    • Your point is well-taken, Tom. In this case, we were several miles within Forest Service boundaries. We’re both part owners of that stretch of creek.

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