I’ve always wanted to float one of the Flathead Rivers and this year my dream came true. I was invited on an eight day trip down the Middle Fork of the Flathead in the Great Bear Wilderness. It was probably one of the top 5 trips of my life! What beauty!
The trip started with a bush plane trip to Schafer Airfield. This is also one of the main hubs for the forest service. The river is roughly a quarter mile from the airstrip, and being that it’s wilderness, no wheeled assistance is allowed. We had to truck out 1,300 lbs of gear on stretchers. Yeah, it’s a bitch! But the views, the river, everything was well worth it.
We were told there were signs of wolves in the area. I saw a couple tracks, while wondering around taking photos. I also saw Grizzly tracks and a TON of moose tracks. While I wondered around, my dad Ricki and Tom fished the river. Tom apparently caught a white fish.
The next morning we weighted down our boats and headed into the unknown. Lucky for me, and my group, we had the luxury of following an experienced rafter, my new and good friend Mike Field. He has run the river more than a dozen times. And it was a good thing we had him to follow because as it turned out, when the guide book said class IV, it meant it. The majority of the technical water was simply finding the right channel, all the while not getting hung up on small rocks. There were a couple decent sized drops, particularly the “ledge,” which is a good 4 foot drop. Super fun and super rowdy! Sorry, no photos from the rapids (my camera gear was stashed away).
Our second, third and fourth nights were spent right below Morrison Creek. Amazing way to do it, because it gave us time to hike up to Flotilla and Scott Lakes. Flotilla was formed by a massive landslide and has no surface outflow. It’s subterranean outflow forms Scott Lake. Super cool area.
Each night we celebrated our good fortune like kings. We put a dent in our hundreds of beer cans, knocked off inches in the whiskey bottles and made the Grizzly Bears salivate with sizzling fat. I don’t think I’ve ever camped so lavishly in the wilderness.
Our second day at the Morrison camp (third day in the wilderness), my dad and I bushwhacked to the lower sections of Lake Creek. Lake Creek is the outflow of Scott and Flotilla. Not a ton of big fish, but what we lacked in size, we made up for in quantity. Every cast, NO JOKE!
From Morrison we floated down to Granite Creek. This next section of water had some more rowdy rapids. There was one drop that provided some fun, adrenaline. A little further down, the river begins to braid, which created great fishing. I caught a hog of a Cutthroat, among several other smaller guys and Tom pulled out a good sized Bull Trout.
That night at Granite Creek, I hiked out of the canyon, following sketchy animal trails, to get a different vantage of the area. The view from up there was spectacular! And so were the flowers! I was in photographer heaven. Such an amazing moment!
The following morning, we decided to hike/fish Granite. We walked upstream roughly 2 miles and, after some bushwhacking, made it to the stream. We proceded to fish each hole on the way back to camp. I only caught two fish, which seemed about par for everyone else as well. I’m sure fishing it later in the day would have proven more fruitful. I did though catch a large 22 incher that evening. The bastard stole my fly after I landed him. Let’s just say, he never gave up, even when I had him in my hand.
The following day we departed early so we would have ample time to hike Castle Lake. Rumors had it the fishing was spectacular up there. I caught two decent sized fish, but it certainly wasn’t a-fish-a-cast. The lake was pretty, but the forest and outflow were amazing!
Below Castle came 25 Mile Rapid. A fun series of drops, some pinches (be sure to watch out for log jams) and a couple rowdy train waves. Nothing in here to really get worked up about, just be sure to stay attentive.
Our last camp was right above Spruce Park. We found a wonderful campground, with views of snowcapped peaks, a nice sandy beach and a wonderful stone riddled shelf. I found two rocks for my personal collection and had an awesome time snapping some pics. It was hard knowing that this was our last night. But with everything it must end.
Perspective, it’s needed.