Last week, heading southeast to Wyoming to fish with my friend Jill, I started wondering about place names … it started when I noticed the next exit to Rattlesnake Pass. We’ve had a lot of rattlesnake sightings and funerals this summer up at the ranch and we are in hyper-watch mode. I imagined homesteaders trailing into the desert sagebrush frightening and frightened by enough rattlesnakes that the place became a landmark. You know, turn right across Rattlesnake Pass.
If names reflect the landmarks then what do I think as I pull into the Bear River Campground, which is next to the East Bear River Campground, both of which are right on the Bear River? I’m thinking that I didn’t bring bear spray only my new little Kel Tec 22 pistol with snake shot … then to enhance my awareness of place names there were the bear warnings everywhere in the campground. Do NOT leave any food outside, nor in tents, nor in tent trailers that could attract bears. Do landmark names really reflect the truth? As I set up the Mini Winnie I wondered if it was bear proof?
Forgetting landmark names and thinking FISH, the first morning out we headed up the Mirror Lake highway past all the private property & no trespassing signs to park in an off highway spot (remember to pick up your parking passes at the Ranger Station). Down to the river through willows and brush and trees. Jill went downstream and I went up.
Day one was eventful … I was sucked into a quicksand/mud bog hole crossing a side water stream to reach a rocky island where I went from mid-calf water to over my knee in a blink … luckily I fell into the bank, desperately holding my fly rod in one hand and some wee grasses with the other, hoping I didn’t fall all the way in and wash downstream. Slowly I pulled myself out of the water with a mucky sucking fuoosh as the black goop let go of my foot. All that and I didn’t catch one fish … notta … zippo.
Day two started with a beautiful hike to the East Fork Bear River through an old fire scared meadow down to the river … I caught a few fish, evaded some extremely large bovines and fell in the river (again). Yes, you heard me right … I fell in the river.
Wet wading in t-shirt, shorts, and my trusty old Asolo trekkers with my wading staff floating at my feet I caught a flash of fish out of the corner of my eye. I turned too quickly, not watching my feet placement on the slippery stones nor my wading staff floating between my feet. I turned, the staff didn’t and I went down on my butt, water to my chest and my backpack acting like a balloon on my back. Not good. After I righted myself and found my footing again I stood dripping in the still cold, winter run-off water, holding my legs still so my shorts wouldn’t touch them.
Then, planner that I am I remembered the change of clothes in my pack, just in case, because, let’s face it … I tend to slip on rocks in a rushing river. However, opening my pack it was obvious that it wasn’t waterproof. Everything was wet or wet enough that it wouldn’t have made a difference if I changed or not.
I just started fishing again (further up stream from my debacle) hoping the sun would peep between thunder storm clouds which didn’t happen, but I got a double soaking when the heavy clouds opened up as we hiked the miles back up to the parking lot.
Evening found us up at Lily Lake, named for the thousands of lily pads that clog about 1/3 of it and it was a beautiful spot (to lose a lot of flies) … I’ve not fished lakes with a fly rod much. Score: Lily Lake Trees about 10, Fish 1 and Me? Zero.
Our last day I headed back up river while Jill packed up her tiny trailer. After catching a few fish and enjoying a sunny morning I headed back to the truck … when I arrived Jill was waiting and watching the river. She worried I had fallen in and drowned myself … she was checking the river to see if I floated passed. Day Three … I did NOT fall in the river. I count that a plus.
If you’re looking for a quiet night and pleasant camping, and aren’t pulling a gargantuan sized trailer the Wyoming side of the Mirror Lake Highway is a nice, peaceful place to stay and it’s away from the heavily packed campgrounds on the west side of the mountains … I highly recommend giving it a try.
Though the fishing could have been better the camping was great, we didn’t get many thunder storms and there was plenty of firewood to be picked up from old slash piles. But, we didn’t press our luck and play no bears are out tonight … we just watched the fire burn to coals and listened to the river’s song.
Next trip, Sweetie and I are heading to Washington state to fish near Mt. Rainier with his daughter & son-in-law where I’m hoping to catch a few more fish and NOT fall in the river.
Until next time friends, tight lines and blue skies.