Hike the Trail at Kelly Creek

The temperature is in the single digits this week. Frozen fog coats the bare branches of the trees out the window. I haven’t seen the sun in days.

So I am taking a break from my to-do list, and looking back at sunnier times. Scrolling through my folder of Kelly Creek pictures, I came across this one and decided to share it along with a little story. If you come to Kelly Creek via Superior, Montana you follow Moose Creek until you hit the road that winds along the creek. Instead of turning right to follow the river, if you turn left, there is a camping/parking area just before the bridge that leads you on to Cayuse Creek. That is also the trailhead to hike upstream along Kelly. If you are a back packer, you can follow it all the way to the junction with Cayuse and beyond.

Upstream from the bridge along Kelly Creek

Upstream along Kelly Creek (click to enlarge)

When I visit Kelly Creek, I always allow one day to fish the trail. The walk isn’t strenuous, the scenery is incredible and the fishing pressure decreases with each mile you hike. The water gets smaller as you go, but there is always nice fishable water. I’ve had some amazing days along that trail. This picture, taken 10/19/2010 is from the high point of the trail.

In the picture, you can see a small outcropping just above the riffle. Well about 10 years ago, I was hiking back down the trail at dusk. Like every other fly fisher I know, I watch the trail to see where I am going, but keep an eye on the water, because isn’t that what it’s all about?

It had been a long day with dozens of fish and hours of hiking and wading, but when I saw rising fish I stopped to watch. You can see in the photo that from the trail to the water is a steep drop. So it wasn’t an easy decision. I was tired and hungry, but there were rising fish. I gave in and skidded down to the river.

Stripping out some line, I made an awkward steeple cast to let my parachute Adams drift down riffle. Before the first strike, I heard a snort and the splash of a rock rolling into the water. Looking upstream fifteen feet to my left, a huge bull moose stared back at me.  Let me say that I didn’t waste much time reeling in my line and backing down stream. When I got far enough to feel safe, I scrambled up the bank to the trail and let my heart rate get back under a hundred and my breath down to normal.

Now every time I hike the trail, I pause at this spot and remember my adventure. It keeps me humble and reminds me we share these waters with each other and the native residents of the this wonderful country. You never know who or what you’ll see along the trail. Each trip is an adventure, but you want to make it home to share your tales.

Be safe.

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