Sunday, September 25, 2011

Chaffin Creek Camping Trip

Me, Connor, Chris and Cameron left for our 2+ day camping trip right after our last classes on Friday. We were headed for the Selway-Bitterroot Mountains to a trail called Chaffin creek trail which would take us far up a steep valley to several alpine lakes supposedly full of Westslope Cutts that are more than willing to take any fly. When we got to the trail head (about an hour from Missoula), we only had a few hours of light left to hike. We started up the trail immediately which was pretty gradual. About a mile in we started seeing some of the big cliffs that make up the walls of the valley.

We continued on the trail until it came down to the creek. There was a couple of nice pools right next to the trail and I threw a twig in and watched as 2 trout came right up to try and eat it. The creek was full of trout. My rods were packed up so I took about a 5 foot piece of 5x tippet and tied on an adams. I threw the fly with my hand into a small pool. A fish ate it within 2 seconds and it was a beautiful cutthroat. It felt like I was back in NY fishing for brookies in the small streams. After a small break we kept on hiking for a little while until we found a nice place to camp. It looked like bear country so we played it safe and threw our food bag up in a tree. We all didn't sleep to well  because it wasn't the best place to camp. I think we all slightly rolled downhill during the night. To our surprise nothing touched our food bag. We packed up and began hiking again. About a mile and a half later we reached a falls on the creek which meant we were close to the first of many lakes. I caught one nice cutty and then we moved on. A little while longer we reached the first lake, Heart lake.

Heart Lake

It's a beautiful lake and we could clearly see tons of fish rising. I got down on a log near the grassy shoreline and immediately hooked up with a fish seconds after my fly hit the water.

It was a beautiful Cutthroat and it had some great colors. After releasing the fish Cameron and Connor both landed their first fish on a fly rod. The trout were going nuts for whatever we wanted to throw at them.


Chris was catching a bunch down the shoreline and after catching about 15 fish each we moved on to the next lake. Tamarack lake was definitely the most beautiful and it proved to hold some bigger fish also.

I rigged up rods for Cameron and Connor and we all spent a couple hours catching tons of beautiful Cutthroats.

                                                                              Connor with a nice Cutthroat on

Chris had the biggest cutt of the day, which smacked the Stimulator he was throwing.

It was a great couple hours of fishing and we each caught a bunch of fish. I estimated that I caught somewhere around 80 cutthroats. After having a short lunch we continued down the shore of Tamarack lake only to find we had to go up a huge ridge to get to our camping destination. We hiked up the ridge for about an hour and then came to the most difficult part of the climb. We had to make our way over a huge rock slide section with thousands of car sized boulders on a very steep slope.

It was a long section of the climb but we made it across to our destination; the high Chaffin lakes. The lakes were more like small ponds but it felt like we were literally on top of the world. The lakes seemed like some sacred place. They were surrounded by huge canyon walls and hundreds of short tamarack trees and it was a beautiful place to camp.

We were the only ones in the area and it felt like we were the only ones on Earth. To have an entire mountain range to ourselves was a pretty amazing feeling.
After checking out the views and exploring a little bit, we set up camp and cooked up a nice dinner. As the sun set we hiked up the rock face a little bit and watched as the sun went down.

We all slept pretty good during the night and the stars were as clear as I have ever seen them. There might of been a small meteor shower going on because we each saw a few flash across the sky before bed. We planned to watch the sunrise in the morning and I was woken by Cameron around 6:45 just as the sky was starting to lighten. We hiked up the ridge until we got to the top where its considered the tundra. All there was were very small tamarack trees and shrubs. We watched as the sun rose and that's when I realized that this is the reason that I came out west to go to college.......

We headed back to camp after watching for a while and packed all of our stuff. We wanted to get back to campus at a reasonable hour so we started hiking early. The trek back seemed like forever and we tried to go as fast as we could. The last couple miles were tough because we were very fatigued and very hungry (we had run out of snack foods half way through our hike back). We finally made it to the car and headed for the town of Darby where we bought lots of candy and chocolate milk. It was a great trip and we'll definitely be back again someday to catch some more beautiful fish and do what we love to do.

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