Monday, August 24, 2009

Seeley Sampler

For nearly a year I'd been looking forward to my family's long planned vacation to Seeley Lake, MT. Last week all that anticipation came to fruition as we traded in the hustle and bustle of every day life for the beauty and serenity of the Seeley-Swan Valley. We stayed at the comfortable Seeley Cabin of Tamaracks Resort, nestled amongst the pines right on the banks of Seeley Lake, just a stones throw from the water. As I always tend to do with such trips, I had envisioned our cabin serving as a base camp for 5 glorious days of fly fishing, dawn to dusk. Had it been up to me, that's probably what we'd have done. For better or worse the majority of my family doesn't suffer from the angling addiction that has afflicted me. In particular my 1 year old niece and 3 year old nephew reminded me that there's more to life than chasing fins.

Thankfully though, we did find time to sample some of the fisheries in the area, of which there seemed no end. Hands down, the best fishing of the trip was on what I'll just call the North Fork (I can't give away all the secrets). Here we found a beautiful stream, full of healthy native westslope cutthroat that averaged 15-17 inches, with fish up to 22" caught...on dries no less. Big, big bull trout lurked in the deepest pools and harassed the cutts thrashing on the end of our lines.

We plied the waters of Seeley Lake itself on many evenings, working the channels, lilly pads and ledges...hooking fair numbers of northern pike up to about 30". We worked hard for bass, hoping there were still some holdouts - and surely there are - but to no avail. Seeley Lake is fed by the Clearwater River, a rather small, slow, meandering stream. My sister and nephew floated a few miles of the river with me in a canoe, some of the deep (10'+) holes surely held a few fish, but we saw just one trout and some small perch on our float. I wouldn't go out of my way to fish the Clearwater again any time soon.

I would however go out of my way to fish the Blackfoot River. The time we spent fishing the river was productive and relaxing, with lots of cutts, rainbows and the occasional juvenile bull caught. We even had a few exciting episodes of giant bull trout rushing our catch. We had good dry fly fishing at times, but picked up more fish when we conceded to dredging the runs with stonefly nymphs, pheasant tails, copper johns and such. We also spent some time poking around a tributary or two of the Blackfoot, and did pretty well for mostly native cutthroat (some surprisingly large) on these cold, clear streams.

That may sound like a lot of fishing to you, but it only wet my appetite for the regions ample opportunities. As we sailed right on by the Swan River and the Middle Fork of the Flathead River without so much as wetting a line en route to Glacier National Park, there was little I could do but grin and bear it. And then there were the high country lakes that we missed out on, and the myraid of big name fisheries within an hours drive such as the Clark Fork, Bitterroot, Rock, Rattlesnake, much fishing to do and so little time.

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