The Big Toe Blister Hike To Fish Heaven

My favorite recreational activity is to hike several miles to a high mountain lake in Montana with the hope of casting a dry fly out onto the surface of some ice-cold tarn on a warm summer day to catch a nice sized cutthroat trout.

Some of the lakes that were great for fishing years ago have not been very good the last few years – too many people fishing there and keeping their limit I guess. But I did find one this summer that offered me the single best hour of fishing in my life. It involved a 14 miles hike (7 in and 7 out), resulting in the worst toe blister of my life, but I would take that blister all over again for the opportunity to catch fish like I did that day.

I had heard about _____________ Lake from my son, Jesse, and his wife, Cara, who went there about 5 years ago and caught tons of cutthroat. They had told me that the fish weren’t that big – just 10 or 11 inchers, but that there were lots of them to catch. As this summer was ending and some of my other trips had yielded disappointing fishing results (compared to past years) I decided to go to ____________ Lake.

I knew it was a hard hike with 3000 feet in elevation gain across 7 miles of some rough terrain, but I felt I had to try, and I really love these challenging adventures. So, I packed my gear and got up the next morning at 5 am to drive the ~40 miles to the trailhead.

Armed with my hiking poles and a new Garmin Satellite GPS Device that I was just learning to use, I started hiking just after first light – around 7 am.

This particular hike has you climbing about 1000 feet in elevation in just the first couple of miles so it’s really steep at first. But with fresh legs, (and all the hiking I’d been doing earlier this summer) I had no problem with that. Then the trail flattens out a bit and you go another 3 miles or so to gain another 1000 feet in elevation.

After about 5 miles on the main trail, you see a rock cairn off to the left which marks the spot where you need to get off this primary trail and hike the rest of the way on unmaintained trail for the remaining ~2.5 miles to the lake.

You first cross a stream by walking across a log jam and then through the forest where you alternatively climb over or under logs that have fallen across the “path” created by all the hiker’s boots that have stomped the ground there over the decades.

Soon, you come out into the open and find yourself needing to cross several large granite boulder fields on the final ascent toward the lake.

The boulder fields are broad and treacherous. The path is sometimes marked by little rock cairns that previous hikers have put in place to show you the way, but mostly, you just push on in the general direction of the lake as you continue to gain elevation.

Because you are now at about 9000 feet, oxygen is a much harder to come by. To make it worse, the final push is almost straight up on boulders for the final 700 feet of elevation gain before you arrive at the general vicinity of the lake.

Up on top I cut too soon toward what I thought was the lake and found myself climbing up and down steep embankments only to arrive at what turned out to not be the main lake. Instead, it was a small after-bay below the lake. I felt I needed to get to the main lake, so I continued moving upstream along the creek that flows out from the lake and gradually worked my way there, but not without having to rock climb over a 10 foot wall of granite to get to the lake.

Having arrived there after five and a half hours of hiking, mother nature greeted with me an overcast sky and about a 50 mile an hour wind. Because of the wind, there wasn’t even a chance that I would be able to fly fish there.

I was exhausted, but I put together my spinning rod and tried casting some lures into the lake. I got no hits on the lures in 20 or so casts and then my line got all snarled up on the cheap spinning reel that I’d too quickly packed for this trip. I made a mental note to stop bringing spinning rods and to just give up altogether on lure fishing. I don’t really enjoy it and its always done out of desperation when the real reason I go there is to catch fish on flies.

There was no hope of throwing flies in the snarling wind, so I didn’t even try that. Instead, I sat down to eat a little bit of lunch. At this point the winds seemed to pick up even more until it was not unlike the situation you see someone hugging a lamp post as they report on a hurricane that’s slamming into the Carolina coast somewhere. The treacherous wind blew one of my gloves toward the water in the lake and I had to lunge to save it from going in, which just further irritated me.

At this point, I was pretty much exhausted and totally ticked off at the situation. I had hiked for more than 5 hours and climbed more than 3000 feet to get to this place and I couldn’t even fish. At this point, in a rather immature moment, I started screaming at the wind. Some choice words were shared.

If anyone had seen me, they would have concluded that I was totally insane at this point – exhaustion and disappointment can do that when mixed in healthy doses.

So, in utter disgust, I decided that I would just pack up and get the heck out of this place. But I stopped for a minute and said a prayer that, somehow, this day could be salvaged and that I could at least regain my serenity.

As I surveyed my surroundings to plot the course out, I realized I was in a weird spot. I knew that I should head north to get to the trail that parallels the lakes edge (that would be the quickest way to get back out) but there were some pretty high cliffs in the way. (see cliffs in the lower right of the picture below). It’s one thing to climb up a 10 foot wall – it’s a whole different thing when they are 30 or 40 feet high.

So, I decided to just retrace the path that brought me in since I knew I could get back out that way. This route took me back to the 10-foot cliff that I now needed to climb down– going down it was harder than climbing up it. Thankfully, I made it down off that without injury.

This now put me, again, along the creek that flows out of the main lake. The sun started to peek out. At the same time, the wind seemed to die down, partly because the creek was protected by a cliff on the opposite side of where I was hiking along the creek.

At this point, I decided that I might as well put my fly rod together and at least try to fish the creek. After I had put my rod together and strung the line, I put on my new favorite dry fly (a Swisher’s PMX royal #14). This recently discovered pattern looks and fishes a lot like a Royal Wulff but floats better and longer and is easier to see on top of the water.

I cast out into one of the little pools that form as the creek flows down to the after-bay and I immediately hooked a very nice cutthroat. I quickly reeled it in and saw that it was a very pretty 13 inch cutthroat.  The coloration is particularly beautiful on this trout though, so it almost looks like a Golden/Cutthroat hybrid.

I removed the hook quickly and took a picture with my iPhone before releasing it back into the water to see it swim away. Watching these beautiful fish swim away is fast becoming my favorite part of fishing.

I got back up and sorted out my rod, got the line in order, and made sure the fly was dry. Then I cast out again – and almost as soon as the fly hit the water, another nice fish took the fly and ran. When I reeled this one in it was about the same size as the first one with the same beautiful coloration.

After a few casts yielded no new bites, I moved down to the next pool and cast toward the top of it. The fly hit the water and floated a foot or two and – WAM, I got another nice one. So, after getting skunked at the main lake due to the wind I now found myself in fishing heaven, catching trout essentially at will.

After about half hour of fishing the little pools in the creek, I found myself at the place where the creek flowed out into the after-bay. As I threw out my fly here, I sometimes saw two or three fish going for the fly at the same time before it even hit the water.

In just little more than an hour I had caught 20 fish. They were all around 12 or 13 inches (and quite healthy – fat and beautiful) and one or two that were more like 14 inches.   So, this was easily the best cutthroat fishing hour of my life.

I needed to get going because this was late in the summer and I knew it would take me at least 5 hours to get out and back to my car so I, sadly, had to stop fishing at about 3:15 pm and packed up to go out.

The hike out seemed to be just as brutal as the hike in, thanks to the boulder fields near the top and getting confused about where the trail came out of the woods below. I wasted at least 40 minutes going into some woods (well below the foot trail) and having to bushwhack through a bunch of brush to get to the trail. The thing that saved me was my Garmin Satellite device. It had dropped way points on the way in so I used the device to point me in the direction of one of the nearest way points and I was soon back on the trail.

And that was one of the happiest moments of the day because, even though it was a secondary trail, it was like an interstate highway compared to bushwhacking through virgin forest.

Since I’d lost a bunch of time bushwhacking, I was now in a major race with the end of daylight.

I got back to the primary (maintained) trail very late in the afternoon with 2000 feet of elevation still to drop and at least 5 miles still to go till I reached the trailhead. So the rest of the hike was essentially a race against coming out of the mountains in the dark. I had a headlamp in my day pack so I *could have* hiked in the dark if I needed to, but I didn’t really want to have to do that.

On top of this, my left big toe had started to become “hot” at some point during the descent from the lake and all the bushwhacking I had done, and I didn’t have time to stop and check it. Even if I had, I wouldn’t have been able to doctor it, so I just kept going. At one point, I was pretty much running to get out before it got dark. Finally, after what turned out to be a 14-mile hike I was back at my car.   In less than 15 minutes it was pitch dark.

When I got home and took off my boot, I observed the worst blister of my life. It took more than 2 weeks to heal, but, thanks for soaking in Epsom salts and good bandaging I didn’t end up at the ER.

My experience of catching no fish at the lake and then finding a place where I was catching a fish on every cast reminds me of John 21 in the New Testament. The disciples had fished all night and caught nothing. But then they see a stranger on the shore and he said to them, “Cast the net on the right side of the ship, and you shall find. They cast therefore, and now they were not able to draw it for the multitude of fishes.”

I think that my Heavenly Father was watching over me that day in more ways than one. He protected me, and I didn’t end up with any serious injury. When I was lost, he helped me remember that I had a new device on me that, if I learned how to use it properly, could help me get out of the woods and find my way back to the trail. He saw me discouraged and angry with the howling wind and dark clouds and answered my prayer with a “multitude of fishes” of my own.


231 Replies to “The Big Toe Blister Hike To Fish Heaven”

  1. I simply want to mention I am just very new to blogs and certainly loved your blog site. Likely I’m likely to bookmark your blog . You really have perfect well written articles. Many thanks for revealing your web-site.

  2. Definitely believe that which you stated. Your favorite justification appeared to be on the web the simplest thing to be aware of. I say to you, I definitely get annoyed while people consider worries that they just do not know about. You managed to hit the nail upon the top and defined out the whole thing without having side effect , people could take a signal. Will probably be back to get more. Thanks

  3. I just want to say I am newbie to blogs and absolutely liked this web blog. Most likely I’m planning to bookmark your blog post . You certainly come with terrific stories. Regards for sharing with us your web-site.

  4. I have been browsing online more than three hours today, yet I never found any interesting article like yours. It is pretty worth enough for me. In my view, if all site owners and bloggers made good content as you did, the net will be much more useful than ever before.

  5. Heya are using WordPress for your blog platform? I’m new to the blog world but I’m trying to get started and create my own. Do you require any coding knowledge to make your own blog? Any help would be really appreciated!

  6. Attractive section of content. I just stumbled upon your web site and in accession capital to assert that I get in fact enjoyed account your blog posts. Any way I’ll be subscribing to your augment and even I achievement you access consistently quickly.

  7. Have you ever thought about publishing an e-book or guest authoring on other sites? I have a blog based on the same subjects you discuss and would really like to have you share some stories/information. I know my visitors would value your work. If you are even remotely interested, feel free to shoot me an e mail.

  8. I just want to tell you that I’m all new to blogging and truly savored this web-site. More than likely I’m going to bookmark your blog . You actually have superb stories. Thanks a bunch for sharing with us your web site.

  9. Magnificent beat ! I would like to apprentice while you amend your site, how can i subscribe for a blog web site? The account aided me a acceptable deal. I had been tiny bit acquainted of this your broadcast provided bright clear concept

  10. I really like your website.. pleasant colors & theme. Performed anyone design this website yourself or even did a person hire an attorney to make it work for you personally? Plz act in response since I!|m planning to style and design my personal weblog and also would want to realize wherever you became that from. thanks

  11. I’m impressed, I have to admit. Rarely do I encounter a blog that’s equally educative and engaging, and without a doubt, you have hit the nail on the head. The issue is something not enough people are speaking intelligently about. I am very happy I stumbled across this in my hunt for something regarding this.

  12. Right here is the right website for everyone who would like to find out about this topic. You understand a whole lot its almost hard to argue with you (not that I personally would want to…HaHa). You definitely put a fresh spin on a subject which has been written about for a long time. Wonderful stuff, just great.

  13. An impressive share, I simply given this onto a colleague who was doing somewhat analysis on this. And he in truth bought me breakfast as a result of I found it for him.. smile. So let me reword that: Thnx for the deal with! However yeah Thnkx for spending the time to debate this, I really feel strongly about it and love reading extra on this topic. If attainable, as you turn out to be expertise, would you mind updating your blog with extra details? It is extremely useful for me. Massive thumb up for this weblog publish!

  14. Hiya, I am really glad I’ve found this information. Today bloggers publish just about gossips and web and this is actually frustrating. A good website with exciting content, this is what I need. Thanks for keeping this website, I will be visiting it. Do you do newsletters? Cant find it.

  15. This is the proper blog for anybody who needs to find out about this topic. You understand a lot its virtually hard to argue with you (not that I truly would need…HaHa). You positively put a new spin on a topic thats been written about for years. Nice stuff, simply nice!

  16. I seriously love your site.. Very nice colors & theme. Did you develop this web site yourself? Please reply back as I’m looking to create my own blog and would love to learn where you got this from or just what the theme is called. Cheers.

  17. The next time I read a blog, I hope that it does not fail me just as much as this one. I mean, I know it was my choice to read, however I genuinely thought you’d have something interesting to talk about. All I hear is a bunch of complaining about something that you can fix if you weren’t too busy searching for attention.

  18. You really make it seem really easy with your presentation but I to find this topic to be actually one thing which I think I’d never understand. It kind of feels too complex and very large for me. I’m looking forward to your subsequent publish, I’ll attempt to get the hold of it!

  19. Hi, Neat post. There’s a problem with your web site in web explorer, would check this… IE nonetheless is the market leader and a large element of other people will miss your fantastic writing due to this problem.

  20. Howdy! I could have sworn I챠ve visited this site before but after browsing through many of the articles I realized it챠s new to me. Regardless, I챠m definitely happy I came across it and I챠ll be book-marking it and checking back often!

  21. This is the perfect web site for anybody who wishes to understand this topic. You realize so much its almost hard to argue with you (not that I really would want to…HaHa). You certainly put a brand new spin on a topic that’s been written about for decades. Excellent stuff, just wonderful.

  22. Hey very cool website!! Man .. Excellent .. Amazing .. I will bookmark your website and take the feeds also…I am happy to find numerous useful information here in the post, we need work out more strategies in this regard, thanks for sharing. . . . . .

  23. I feel like I’m constantly looking for interesting things to read about a variety of subjects, but I manage to include your blog among my reads every day because you have compelling entries that I look forward to. Here’s hoping there’s a lot more amazing material coming!water delivery dubai

  24. An outstanding share! I’ve just forwarded this onto a friend who had been doing a little homework on this. And he actually ordered me breakfast simply because I stumbled upon it for him… lol. So let me reword this…. Thanks for the meal!! But yeah, thanks for spending time to talk about this subject here on your internet site.

  25. You could definitely see your expertise in the paintings you write. The world hopes for more passionate writers like you who are not afraid to mention how they believe. Always go after your heart. “Golf and sex are about the only things you can enjoy without being good at.” by Jimmy Demaret.

  26. obviously like your web-site however you have to take a look at the spelling on quite a few of your posts. A number of them are rife with spelling problems and I to find it very bothersome to inform the reality then again I’ll surely come again again.

  27. I’m impressed, I must say. Seldom do I encounter a blog that’s both equally educative and interesting, and without a doubt, you’ve hit the nail on the head. The problem is an issue that not enough people are speaking intelligently about. I’m very happy that I stumbled across this during my search for something concerning this.

  28. When I initially commented I clicked the “Notify me when new comments are added” checkbox and now each time a comment is added I get three emails with the same comment. Is there any way you can remove me from that service? Thanks a lot!

  29. hello there and thank you for your information – I have certainly picked up anything new from right here. I did on the other hand expertise several technical points using this web site, since I skilled to reload the site many instances previous to I may get it to load properly. I have been wondering if your hosting is OK? Now not that I am complaining, however sluggish loading instances times will often have an effect on your placement in google and can injury your high quality ranking if ads and ***********|advertising|advertising|advertising and *********** with Adwords. Anyway I am including this RSS to my e-mail and could look out for much extra of your respective fascinating content. Ensure that you replace this once more soon..

  30. An outstanding share! I’ve just forwarded this onto a co-worker who was doing a little homework on this. And he actually bought me dinner due to the fact that I found it for him… lol. So allow me to reword this…. Thanks for the meal!! But yeah, thanks for spending the time to talk about this subject here on your website.

  31. I believe that avoiding refined foods is the first step to be able to lose weight. They may taste fine, but prepared foods contain very little vitamins and minerals, making you try to eat more simply to have enough vitality to get throughout the day. For anyone who is constantly having these foods, transitioning to whole grains and other complex carbohydrates will assist you to have more energy while ingesting less. Thanks alot : ) for your blog post.

  32. Hello there, There’s no doubt that your blog could be having internet browser compatibility issues. When I take a look at your site in Safari, it looks fine however when opening in IE, it has some overlapping issues. I simply wanted to provide you with a quick heads up! Other than that, wonderful website!

  33. Can I simply say what a comfort to find a person that truly knows what they’re discussing on the net. You definitely understand how to bring an issue to light and make it important. More people really need to read this and understand this side of the story. I was surprised that you’re not more popular because you most certainly possess the gift.

  34. Hi, I do think this is an excellent website. I stumbledupon it 😉 I will come back yet again since i have bookmarked it. Money and freedom is the best way to change, may you be rich and continue to help others.

  35. Hey I am so happy I found your website, I really found you by mistake, while I was searching on Bing for something else, Regardless I am here now and would just like to say thanks for a tremendous post and a all round interesting blog (I also love the theme/design), I don’t have time to go through it all at the moment but I have saved it and also included your RSS feeds, so when I have time I will be back to read more, Please do keep up the great work.

  36. An interesting discussion is worth comment. I think that you should publish more about this topic, it might not be a taboo matter but typically folks don’t discuss such topics. To the next! Kind regards!

  37. Good day! This post could not be written any better! Reading this post reminds me of my previous room mate! He always kept talking about this. I will forward this write-up to him. Pretty sure he will have a good read. Thank you for sharing!

  38. Whats up this is kinda of off topic but I was wondering if blogs use WYSIWYG editors or if you have to manually code with HTML. I’m starting a blog soon but have no coding knowledge so I wanted to get advice from someone with experience. Any help would be greatly appreciated!

  39. Hi, I do believe this is a great site. I stumbledupon it 😉 I’m going to come back once again since I saved as a favorite it. Money and freedom is the best way to change, may you be rich and continue to help other people.

  40. I was extremely pleased to discover this website. I want to to thank you for your time for this fantastic read!! I definitely appreciated every part of it and i also have you saved as a favorite to see new information on your site.

  41. Hi there would you mind stating which blog platform you’re using? I’m going to start my own blog soon but I’m having a hard time selecting between BlogEngine/Wordpress/B2evolution and Drupal. The reason I ask is because your design and style seems different then most blogs and I’m looking for something unique. P.S My apologies for being off-topic but I had to ask!

  42. I know this if off topic but I’m looking into starting my own blog and was curious what all is needed to get set up? I’m assuming having a blog like yours would cost a pretty penny? I’m not very internet smart so I’m not 100 positive. Any suggestions or advice would be greatly appreciated. Thanks

  43. I’m truly enjoying the design and layout of your website. It’s a very easy on the eyes which makes it much more enjoyable for me to come here and visit more often. Did you hire out a developer to create your theme? Fantastic work!

  44. Thanks for your post on the vacation industry. I would also like to add that if you’re a senior thinking of traveling, it really is absolutely imperative that you buy travel cover for golden-agers. When traveling, senior citizens are at greatest risk of having a medical emergency. Receiving the right insurance coverage package for your age group can protect your health and provide peace of mind.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.