Guest post: Bob Christmann on ‘Adventures in Idaho’

Right now I am unable to continue to get out fishing as my stroke continues to impact my balance and dizziness. So for now I am relegated to living in the past and rereading, rewriting, and making better sense of my past adventures for my amusement. I’m sure glad I have my logs. Let me take you to some rivers.

The last rainbow I ever took at the Deerfield before I fell apart

I was now at Colt Killed Creek in the Clearwater River drainage in Idaho, a tributary of the Lochsa River. It looked nice on the topo and had a trail following it, so here I was.

A sign at one of the trailheads in the area said, “Warning: a sow and two cubs have been frequenting this area. People have been feeding them and they’ve lost their fear. They’ve run off several parties of campers and destroyed their belongings. We strongly urge you to go someplace else!”

I was starting to get an inkling of what might have killed the colt. If this sign was at the head of my trail, I would never have known what the river was like.

I headed out with full backpack expecting to stay several days trying not to dwell on exactly what had killed the colt as I headed deep into the woods all alone.

The woods were dark and enchanting with majestic towering old cedars and spruce with sparse undergrowth and carpeted with old needles throughout the gently rolling forest floor. The hike was all worth it alone just to be in such a magical looking place.

I thought of the vast old growth woods of New England many years ago as the settlers arrived in all the descriptions.
The trail meandered through the woods following the river. But the trail was now way above the river with a steep bank down to access. It didn’t look juicy enough anywhere to expend the energy to climb down and back up again. Plus the banks were lined with big rocks difficult to walk along. As the trail wended it’s way along the river it started to look a bit disappointing.

Three-and-a-half miles later I came to a big beautiful pool with a small waterfall entering and a nice level camping spot. I finally started to salivate. It was about time things looked up.

I set up camp, geared up and tackled the pool. I found nothing through it’s length but small steelheads. I moved up to the head of the pool and a good one smashed the Madam X, one of my favorite flies. It quickly escaped but a second one the same size hit a few minutes later. The first one came back and chased this one around. Trying to lend moral support? A 15” cutthroat came to hand.

Above the pool the river abruptly changed. It was now narrow and canyon-y (is that even a word?). Hard to find good defined runs and pools in the fast, shallow, constricted water. Impossible fishing. Even worse, the trail started veering away from the river and climbing in elevation. The trail was going nowhere fast. Tough to access now.

I turned around and decided to explore the river downstream from camp.

As expected, the river here was still shallow and rocky with no good runs or holding water.

It was now 1:30. I was now all dressed up and nowhere to go. Instead of spending the rest of the day loafing and bored out of my mind and losing another day fishing, I decided to head back out. I loaded up on coffee, ibuprofen and muscle relaxants as my back was now beating me up. I plugged in the Energizer Bunny and headed back. I was tired when I arrived back (seven-plus miles round trip) and it cost me a lot of valuable energy to find out it wasn’t what I’d hoped for. But that’s all part of the fun of exploring.

Rivers greatly change in character as they travel along. This was one time in the area when I couldn’t discover the perfect transition.

The rivers are now calling and I must answer. Well, I had crossed this one off my list and onto the next one.

Anyone want to buy a Colt Killed Creek topo real cheap?

One of the magnificent old cedar trees in the area (poor pic but you can get the idea)

I was now in McCall Idaho. My destination was the Big Creek River. I had read about it in an article in Flyfisherman magazine and the pictures and description lured me in. It appeared to be just remote enough on the topo that few would venture into it and looked forward to the solitude.

The road started out rough and soon turned into one CONTINUOUS washboard for 33 miles. I don’t think the road had been graded in years. I couldn’t drive any faster than five mph. Good thing I don’t have kidney stones or they would have all been knocked loose by now.

On the way in I encountered a lesson in tenacity along the road. Right by the side of the rod sat a huge boulder with a small pine tree growing up in a small crack on the top. This was one tough little tree, able to survive in an environment with no soil and little rainfall. I was really impressed.

After driving through some of the most wild and remote country I’d ever traveled, I came to the Secesh River where it crosses the road.

This sure was a total dud here. Wide, shallow, rocky with no good pools, runs, or holding water. Certainly not worth gearing up to try exploring to see if things improved up the trail. I’m sure it is real nice in other sections but it wasn’t my main target. (After Googling it, it does look gorgeous elsewhere)

Secesh

After camping there for the night I decided not to even try the next 35 miles to Big Creek and gave up in defeat, deciding not to push my luck and break down this far from civilization. I drove back along the bone jarring road. There was now a funny sound in my front end. Not surprised now that I think most of my truck had already vibrated off. I guess I didn’t have quite the tenacity which that little tree had. Again, it was a fun adventure exploring.

I have written before of my travels to Idaho. I hope some of you can make it there if you haven’t already. There are so many unfished and underfished rivers that you couldn’t begin to scratch the surface in a lifetime. I tried. The solitude, serenity, and scenery are like nowhere else. I’ve had the privilege of fishing many great rivers out west but Idaho holds a special place in my heart.

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3 thoughts on “Guest post: Bob Christmann on ‘Adventures in Idaho’

  1. Bob, great post! And, here’s to a quick recovery and that you’ll be able to get back on the water very, very soon!

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