Photos By: Justin Dobson/Matt Bornhorst
If you are willing and able to stuff your waders and boots into a pack and put some miles between yourself and the parking lots, the rewards can be huge. I imagine your first thought of a reward would be untouched pools filled with giant trout that may have never seen a hook. Well sure that’s possible, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. What’s really hiding out there in the desolate wilderness are things not easily found at the local holes.
I’m like most others who fish. You try to squeeze as much fishing into 1 day as possible. You probably visit the local spots and may have a favorite river you frequent more than others. The one that usually proves to be more productive. Outside of the pre-planned fishing roadtrips, a few times a year I take the 2 or 3 hour drive into the backcountry to remind myself just how beautiful and remote it is. And it never lets me down. There are times when I feel like I’m the first one to see a section of the river. Of course I know this isn’t true. However the fact that you drive miles of dirt roads to hike down a mountain without passing a sole to reach the river makes you feel that way. So you may not be the first ever to fish these remote areas, but you may be the first one to fish it this week. Go a little further and maybe you are the first one to fish it this month. Head up that feeder creek a few miles and you may be the first one to fish it this year.
Matt and I decided the time was right to make the pre-dawn to post-dusk trip, and we headed out into 40,000 acres of wilderness area. The term “wilderness” has been given a fitting definition in the Wilderness Act of 1964:
…A wilderness, in contrast with those areas where man and his own works dominate the landscape, is hereby recognized as an area where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain. An area of wilderness is further defined to mean in this Act an area of undeveloped Federal land retaining its primeval character and influence, without permanent improvements or human habitation, which is protected and managed so as to preserve its natural conditions….
Riding into the wilderness to our planned destination was side tracked as the scenic overlooks on the Forestry Service roads provided some amazing sunrise photo opportunities. Even the drive in seemed to be “wild” and somewhat difficult for my rugged 4x4 which apparently may have become accustomed to city life. After hitting a few eroded gullies hidden in a sharp corner, carved from the recent heavy rains, the check engine light came on and the gas gauge fell to below “E”. Sniffing the outside air for gas, I was sweating this pretty hard, being that we were miles from anywhere with no cell phone service. Lucky for us, it only seemed to be an electrical issue and I knew I had at least a half tank of gas to push on. My vehicle wasn’t the only one who had been living life in the slow lane. The day’s hike had my check legs light on. My muscles let me know they were still there.
The river itself was high, clear and cold. Rushing through the hidden valley like an old logging locomotive that rode on what today are the trails into these woods. The water levels made the river hard to navigate. Designated river crossings were marked with blue blazes, and some were just too dangerous to cross. The flow, even at knee deep was strong enough to sweep your foothold out from underneath you. This is no place for an accident and a little common sense and good decisions go a long way.
All these things are what make these rare trips rewarding. Even though the quantity of fish caught were not in great numbers or of any notable size, they were all unique catches, as these rivers are not stocked and these fish are truly as wild as the river that spawned them. The challenge and adventure of getting there and the feeling of solitude isn’t easily achieved, but make it worth the pain and effort to visit these remote places.