I'm not sure why I still bother trying to keep the place a secret, it’s purely out of habit at this point I suppose. Word is out. For about three weeks during spring the creek is now crawling with anglers of all stripes. It wasn't always like this. They come out of the woodwork to pillage the non-native Yellowstone cutthroat spawning run (yes, non-native) and have been cordially invited to do so over the past couple of years by state and federal agencies. Stringers weighing upwards of fifty pounds were regularly hauled out of the remote mountain valley last spring. The trout that manage to successfully navigate the armada of treble hooks along the creek are funneled into a weir, filleted by agency employees, and trucked to local food banks. This experimental management strategy is in place for the next few years, and possibly in perpetuity if deemed beneficial to the native fish inhabiting the watershed.
Last weekend some friends and I made the long drive to the remote valley to see for ourselves what remains of the run of big cutthroat trout, a run that was long kept quiet by those in the know. Considering the cold, snowy winter that we endured in Montana this year, we knew that late April would probably be more of a sure thing in regard to road conditions and the timing of the run. But we also knew that everyone else was likely thinking the same thing. It’s heartbreaking to see a pristine valley overrun with pickup trucks and anglers who have little appreciation for the resource. So we went in early, ahead of the crowds. We saw the valley as it should be seen and as I remember seeing it for the first time, stark and beautiful, and largely devoid of people.