Lake trout fishing on the Blackfeet Reservation
After three months on the road “Handy” Hughes needs a fishing fix and hires two native Blackfeet fishing guides for a rainbow trout trip on the Blackfeet Reservation near Glacier National Park, St. Mary, Montana.
A friend met unexpectedly here a couple weeks ago from Palatka fished with these outfitters during his visit and caught seven rainbows up to 12 pounds. It was his successful trip that created the sudden desire to go fishing; particularly since my limited rainbow experience has been in stocked North Carolina fish ponds where the trout were scrawny and barely larger than my hand.
Since we are somewhat inexperienced fly rod fishermen (that’s an understatement) it was necessary to fish in separate boats to keep from hooking each other and the guide. And, need I mention, the wind was blowing between 20 and 25 miles per hour?
Our guides Mark and David with Cut Bank Outfitters are native Blackfeet and take us about 40 miles into the Reservation to a “seldom” fished lake that is stocked annually with rainbow trout. The lake is surrounded by fields of native prairie grass between waist and chest tall that is waving like a giant flag in the wind. In fact, the wind was blowing so hard that we closed the two slide-out extensions on the RV to prevent damage to the canvas coverings before leaving the KOA.
With fishing equipment which traveling partner Martha described as “needy,” the guides launch their small aluminum boats at a shallow end of the lake and we motor the far end to take advantage of the small wind break created by prairie grass. The landscape here is best described as flat as a pancake and treeless. Although the mountains are about 40 miles to the west they are still visible in the distance. Unfortunately, there is no place to fish to avoid the wind.
Our guides load-up the fly rod and throw flies directly into the face of the strengthening winds. The fly travels maybe six or eight feet off the water and about 50 feet in length. Like they say about professional golfers, these guys are good.
The “equipment in need” Martha mentioned earlier probably was directed to the fist-sized hole in the cowling of the small hand-cranked outboard motor that was powering the boat in which I was riding. I had not noticed this minor equipment misfortune until the guide started bailing water from the rear of the boat. It was just a minor leak, he said. The hole in the cowling was caused when a piston exploded, he added. He’s waiting for a replacement to be shipped. There are no marine hardware stores anywhere near tiny St. Mary.
The wind is blowing so hard that our boat is drifting rather quickly across the lake.
That is not a problem in Martha’s boat because her guide lost an anchor on a recent trip and was using a 100-pound (?) fly-wheel from an old truck as a replacement. Living in rural northwest Montana, anglers drive almost 100 miles to a fully-stocked sporting goods store for gear. Sometimes, they have to make do.
Equipment issues aside, these guides are excellent fishermen and that’s what counts. I hooked a rainbow that prompted the guide to pull the anchor while I hung on to the rod and the fish stripped line off the reel. The fish circled the boat a couple times and stripped off more line before I finally got him under control and into the guide’s landing net. The fish weighed eight pounds. This was the largest rainbow I had ever seen.
A break from the action gave us a chance to eat a very tasty shore lunch provided by the guides then stretch our legs a bit before heading back onto the lake and into the wind which seemed to be blowing harder.
Shortly after getting lines back in the water, another large rainbow grabbed my fly and headed for the center of the lake aided with a 25 to 30 mile tail wind. The guide pulled the anchor but despite the wind, the fish was peeling off line as if the drag didn’t exist. I’m watching as the line runs out, leaving only the backing on the reel. The guide said to put a little pressure on the reel in hopes of slowing the fish. Pow! The line snapped.
There was no stopping that fish.
The guide said they had caught rainbows to 16 pounds and believed there were some in the lake even larger.
In the meantime, over in Martha’s boat, she’s learning how the Blackfeet cold smoke wild meat—moose, elk and buffalo; learned some of the
Hughes shows off an eight pound rainbow trout caught on a lake inside the Blackfeet Reservation near Browning, Montona.
Blackfeet culture and the social and unemployment issues prevalent on the Reservation. She was fishless.
Heading back to St. Mary, winds worsened and blew three fly rods out the back of the guide’s pickup truck and onto the highway. Not the way to end the day.
The two guides from Cut Bank Outfitters were born and raised in this country and very knowledgeable hunters and fishermen and offer a variety of services to outdoorsmen wanting to fish and hunt the remote areas around Glacier National Park. I would gladly book another trip with these fellows if we return to this area.
NEXT: Pow Wowing on the Blackfeet Reservation
Is RV traveling affordable?
Many retirees and some people still employed are sitting on the sidelines and wondering if the day will come when they can economically justify traveling the country in an RV and sleeping in their own beds.
Maybe the decision is easier for full-timers who in many cases sell their homes and furnishings and use the proceeds to purchase an RV, fifth-wheel or pull-behind trailer and exchange life at home for life on the road.
While full-timing is certainly not for everyone, the decision to take the plunge and invest in an RV and travel the country while maintaining a home base is equally difficult.
Large numbers of retirees are now classified as full-timers, however, there are many more who travel only on occasion; some taking small trips, others taking months to complete.
Whether full-time or part-time and disregarding the initial investment of an RV or a pull-behind, the cost of fuel alone discourages many from adopting the lifestyle.
Without trying to lobby for or against RVing, we have learned through our limited travels that actual day-to-day RV travel expenses are comparable to taking the same day-to-day trip in an automobile. Other RVer’s, however, may not come up with the same assumptions.
Here’s one way to look at the costs:
Remember, while on the road we only dine out once a week, except in the Canadian Maritimes when we were on a lobster and fried clam diet. Groceries are purchased along the trip and meals are prepared in the RV kitchen or outside on a portable gas grill as compared to eating two or three meals daily in restaurants if traveling by car.
Also, we overnight in campgrounds where the cost for hooking up to water, electricity, sewer and cable can sometimes cost as little as $15 but seldom more than $45 in popular tourist locations. Motels can cost from $75 to $150.
Last year we drove over 10,000 miles on a near six-month-long trip to the northwest and into Canada consuming over 1,250 gallons of diesel fuel at a cost of approximately $5,500. Campground averaged $30 per night or about $6,000 for the same period. Our monthly average for campgrounds and fuel was less than $2,000 per month. Food costs were not tracked but would be comparable to eating at home.
That’s a big expense but total up a car’s expense for the same mileage, add in dining in restaurants and motel nights for six months and do your own comparison.
We average a whopping 8 to 9 miles per gallon, which is about the industry standard for our size RV and diesel engine. Smaller diesel RV’s might get as much as 14 miles per gallon.
By comparison friends with diesel trucks pulling fifth-wheel units tell me they get about the same mileage. Keep in mind that older RV’s are not as economical as newer models and smaller RV’s (less weight and smaller engines) will get better mileage.
Gasoline engine powered Class A and Class C RV’s are all over the mileage board with some owners reporting better gas mileage, others less than diesel.
The engine powering our 2006 Monaco Knight is a 330 horsepower Cummins. It is driven at 63 miles per hour on the open highway.
In general, purchasing a smaller motorhome, whether diesel or gasoline, will save money on the original purchase plus fuel costs. But owners of smaller units will sacrifice some amenities.
This is certainly not a scientific study; just our limited experience after only two years on and off the road.