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Exploring the Pacific Northwest, Fly Fishing Late in the Season in Northwestern Montana

Chasing Trout on the Fly Late in the Season.

Fly fishing late in the season finds the rivers empty of other fishermen,  the trout hungry and the waters running cold again after a hot dry summer.     I reached out to a few of my now friends on Adventures Domain and organized a late fall fly fishing trip over to the Kootenai River Valley and the area’s tributaries.   This late in the year the temperatures are comfortable fall temperatures one day and the next water is freezing in beads on your fly line as you cast.    John, Rick and I decided on meeting in Troy Montana at a nice little local coffee shop called Main Street Perk where the coffee, in my opinion, was better than Starbucks and food was too.   We all contemplated camping in the nearby national forests where you could camp for free and enjoy the nightly campfires,  fire season was weeks in the past and the forests had seen more than enough rainfall to remove the risk.   That all being said  the three of us considered five nights in woods with night temperatures starting to drop into the 20’s and 30’s at night might be a little too hardcore considering we would be wading the streams all day and recovering with a glass of scotch at night,  having a hot shower and a nice fireplace to relax in front of in the evenings sounded like a much better idea.   So instead of heading to the woods and roughing it for the week we found a nice little place called Double J  Bed and Breakfast just east of town on US 2.     

The little bed and breakfast didn’t have a fireplace but what it missed in a cozy place to put your feet up after a day of fishing it made up with incredible views of the Kootenai River and incredible food for breakfast. The rooms are pretty nice too if you can reserve the one with the balcony I highly recommend it, the views as the sun is coming up are stunning.

The next morning, the frost was on the trees and you could see your breath in the air, but the sky was fairly clear and the rivers should be running fairly clear at this point. After an early breakfast, we headed west on US-2 until we took a right on to 508 and followed it up the Yaak River Valley for about 20 miles enjoying the beautiful scenery and views of this pristine river. One thing you should consider when accessing the river is that there is a lot of private property and owners in Montana who can be fairly friendly if you ask to cross their property to reach the river before doing it. I really advise asking first, they take their property rights seriously out there and when the local bars have signs at the doors requesting you check your gun at the bar, well you get the drift. That being said there are National Forest Parks and land all along both the Yaak and Kootenai Rivers so as you look for access and it shouldn’t be hard to find an easy place to park and fish. By this time of the year, the locals are more interested in hunting and the tourists are gone for the season, so the fishing pressure has dropped off and they trout are in a feeding frenzy trying to get as many meals in before the ice and snow settle over the rivers and lakes in the region. The three of us drove north separately so we could spread out a bit on the river, I found a nice little campground with easy parking and access to the river and suited up in my waders and gear to start wading the river, casting a Sage 4 weight rod with a sinking tip fly line and nymphs flies, I was soon catching a few trout and releasing them back into the river. Over the course of the day, I lost count of the fish I caught and then released but as the sun started dropping behind the mountains on the west side of the river it quickly went from a comfortable day in the sun to suddenly having the water to start beading ice on my fly line and leader. As the day drifted into twilight the three of us reconnected at the pull off at Yaak River Falls to take a few pictures, tell a few quick recounts of the day’s fishing and make plans for the evening.

Yaak River in the Fall

Driving back into Troy to look for a meal we found a local joint called The Silver Spur, unfortunately, there aren’t too many places in Troy to grab dinner and the food was ok, nothing I’d write home about or for that matter recommend. Turns out if you want a better meal you are better off driving another 20 plus miles East along US-2 to Libby and finding a place there to eat. After dinner, we headed back to the B&B to have a glass of scotch, put our feet up and recount the days fishing. Turns out that we all had a pretty good day with hungry trout, the peace of a river without seeing another fisherman and only the occasional deer or car driving by to break the silence.

The next few days were close repeats of the first day on the river, but as the sun dropped behind the mountains and the last day came to the end, we all headed South on 508 to take a right on US-2, two of us to Spokane and another to Seattle, heading back to our families and work on that following Monday morning. Northwestern Montana this time of year has the changing of the leaves, hungry trout and a zen-like peace while fishing it’s rivers and streams, on a side note pay attention to the hunting seasons if you decide to head that way, you may need to include some hunters orange in your fishing, camping or hiking wardrobe, nobody wants to be mistaken for a deer this time of year.

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Exploring the Pacific Northwest, Wandering out to Cape Flatterly on the Olympic Peninsula

View of Cape Flatterly 

Findng Adventure and Solitude After the Tourist Season has Ended.

This is the time of year that most of us start to think about hunkering down and putting all of our camping and adventuring equipment away for next spring when the weather starts to warm.  Yet this is a time of missed opportunities to see areas in solitude and peace where a month earlier there were lines of cars and RVs clogging the roads and filling the campsites,  finding solitude in the national parks was wishful thinking.   These are the days to head out and find adventure in the wide open spaces when you will find the highways and wildspaces empty. 

One of these places is the Olympic Peninsula where after Labor Day the National Park gets quiet and the even more remote areas become gloriously peaceful,  with that in mind I used AdventuresDomain.com and reached out to a few members to invite and plan a trip out to Cape Flattery one of the furthest northwest points on the peninsula and Continental US to camp, hike, kayak  and explore the area,  Rick, Dave, John and I decided to meet out on the coast with our wives and in John’s case girlfriend, after talking on the phone and IM’ing on the site.  The plan after looking at our diverse home locations was to meet at the trailhead out at Cape Flattery noonish on Saturday.      

Leaving out of Pier 54 on the ferry to Bainbridge Island bright and early on a late fall Friday morning to start the drive over to the coast and explore,  a couple of hours later following Hwy 101 west past Port Angeles around Lake Crescent.  The section of 101 has a number of scenic pull-offs like the one about a mile west of where it starts to run along the shore there are a couple of pull-offs where with a little effort launching kayaks would be possible and there didn’t seem to be any parking restrictions so putting in and exploring the lake is a great way to break up the drive out to the coast.     Once back on the road west 101 continues on the edge of the lake eventually leaving it behind on the way to Route 113,  at this point Route 113 is a beautiful two-lane road that weaves it’s way  North toward the coast of the Strait of Juan De Fuca and continues through the mountains covered in deciduous and evergreen forests,  eventually intersecting with Route 112 and on to Clallam Bay.  

The drive on Route 112 along the coast is full of epic views and scenery with windswept pines a combination of sandy and rocky beaches.  The one thing to plan on is taking a leisurely drive up the coast, when originally built the road followed the path of least resistance, most speeds are posted between 25 and 35 mph and while in most places speeding is possible this road lends itself to surprising drivers when rounding the next corner.  There were times when I was pushing a little faster than the prescribed speed only to find myself slamming on the breaks and barely staying on the road.  You might find it exhilarating in a sports car or riding motorcycles along this route but for those of us with less nimble vehicles, you might want to resign yourself to enjoying the scenery and having the drive taking three times what you thought it would to make it to the cape.  As you near the end of the trip west, the road will split to the right, toward the cape as Cape Flattery Loop and onto the Makah Reservation, following the road signs over to the trailhead at scenic Cape Flattery.     

We all missed the Noonish arrival having not realized 112 would take so long and all arrived during the next hour or so.    The hike is about ¾ to a mile in a gentle downhill slope to the scenic overlook.  I think they tried to make it somewhat accessible to the handicap but be warned the trail wasn’t meant for a wheelchair and a person using crutches would find themselves in for a workout     The trail down the slope was a beautiful and peaceful walk through a beautiful evergreen forest where many of the trees are shaped by the prevailing winds coming in off the Pacific,  in some cases they look like full-size bonsai trees adding to the coast’s character and with the absence of other people this time a year it is a peaceful picture as seen in those old picture books from early in the 19th century. 

After enjoying the scenery for a while and taking a leisurely hike back up the trail to the parking lot we decided to continue around the loop eventually to wander over to Shi-Shi Beach and explore the tidal pools there.   The drive south on the loop through the reservation coast opens up to wide beaches with the waves crashing in,  suddenly it felt like I had jumped far down the west coast, surfing the heavy surf were wetsuit-clad young men and women and  pulled off on the side of the road was a circa 1970’s Volkswagen bus looking the part.   It was inspiring seeing them brave the surf and experience the true raw power of the Pacific, enjoying life as an adventure.  We stopped and watched for a while and then decided to get moving down the coast to find a campsite before it became too late in the day. 

We continued south along the coast road after looking at the map, it looks like you can follow it all the way down to Shi-Shi Beach….  well at one time you probably could and the map still shows there is a road there,  in actuality the road ends and there are fallen trees and accumulated brush covering the old road,  to the left at the end of the “loop” road  is a driveway  into the Reservation’s salmon hatchery,  where I personally drove in thinking there might be a way through but if there was we didn’t find it that day and ended up turning back.    We caravanned around the area for a while trying to find a way south but eventually decided to find a local campsite before we lost the light in the fall’s shortened days.   We reached out to Hobuck Beach Resort on the reservation and due to the time year had the pick of sites,  we ended up choosing a nice little site with a fire pit back in a treed area, the other couples found nearby sites and we congregated at the fire to talk, relax and eat a late dinner,   fire risk was low at this point in the year so having a nice little campfire and relaxing while the sunset over the Pacific was an exceptional way to end the day.   

One thing to note and we were surprised by, is that the Reservation doesn’t allow drugs or alcohol at the resort or on the Reservation in general,  they will ticket you if caught,  it would have been nice to have a cold beer or a scotch, my wife would have liked a glass of wine at the end of the day but in my case and hopefully the other couples,  the views  and scenery made up for it.     The next morning we decided to relax and enjoy the beaches and local area, eventually we packed up, said our goodbyes and not finding a way south retraced our way back east along Route 112, but instead of cutting south on Route 113,  we continued on down the coast exploring some more territory before jumping back on US101 just outside of Port Angeles.  Overall a great weekend adventure exploring an area we’ve never been before, meeting new people and making a few new friends.   Avoiding the tourist season made it all more relaxing.   I can’t wait to hit the road again to do some more exploring of the region around my new home in the Pacific Northwest.

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