THE DETAILS

Heart Lake,
Scapegoat Wilderness, MT

Saturday, August 20, 1994

Redwood and I began hiking from Indian Meadows at around 11:30. By 1:00, we had made our way along the easy trail and had arrived at Heart Lake (elev. 6,400 ft.).

Lots of horsemen come up here, as evident from the deply rutted trail. In parts, the horses would all step in the same spot leaving parallel ruts a foot deep like a gigantic washboard. Wasn't too bad to hike over though.

We camped on the southeast side of the lake and began fishing right away. As we shared the lake with about a dozen others, I caught two fat 14 inch cutthroats. They put up a great fight. Had several other strikes with caddis and royal wulff.

As I found out later, the way to catch them was to cast to wherever they'd surface. About half the time, they'd surface again. Otherwise there was hardly any pattern to the location of the trout.

In the evening I was surprised by three college guys from Missoula heading into my camp. I had just finished eating but welcomed them to stay at my site as there weren't many others around the lake. We partied a bit and talked. Redwood and I enjoyed their company. Their names were John, Adrian and one whose name I can't remember. Adrian caught a few cutts on spinners and cooked one. It was tasty but a bit tough.

I fished a bit after nightfall with a humpy Jack Kirkhuff had tied. Right next to camp, a big 15 inch cutt took it and fought like crazy. Should try more night fishing with big flies.

 

Sunday, August 21, 1994

Fished a bit before breakfast without any luck.

The guys took off fairly early to hike to Bighorn Lake and up along the Continental Divide. They had plenty of time since two of them had been suspended from work for missing a staff meeting.

Fished more in the late morning and caught two more cutts. Met a lady from the Forest Service who said the lake had been stocked a few years back. That probably explains why all the fish were about the same size.

She also told me about two lakes just northeast of Heart Lake. Her directions were a bit unclear and I ended up going up, down and around the wrong drainage. But after running into her again, I got better directions.

Had to bushwhack to the upper, smaller lake and saw nothing surface. Getting down to the bigger lake wasn't much of a problem. It was worth it.

Caught about six 12-inch cutts in an hour and could have kept it up all day.

Leaving the lake was a bitch. Although it was obvious a few people had camped at the lake with horses, I couldn't find a trail that didn't dead end. The brush was as thick as anything I'd ever gone through. Couldn't see more than forty feet ahead. At the top of the ridge I looked down where the lake was and could see no sign of it. No wonder the Forest Service lady said it was a secret. There must be a better way to get to the hidden lakes.

Really should go back to these lakes sometime as the fishing is good and the hike is fairly easy.


Saturday, July 8, 1995

Took Redwood up to the lake for a weekend of relaxing fishing. Not many people at the lake, a few here and there.

Did some spin casting in the mid-afternoon, but nothing was biting or surfacing.

Drank a couple of beers and enjoyed the heat of the day.

Decided to head to the unnamed lake and ended up hiking all around the lakes to better understand how to get to them.

At least three trails go around the lakes, but none of these lead directly to a lake. The easiest way to get to the lake that has fish (on the map it is overprinted by the "H" in Heart Lake) is to find the disguised trail off of trail 478. A cut log lies along the trail 478 blocking the hidden trail. Once on the trail it only takes 5 minutes to get to the first lake and another 8 to get to the second. Another way I think will work is to head directly north from the intersection of trails 424 and 477. I scouted it out and I think I could see the lake below me.

At any rate, I caught 4 cutthroat hybrids in about a half hour here. They were bigger than last year and flush with their spawning colors.

The weather started looking like rain, so I quickly got back to the camp (it's a 30 minute hike to the west-side campsite). Immediately it began raining. I had a bit of food and when the rain lifted, went back to fishing.

Caught two of the hybrids &emdash; each about 17 inches with hooked jaws and razor-sharp teeth. Found I had to set a dry fly out there and give it a few twitches to imitate an emerging stonefly or caddis. After just surfacing to gulp the fly in, they put up very good fights.

Watched several ducks (mostly black and white, smaller than mallards) repeatedly dive below the surface for food and herd their young together. Worked on my wooden spoon around the campfire and cut the tip of my finger.

 

Sunday, July 9, 1995

Woke up a few times during the night to heavy wind and rain although the morning was nice and sunny.

Watched a woodpecker work on a few of the snags around camp.

Fished some here and there but didn't get anything until early afternoon. I could wade nearly halfway to the opposing peninsula and could have made it if I didn't mind getting a little wet.

The water was so clear I could see two cutts approach my fly as soon as it landed. When I didn't twitch it, they started heading off. But as soon as I gave it one quick tug, one of them swam up to gently suck it in. They had to be thirty feet away.

Met up with the same Forest Service gal as before. She had a big German shepard along named Bear. The dogs got along okay. She reminded me that I need to have my food hung whenever I wasn't in camp.

Hiked back in the late afternoon and had a burger in Lincoln.


Saturday, August 12, 1995

Jim and I continued our camping adventures by hiking up to the lake for the evening. There were a lot of people in the area and we were lucky to get the campsite I usually stay at.

Since it was the middle of the day, we headed over to the unnamed lake to fish. We took the long, sure route and made it there.

We fished it pretty hard. I caught one nice cutthroat and had another take my fly. Jim couldn't catch anything despite being able to see the fish a long way off.

To get back to camp, we bushwacked up the 45 degree hillside right behind the lake. Atop the hill we came to a somewhat open meadow where after walking southwest along it for a while, we could see Heart Lake. The hike up isn't too bad. A few rough spots but it's an easier route than following the drainage.

We finally made it back to trail 424, just a little past the junction from trail 477. It was right at a large, lone tree that is blackened by fire on the side facing the trail.

Back at camp, the weather got colder, windier and cloudier. Didn't do any fishing at Heart Lake, but ate, relaxed and drank some Foster's.

Glimpsed what we thought was an old, white-haired woman on the peninsula near us. I couldn't figure out where she went when it got dark and I began to think we had seen a ghost. It began to sprinkle later and we went to sleep fairly early.

 

Sunday, August 13, 1995

Since it was raining every time we woke up, we slept in until 11:00. Finally got up when Redwood was barking and growling at our ghost.

It was a younger guy with bushy blonde hair. He had spent the rainy night somewhere up the hillside from us.

The weather was still crappy although it wasn't raining. Too windy to fish, didn't see anything rise at all. Did see a bald eagle loop around the lake from our campsite to the other side and perch there.

We hung out until midafternoon messing around and playing "lasso the dog."

On the hike out, Redwood flushed out a brood of blue grouse. Jim got a close-up photo of one of the young birds. That was the second time Redwood flushed out grouse this weekend.

Had dinner at Lambkin's in Lincoln and drove back to Great Falls. Jim left for Rhode Island in the morning.

Backpacking in Montana

Fly-fishing in Montan