THE DETAILS

Sun River,
Lewis & Clark National Forest, MT

Saturday, February 13, 1993

I didn't go fishing or hiking, but it was my first weekend in Montana so I went exploring through the area. The river was very clear where it wasn't covered by ice. Some fishing access is possible below the dams and around the bridges.

 

Saturday, April 3, 1993

Spent a few hours in the late afternoon fishing the canyon below the Diversion Dam. Didn't catch anything with spinners or flies, but saw many whitefish and a few brown trout.

The weather was a sunny 55 degrees. The scenery is outstanding. Immediately below the dam the canyon walls are about 100 feet vertical and only 50 feet apart. The water has eroded a least two tunnels right through the rock. I was able to wade to one of them and walk through it since it was big enough to drive a truck through. I'd love to take a kayak or canoe up it and just explore for a while. It seems to be a mystical place.

Downstream for the next 1/2 mile the water is very shallow and clear as it quickly flows over rocks of all sizes. All along this part of the river are places to camp (no water or outhouses, though) and good 4x4 access.

I saw 43 bighorn sheep along the mountainside from the viewing area. Also saw an antelope and dozens of deer on the ride home.

 

Saturday, May 1, 1993

The river downstream of the Diversion Dam was just under a foot higher than before. Only saw four fish from 5:30 to 8:30. The guide book was right, conditions change dramatically despite being below the dam. As a result I didn't catch a thing and I couldn't tell what they'd be eating anyway.

The day was not a loss though. I arrived in the canyon at about 2:00 and spent about an hour driving up Hannah Gulch. This is a rugged 4WD trail but fun.

Then I hiked into the Wagner Basin and watched the bighorn sheep. I got within 75 yards of a group of seven females and took some photos. I left after about an hour and met a guide from Bozeman on his way in. (He once worked with the Forest Service, but now guides in co-op with the Bar L Ranch.)

He showed me some Indian pictographs on the steep cliff wall at the point where you just enter the basin. The pictographs are brownish-red and depict a man, hash marks, and hand prints. At the same spot, a large brown owl lives. It swooped out of the overhead cave each time I walked by.

 

Sunday, March 6, 1994

Probably one of the last days for cross country skiing in this area. It warmed up to about 40 degrees, leaving lots of rocks exposed and some bare spots. Took the trail along the north side of Gibson Reservoir for about an hour and then turned back.

When I first started, I saw two coyotes hanging out on the frozen reservoir. They saw me as I traversed the hillside. When I took a break for lunch, saw a herd of a dozen whitetails. The coyotes were still on the ice when I came back but they moved to the other side as I approached them along the trail. This is a nice trail, but it seems a long hike back in there to do any fishing along the river.

 

Sunday, April 17, 1994

Chris took me out to Sue's apartment in Fort Shaw which is right next to the Sun River. Access is very easy up and down the river from here. For the most part, the river is wide and straight, although right at the access it branches off to form several small islands. Chris said he and his brother-in-law caught lots of brown trout here a few years ago using spinners. Unfortunately, we saw nothing and caught nothing. The water is a little murky but the area seems ripe to hold trout. Should try again when the weather gets warmer.

 

Saturday, June 3, 1995

In the Sun River Wildlife Management Area, I wanted to check out some of the small lakes along the Rocky Mountain Front for trout.

Stopped at a half dozen and found two that held trout. Both were "developed" areas that people could drive right up to. Just before the WMA Headquarters is Swazee Lake. It was murky and I didn't catch anything, but other people were also fishing it. There's a small camp area with picnic tables.

All the way across the WMA is Dickens Lake. It's actually easier to just park along the road to Gibson Dam and hop the fence. A half dozen people were here. I saw two people catch nice sized rainbows. A guy in a float tube told me he caught a four-pound rainbow just last week. It has clear water, but is pretty weedy. Best bet when the fish aren't surfacing is to use weighted streamers down real deep. I waded up to my waist in shorts. Very windy all day, and later a thunderstorm rolled in.

It seems that the only way in or out is via the road at the southeast corner. I came across several closed roads in the northwest corner.

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