We first saw big creek when we made an excursion in the mountains bordering the Frank Church River of no return wilderness. We fished it briefly in Jacobs Ladder flats close to the hamlet of Edwardsburg and found Salmon smolts and a few brook trout but after really scoping it out on the map we discovered it was one of the largest tributaries of the Middle fork Salmon River. This creek had been one of those bucket list destinations ever since and we took the chance to visit the area in late June.
At the trail head we met the local ranger who pointed out the trail was being maintained by a crew up a tributary of Big Creek called Beaver Creek and that the deadfall beyond on the main river had not been cleared. We set our sights on camping near the junction of Beaver and Big creeks, dawned our packs, and headed into the wilderness.
The trail had been a road prior to the designation of “wilderness” and the one lane it had been before has become overgrown and eroded with time. Old roadways were by passed as the creek or the mountainsides had washed out the road in several places. We even found the rusting remains of a long ago abandoned truck two miles in the now wilderness.
Wild flowers were abundant with Indian paintbrush, Skyrocket Gilia, Lupine, fire weed and countless more varieties. Huckleberries were blooming as were the raspberries and thimble berries and it looked like be were about two weeks early for a fruit bonanza that the bears would be enjoying. There were some sign of bears, prints and scat but we never saw one. Deer on the other hand were abundant as were the ground squires and a variety of birds most notably dippers on the river diving for prey.
We camped in a meadow of tall grass nestled in the spruce trees bordered by the river to the south and steep hillsides to the north where Beaver Creek Joined Big Creek. No phones, radios, cars or people; wilderness as it was meant to be. After we set up camp I ventured to the junction of the two creeks and found a good pool next to a rock outcropping that tailed out nicely to a rapid below. Easy casting from the rocks but after 20 minutes of casting in the swift water and returning threw the tailout it was clear I was not destine to capture the sought after Cutthroats tonight and I returned to my companion Barbara for a meal and lavations of amaretto to south the tired hiker. We retired before sunset worn out from the journey but were rewarded with abundant star light for the late night pee that comes to us older enthusiasts.
There morning came with new promise and after our breakfast I again returned to the rocky area armed with my fly rod but with an HD trout lure attached. Casting such an arrangement with a fly line takes some adjustment but after a few lobs I got the right distance and the lure started it’s magic. The second decent drift produced a strong take and I found my 5 weight fly rod straining to a heavy fish at the end of the pool just above the tail out. Short bursts of power and heavy head shakes, unexpected in this wilderness environment it seems I have hooked my first fish and it is a large Bull Trout. After a strong fight that a heavy fish can do with light fly leader I held my fish, a 20 inch Bull wild and bright and he posed for this photo.
Now that was great, capturing a grand native fish and releasing him back into the wild true satisfaction. Returning to the rock used before and after a few more swings another fish, larger than the first smashed the trout natural HD trout. Stunning the first two fish in this distant wilderness creek turn out to be bull trout exceeding 20 inches each and this one came in at a good five pounds.
Barbara was next and sure enough she too hooked a large bull trout in this pool with my rod. After a good tug of war she brought it in to be photographed and it broke the leader taking our only trout natural HD trout pattern. Our last bull trout of the day was equal to the size of the others strong and majestic but this one now has our lure as a prize. Spying the water there seemed to be eight torpedoes hugging the bottom of the pool and clearly the last fish had the lure as he finned with it’s brothers in the pool. Subsequent passes with another pattern brought could not entice the big trout but the Cutthroats were happy to nab it in the shallower moving water at the head of the pool.
And so the trip went with some Cutthroat action in a few other places but the big boys were not to be seen again. Small Salmon smolts were captured on flies and I suspect these large predators were feasting on unsuspecting salmon as they began their journey downstream. The water was high and there were few holding areas we could reach, in a few more weeks the level of runoff will reduce the flows and then this stream will be a good cutthroat producer. The Big Creek will require a return trip.