I glanced down off the trail and noticed a deep pool with a strong current going through it. It was a steep downhill slide to the pool, but if I had learned anything about backcountry fishing, it was that pools like this are worth fishing. I scrambled down and let my “hopper-dropper” float through the rapid. The hopper almost immediately popped under, indicating something had taken my “dropper” (in this case a copper john). I caught one hard-fighting, 16” cut-throat on each sides of the pool. As I climbed back onto the trail, I felt fully alive and in love with backcountry fishing. Over a fire that night, my friend Benn and I discussed our amazing two days of fishing in the Bob Marshall.
As good as it was, two full days of tough hiking was a high price to pay for two full days of fishing. If only we could just continue down the river, past the remote ranger station at Big Prairie, through the narrow canyon slots and walk out into the Spotted Bear parking lot forty-some miles to the north. As tempting as that was, we only had four days. A trip like that would take more than a week if we hoped to hike it and fish just the best spots as we walked. Plus, we’d be completely exhausted from hiking hard to keep pace in-between fishing holes. Not that we’re against exhaustion, but this was a fishing trip, not endurance training. Of course there was always the raft option. We had some connections to horses and rafts, but the logistics and costs involved in an endeavor like that get difficult quickly. As we hiked out on the fourth day, we decided one way or the other we had to come back, even if it meant a ten-day trip to do the river full justice.
Then we discovered packrafts! Small, durable, ultralight, inflatable, packable, high-performing, rafts designed for the Alaskan wilderness. Three years after that first trip into the Bob, we went back in, this time with Benn’s brother, another mutual friend and my wife. The trip took six days. One day of hard hiking, one day that involved several portages around log jams and four days of uninterrupted fishing and floating bliss! Our meals were amazing as each one of us tried to outdo the other with our assigned night of cooking (meals included: jumbleia, chicken dumplings, Paiute mountain pizza, fish burritos, and pad Thai). Fishing was excellent, although the fish were slightly picky at times. We saw bull trout on two occasions and the second one bit into a 10” cutthroat that was being reeled in. Camping spots were excellent and even included an island one night. We stopped and saw a girl who was in our wedding at the Big Prairie ranger station. This isolated settlement seems to come straight from the 1870s and is an experience in itself.
We ended our trip in the picturesque slot canyons that take you to the edge of Meadow Creek Gorge (a dangerous class IV + stretch of river that we decided to save for a later date when we have more experience and helmets). We actually missed the pull-out (a sign that says “danger pull out now”) and had to climb up a small slot cliff, but with packrafts this is easily done! Benn’s family was even nice enough to shuttle our car back to Hungry Horse so we ate the customary burger, fries and shake and returned home.
During the planning stages of this trip, decided to buy two packrafts rather than rent them with the intention of starting my own rental company. The time for that is now here! Backcountry Packrafts Rentals LLC is officially open for business! As I researched packrafts I realized the myriad of other outdoor activities packrafts can be combined with. You would be amazed at what you can load on a packraft and still be able to run rapids. A short list of activities to be combined with packrafting include: fishing, hunting, mountain biking, skiing, camping, mountaineering, rock climbing and canyoneering. Packrafts are the ultimate outdoors men raft because they are capable of running almost any rapid and add to so many things most outdoorsmen already enjoy. We ship anywhere in the lower 48! So check us out backcountrypackrafts.com: a company that’s true Montana!