Scrapbook One Hundred Eighteen…



Montana Golden Fish


Avalanche Lake was a fairy-tale spot for me in the 1940s when I was young and could do anything. It was few miles north and west of where, in 1959, a mountain fell and dammed the Madison River that formed Quake Lake.

To reach Avalanche Lake I had to climb about 3,000 feet, over a six mile stretch. In one spot the path was only 4 feet wide and had a 700-foot tumbledown drop on the left. It was a scary place and if my hat blew off I’d never see that thing again. The Forest Service said no one ever went up there because the hike was too tough.

My father warned that grizzlies ranged in the area where I was going so I planned to carry a dead fish. If I met a bear I’d throw the fish at him and run downhill. A grizzly’s front legs are shorter than its hind legs so I would have the advantage if it came to a race. Besides, my incentive would be greater than his.

After seven hours I reached the lake and started fishing. The water was deep and cold. Several dozen huge golden trout slowly swished through the glassy water. To my disappointment, none of them wanted any fly in my vast repertoire of lures, not even a wooly worm.


One of my most humbling dreads, and one that’s most idiosyncratic of my personality, is to be ignored by a beautiful fish. I didn’t catch any … not even one to throw at a griz if I met him on the down trail.


The next day, while preparing to leave, I placed my Dr. Pepper under a rock in the lake to save for next time. No need to haul it out. ZOWEE!!! That’s when I noticed the fresh water shrimp. It looked like a hundred of them scurrying about. They were small, maybe 1/4th inch long, and their yellowish-translucent color made them almost invisible. That had to be the answer. That’s what the fish were feeding on. I could hardly wait get home and make some flies that imitated the shrimp.

Several weeks later I took Donnie with me to the lake. I wanted to apply my fishing genius and show those rude trout who was their better.



Last Lament

Oh, somewhere near a placid mountain meadow
A mariposa lily blooms its yellow best.
And on the hills and in the valleys mellow,
The chirpy plover gathers grasses for her nest.

But on a lake that tries the sportsman’s skill,
He went to cast his line and catch a trout,
Alone he stood to test the wily fishes will.
And again the mighty fisherman struck out.


62 thoughts on “Scrapbook One Hundred Eighteen…

    • If you made the post how fast can you run???? Grizzlies can average 35 mph think about that

  1. Absolutely a great story. I thought that might be Donnie taking the photos!! Sounds surreal it is a fairy-tale destination and I bet you felt royal when you got there for the first time by yourself. Thanks for the pictures and keep all of your stories and pics coming….MS Girl Merry Christmas

  2. Forrest beautiful presentation you are at the top of your game so to speak. Who cares if those Goldys won’t bite…

  3. Forrest, One of your best stories yet…For me, the hike will be the challenge…2016. Did you recover your Dr. Pepper the next trip with Donnie…or should I try to find it? cynthia

  4. I so miss Trout Fishing….Never done any fly fishing…looks like I might have to go to Montana and try to learn this summer. You wanna teach me Forrest?

  5. Every Golden has it time,
    Just not always on the end of a line.

    Some prefer freedom and bathing the soul in countless sunrises,
    So those ones avoid string attached lures from fisherman with surprises.

    There is neither good or bad but rather something between,
    Until warm breathing halts we’ll find peace in treasure filled dreams.

  6. Beautiful pictures! That lake looks like many in the High Uintas. Some say there’s gold in them thar hills. Those high altitude lakes are beautiful. You can be fishing in just a t-shirt one minute and running for cover from the 1/2 inch hailstones the next…and that’s only if you’re still below the treeline. It’s difficult to run for cover when there’s no cover to run to. It stings! Been there…done that.

    I’ve also noticed the golden trout can get a LOT bigger in lakes with trees all around.

  7. Forrest,
    Refusals are difficult. Did you have any small pheasant tail nymphs – size 18 perhaps?. Or maybe a tiny hair and copper? You must have been on the right track with the shrimp imitation. I really want to go there and help you figure it out.
    Great poem and great story.
    All the best,
    Bill H.

  8. That’s funny, my husband was just telling me this morning that he wants to catch a golden trout on our next trip, that will be May or June 2015.

  9. For the record Avalanch L. has been my #2 distination for three years as my “heavy loads and water high.” Cynthia you may have a race on your hands come June/July. Right now I’m still working on my #1 which is all things Rio Grande Gorge. radcrad Santa Fe.

  10. Goofy hasn’t posted yet because he is probably on the phone warning the rangers to prepare for a deluge of treasure hunters, lol.

    Forrest, it seems you had a camera with you often. When did you get your first camera.

  11. It sounds like you had a great hike and fishing trip with Donnie, even if you didn’t catch any Goldens. As you found out, they are very wily. At least you “caught” the inspiration for a poem. 🙂


  13. All these ‘fish’ metaphors sure have me reeling. 🙂 But maybe just false-casting? I mean, no need for using a hand-painted popper on a dink like me, …..right? I may be small, but I need some live-bait to grow. …..I guess I’ll have to wait for the mayflies?

  14. So, the mighty Casey….uh, Forrest struck out???

    Every fisherman has days like that, but we all know, the worst day fishing is better than the best day working. 🙂

  15. Awesome story Forrest! We were wondering if you had ever been up there when we searched the area, and for the record we did see a grizzly track on the trail. It certainly is a beautiful hike, easier on the decent more so than the climb up but well worth it. Ive never seen water so blue other than the Caribbean. If you’ve got some secret hiding place up that fork of the creek then we sure couldn’t find it!

  16. I hope the treasure is not found anytime soon. In fact I hope it’s a long long time. Persevere is what we will have to do. I like the idea of it being out there somewhere. When someone finds it then what Will you do.

  17. Beautiful memories abound. Sometimes my best days fishing were fishless. The thrill of a great day fishing and the confusion of why no fish were biting. The stories of big fish brighten everyone’s eyes. But the memories when I knew all the fish were watching my damsel flies and just laughing with tender eyes. Those are the days of reflection. Merry Christmas to all and remember to always smile at a lonely girl. We are all so blessed even on fishless days.

    • Bajaau… Merry Christmas to you too… We had an early Christmas celebration today with our kids as we will be going to Spokane for Christmas. It was a wonderful day filled with laughter, joy and surprises…:) It really was priceless… I am going to keep my eye out for German Guy in Spokane? Where did he go? I have not seen him in a while?

  18. Dewey Robinson,

    The same thing I was doing before and the same thing I’m doing now. 🙂 …..the thrill of the chase NEVER ends!!

    And each of us will take away something different from all of this. I like finding things like arrowheads, artifacts, fossils and many other objects of antiquity. Been doing it my whole life. And it just doesn’t have to be that. It can be something as simple as a pine cone or a beautiful rock or many times just a picture or a moment in time. It’s all nice. 🙂 But I DO like to find things and see those objects in my hand or keep in my possession. There is just something about seeing something in your head and then holding in your hand, exploring and researching and then finding what you were looking for. I mean, to have gone out day after day, year after year and to have never found an arrowhead or to have never found a gold nugget or whatever? …..would eventually be a little disappointing.

    Can you imagine going in galleries and antique shops your whole life, if tats what you enjoy doing, and never being able to have any of it or at least touch it? I mean, can you imagine all the trips Mr. Fenn took in search of items for his gallery. What if he had never found that piece of artwork or that object of antiquity? Or the Fenn Cache? Or any of the many, many items he has shown us in his collection? Or even his Pueblo, …..imagine if he had dug and dug, always excavating, but never found anything? I’m sure the first many times would have been quite exhilarating, enjoying the fresh air and the beautiful surroundings and just being out there, but then not ever finding anything, …..he would have moved on.

    People need to find things …..eventually. It IS also part of the chase. And I think that is why he likes to give us stuff every now and then. For what is a chase without the catch, the find? …..finally touching it, holding it and seeing the realization of it all. Because we can go out any time we want to and enjoy nature and adventure. We don’t need a treasure chest to do that. Do we? I never have. To me, this chest is a wonderful idea and I’m glad. Mr. Fenn did what he did, for I think it has become bigger than just the chest itself and means more than the gold it contains. And with regard to THIS chase, he has made it where we can just about find anything we want to. And I’m glad he is giving parts of his collection away, like the arrowheads and Mammoth fragments, among other things. …..It’s nice to find things, isn’t it. 🙂 He knows that as good as anyone. But for MOST of us it will not be finding the chest. And that’s ok. I’m fine with that. Because I’ve found so many other great things. But I’ve gotta try……….

    So, for me, finding it would not be the end, but a continuation, …..of adventure and exploration and hopefully more discoveries, a new beginning so to speak. For I like the Thrill of the Chase, but I really love it when I catch a fish, whether I keep it or not…….. 🙂

    • Well said, Suzie. For those who love The Thrill of the Chase it will NEVER end…even long after the chest has been found. Those who enjoy nature will continue to enjoy nature…and probably even more so since they’ve become even more “acclimated” to it. I suppose the person who finds the chest will use some of her (apparently) new wealth to continue doing what it was that led her to the chest in the first place. That seems perfectly logical. I can honestly say that I don’t even envy “her”…but if she wants my help she can contact me at any time. I’m here to help. 🙂

    • Suzie, I agree. Catching or finding is far more satisfying. there aren’t many professionals like Dal. I don’t have unlimited resources or fortitude to ignore the disappointment and face my family each time I’m wrong just to continue spending more time with a poem. I admire the ones who can do that, but aren’t we all childlike in our hope of finding a treasure. I’ll return to hiking for the enjoyment of wildflowers and sunsets at some point and walk away.

  19. I remeber when I was fighting Apache Longbows at Ft. Hunter Liggett, I was told to stay clear of the fairy shrimp. I was taken back I suppose, that was 24 years ago.

  20. mr. forrest,That is such a beautiful picture.for real,as I scrolled down, it was if I could see the lake rippling.the picture looks like I could just step into it . thanks.

  21. Blaze Mountain is just north of around this area. Gorgeous place. About 40 miles or so as a crow flies, I think? Lots of Grizzly though….still. Cameron is just west of Blaze Peak. Wild Country. If I remember correctly, Red Canyon also runs through the area. Love hiking there. Thanks for the great story.

  22. I hope I don’t have to walk along a 750 ft cliff to get to the chest area. I’m afraid of heights. I would prefer a nice river or peaceful stream where I can drive and then walk there.

  23. Let that fish swim on, apparently HOB is a hang up. You can only give out so many clues. Fish need to tune into the right frequency. You tried hard to catch that one. Was it a she? Please tell me. -IMO

  24. Mr. Fenn, Before we moved to WY we came to the area regularly for extended vacations. On one of our first trips here I caught the most beautiful Golden Trout in the Tongue River in the Big Horns of all places. It was the most beautiful trout I had ever seen, or seen since, in terms of overall beauty. I was so excited! What is it? I’ve never seen a trout like it!
    I ran back to the truck and looked it up in the fishing rules and regulations. A Golden Trout! I read: This trout was not to be harvested…., my thoughts trailed off to the fish on my stringer. I ran to check the fish. It was dead! Oh My God! What did I do?! I was horrified. I thought, What if a ranger comes along? I can’t throw it out. That would mean it gave its beautiful life in vane. I went back to reading the regulations hoping there was something in there to save me. There was! They were not protected in the Tongue River (not a native). Wow, that was a close one! LOL

  25. Beautiful fish = rude fish! I guess they just didn’t want what was offered at the time. Kind of like us humans. FF offered the arrowheads and ivory which i am sure are amazing but I didn’t think I had use of them. But if he had offered a bass popper from SB 114 I might have jumped at them. They really caught me eye! I dont want to be rude and ask but I might just send FF a few corks and see if he wants to dust off his popper making skills. I know he is incredibly busy with all that he has going on but who knows. Will keep you posted if I get one returned.

    It is a beautiful sunny day and the air is crisp! Going to get out and enjoy it! Hope everybody is having a great day and New Year so far!

  26. WOW! cool story… To hike into the back country with the steep cliffs and Grizzly’s running around… A Brave Hike indeed!

  27. This Scrapbook popped for me today regarding the following words and correlating locations in a reasonable vicinity of Mammoth Hot Springs:

    – In f’s poem, sportsman’s –> Sportsman Lake / Sportsman Lake Trail
    – In f’s poem, placid –> Elk Creek <– Placido

    With placid, I wonder if no paddle = peaceful from f's TTOTC. He also uses the word "switch" as a dated substitution term for being disciplined, or paddled. When he says the spot is very dear to him, might he also be suggesting the spot is very elk to him, e.g. Elk Creek?

  28. As this story is about NOT catching Montana Golden fish, maybe he’s hinting the treasure is not in the Treasure State?

    Meanwhile, my pesky confirmation bias reminds me about Trout Lake and Shrimp lake that are tucked away just above the Lamar Valley and Soda Butte Creek in NE Yellowstone.

  29. Scrapbook One Hundred Eighteen…

    I’ve read this scrapbook before and since you’ve led me here Allen K I’m reminded of something that took place recently.
    “High on the desert plain”
    “Where the streets have no name”
    I was visiting with a Tiwa elder recently and he spoke of someplace very similar to the following words .
    ” In one spot the path was only 4 feet wide and had a 700-foot tumbledown drop on the left”.f
    In the elders story the pathway led across a path 2 feet wide with a drop of over a thousand feet on each side.
    “no one ever went up there because the hike was too tough.”f
    The elder also spoke these very words.
    Now I read this post and it makes me wonder if there is more to the old man’s story. Wish I had more time with him but I had to move on. I will return to sit by that beautiful stream again one day. Really have to wonder if that was the universe syncing up again.
    As I left he asked if I ever read ‘The man who killed a deer.” By Frank Waters.
    He said this story is written as fiction but it really happened. I think he knew I wanted to learn more about his people.
    I’ve ordered my copy and look forward to reading it.

  30. so I found what lake this is, and kinda scary how fast I did it…..this is not avalanche lake in GNP…. its the smaller lake that Echo lake spills into at Echo Point facing south. Yeah I might have a problem

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