By Dick Larson, Washington State.
In early 2013 my fishing buddy, Jerry, came up with the idea of going on a bucket-list fishing trip into the Bob Marshall Wilderness. He had done the research and found Salmon Forks Outfitters, a company with decades of experience guiding fishermen and hunters into the Bob. I was onboard immediately so we booked the trip with Mark and Janis for the coming August. We had no idea of the amazing adventure waiting for us on the South Fork of the Flathead River.
August finally arrived and the next thing we knew we were on horses riding 20 miles into the Wilderness. We also had no clue about what the next week would bring but we soon found out. On the way in we saw the first wildfire on a mountain top on the west side of the river. It was quite a sight but I don’t think that any of us understood that it was just a hint of what awaited us.
The ride into Salmon Forks camp was amazing and we soon became friends with the rest of our group of adventurers. Once we arrived at our camp it became apparent that we had wildfires blossoming on the mountaintops behind our camp thanks to dry conditions and lightning storms in the area. In the next couple of days the fires grew and advanced toward the camp. Finally, the U.S. Forest Service (God bless them) told us that we would have to move the camp downstream and away from the fire.
All of us pitched in, packed the camp and moved 5 miles downstream to a new camp. On the way to our new camp we passed a Forest Service cabin that had been wrapped in some sort of foil and covered in fire hoses and sprinklers in preparation for what might be headed their way.
By now everyone (guests, hosts, and packers) had formed an amazing bond and we were now the Salmon Forks Gang. Everyone pitched in and before we knew it, we had a new and wonderful camp set up in a spot that would become front row seats to an incredible natural event that unfolded right before our eyes.
We watched the fire advance downstream and eventually directly across the river from our new campsite.
We watched the wonderful Forest Service team as they protected us and kept us safe. We fished within a few yards of fires burning across the river from us and, most importantly of all, by the end of the week we all became friends for the rest of our lives.
In August of 2014 the Salmon Forks Gang reunited in the Bob for another week. Our bonds of friendship were stronger than ever. The Bob is a miraculous place. It was amazing to see how the Bob had already started recovering just one year after the fire.
Life was returning to the same hills that we had watched go up in flames a year earlier. The Forest Service cabin was unwrapped and the forest floor is growing and healthy, just the way Mother Nature intended.
The fishing was as good, or better, than ever and our “Gang” will be friends for the rest of our lives. Many thanks to Mark, Janis, Cordero, Brady, Chelsea, Fred and, of course, Penny.
From the Salmon Forks Gang (Luigi, Dick, Jerry, Rick, Candice, George B, Betsy, George K, Jim). We will see you again in August.