Mystery’s of the Bob by Paul Schlemmer

Flathead National Forest Hunting Lodge


A trip to the Bob with Salmon Forks Outfitters has it all:

Off the grid – check, Fantastic scenery – check, Wildlife – check, Great  (and abundant) food – double check, Fantastic fishing – double check, Great hosts & staff –  double check

In preparation for writing this blog, I looked back at my pictures from the trips I’ve made and it occurred to me that rather than gush about the items above (which would be very true and very easy to do) each trip has had at least one (and most times more) really unique “encounters” that have made that trip special.  I’ve decided to share some of  them below.


The first picture is obviously the skeleton from an elk or deer.  Given the relatively intact nature of the skeleton, I’m guessing this animal succumbed to natural causes.


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The next picture is one of the Bob’s great mysteries – what the heck is this thing?  You can see that it’s a good distance from the river (late August flow), and it was most certainly man made.   It was about 5 ft X 10 ft and too heavy for me to move by myself.  There were no signs of hinges or any type of attachments.   Even the resident camp engineer was not able to come up with a good theory.





I’ve seen these exoskeletons on all of my trips, but they were everywhere in 2011.  I can only imagine what the fishing is like when these big bugs are actually on the water.


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If you’ve ever done any wade fishing, you know how slick the rocks can be.  While not as slick as some of the tailwaters I’ve waded, the South Fork of the Flathead is not an easy wade by any stretch.   While fishing the rock pile one afternoon, I watched this doe and fawn make their way across the river.  I find it pretty amazing that they can move the way they do, especially for such light animals.


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 For some reason that I just can’t figure out, this is one of my favorite pictures from my trips.    The base of the tree was easily 8 feet across and you can see the long “branch” that somehow got embedded in the root-ball.  Who knows how far down the river this floated before coming to rest, but it’s certain that it took a very powerful river to move this tree!


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The year of the fire!  I remember the feeling of panic when I checked the NFS incident website and saw, via Google earth, how close the fire was to salmon forks camp.  I called Marlene the next day and she told me that everyone was OK and that camp had moved downriver about 10 days or so ago.  The good news was we would have a ride that was about 2 hours shorter than usual.

Below, you can see the Black Bear ranger cabin all covered in what looks like aluminum foil to protect it from fire.  There were lots of pumps, hoses, and sprinklers  set up around the cabin and the bridge  in case the fire got too close and these structures needed to be protected.


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Below, you can see the inside of the cabin.  The smell of smoke inside was overwhelming!


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The following picture is another one of my favorites.  In the center, you can see the white forest service tent and to the right, the blue tent of Salmon Forks outfitters at Curtis Camp.  The picture reminds me of the spectacular thunderstorm we experienced on Friday night – thunder, lightening, rain, and wind with the thunder echoing off of the sides of the mountains and the wind shaking the tent to the point where you were hoping you weren’t going airborne..  The storm raged for at least an hour and while at times it was a bit disconcerting, it was an awesome display of the power of nature.   The bad part was the rain washed so much mud into the river from damnation creek that the river was unfishable!  It took us two days to figure out that above the creek everything was clear, but Mark did get quite a bit done around camp during that time.


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What is that on the top of that ridge?  A mirror?  A spaceship?  Nope, it’s just the Mud Lake lookout covered in the same protective foil as the Black Bear cabin.  I don’t think they ran any hoses up to the lookout though!


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If you’ve made a trip with Salmon Forks, you know that you’ll get a list of gear to pack as well as some advice with regards to logistics.  If you are planning a trip with Salmon Forks, read  the advice carefully, especially the part about don’t pack your rain gear!  The folks that missed that instruction on this trip had a long, cold, and wet ride in.  I would highly recommend you spend the $40 or so and get a slicker – it looks cool tied behind your saddle (which is where it is most likely to be).  If it rains, warm and dry is way better than cold and wet.  This was a very memorable ride in.


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For some reason, this sign seems out of place in the middle of the wilderness, but not as incongruous as the helicopter that buzzed me one afternoon as I was fishing upstream from the camp.  FYI those are not miles on the sign, they are trail numbers.


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In the Bob every trip is unique and adventurous.