Saturday, September 04, 2010

End Of The Road

Having finished retrieving my fly-line into loosely held coils, I began working my way up and across the steep slope that bordered the north side of the Sheep River. I had no choice but to work my way around the narrow chute that the river rushed through, as I did not have my waders along, and besides, I would have been insane to have tried it anyway. As I worked my way along the out-cropping that looked out over a open slope across the river, I spotted the three bear cubs before spotting their mother bringing up the rear. I momentarily felt for the presence of the bear-spray container hanging on my belt, and then reached for my camera. At that point the bears spotted me and...

Four hours earlier, and with one last look around the interior of my truck to see that I had not forgot anything, and with a quick glance at the clock on the screen of my Kenwood vhf radio that indicated the time pegged at 4:31am, I backed off my driveway and headed out on my way west. I was confident that I had not left anything behind, as I had made my preparations before going to bed, so that I would not forget anything when I left the house in the morning.
I had been looking forward to this morning for some time, as I had made up my mind a week earlier to do some fishing on the Sheep River - 40 kilometers west of Turner Valley near the headwaters of the Sheep. This part of Kananaskis Country that lies along the eastern slopes of the Rockies, is one of my favorite destinations in K Country. Part of being on the Sheep is the cutthroat fishing, but the other part is the country that this pristine river flows through before joining the Highwood River to the east.

Over the years, I have lost count of the great times that I have had while hiking and wading the river through the Sheep River canyon. While we had the kid (my daughter Jennifer) at home our family loved camping at the Bluerock campground located west of Turner Valley at the end of the road. Those were some of the thoughts that I remembered as I drove westward in the early morning dawn that was breaking nicely on the eastern horizon. I had planned on putting this trip off for a few days, however I had checked the weather forecast, and things were setting up for some nasty weather that was due to move eastward over the Rockies in the next 12 hours.

It took me close to a hour and a half before I pulled my truck to a stop on a ridge overlooking the sheep River and the Rockies to the west. Stepping out of my truck, I stood and looked in awe at the landscape painted by wondrous shadows in the early morning light. I finished my coffee out of a thermos that I had brought along, while being entertained for a while by several young Ravens who had left the nest not all that long ago based on their unruly appearance. Once I was sure that I had everything in my pack that I felt I needed along with me, I cautiously worked my way down the scree slope into the Sheep River canyon still shrouded in the early morning shadows. Once I reached the river I rigged up my fly-rod that I had packed to the bottom of the canyon in its protective tube. I had taken this precaution with what is one of my favorite fly-rods, not wanting to take a chance on destroying it while slipping and sliding on my descent in to the canyon. I stashed the rod-tube nearby, planning on retrieving it on my way back.

I had a good feeling on the day when I enticed a cutthroat to take my dry-fly with the first cast of the day. I quickly landed him and then released him back to the river. Fishing is not unlike hunting. Dashing about aimlessly will only succeed in putting all the fish down. You are better off to read the river carefully, and look for structure in the water where the fish will be holding, while watching for their next tasty meal to come by. I had been fishing the river for several hours when I encountered the narrow chute that blocked my way, I had been working my way up the steep slope and around this chute when I had spotted the bears across the river. Once the bears spotted me, and did not seem to be alarmed by my presence across the river from them, they continued feeding on the berries that were growing in abundance on the open slopes. Picking a spot on the edge of the canyon, I sat down and relaxed while watching the bears, with the cubs being quite entertaining to watch. Watching the mother black bear, I got the feeling that she sensed a change in the weather coming as she fed in a frenzy, stripping mouthfuls of berries from the shrubs that were loaded with ripe berries. The cubs were not near as interested in feeding as they were in wrestling with each other, and rushing about having a great time.

After some time, I realized that a weather front was pushing its way over the Rockies from the west, as I felt small sprinkles of rain on my face. So much for the timing, considering that I had not figured on seeing any rain till later in the day. I decided to forget about dropping back down in to the canyon as a steady drizzle set in, and instead worked my way back along the edge of the canyon to where I had parked my truck. I arrived back and realized that my rod tube was still in the canyon, and not wanting to chance a fall with the slopes now quite wet, I decided to return on another day to retrieve it. I already was planning for my next time on the Sheep River and soon, as the thoughts of fall in the high country of the Kananaskis brought a smile to my face.

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