Horseback Riding at Axolotl Lakes

Category:
Fly Fishing, Planning, Lodging, Meals, and Fun
Added Date:
Wednesday, 20 Jul, 2016
Summary
The following morning I woke up as the sun began to shine through the window. I looked at my watch. Yuck! 7am. It was too late. I couldn’t go back to sleep so I lay there going over my plan for the day of horseback riding. Do we get them up early and eat breakfast or let them rise on their own and have hot cocoa and doughnuts at the Rainbow? Doughnuts sounded good. So it was settled.
 
Content

Does He Have the Fishing Gene - Part Two

(See part I)

The following morning I woke up as the sun began to shine through the window. I looked at my watch. Yuck! 7am. It was too late. I couldn’t go back to sleep so I lay there going over my plan for the day of horseback riding. Do we get them up early and eat breakfast or let them rise on their own and have hot cocoa and doughnuts at the Rainbow? Doughnuts sounded good. So it was settled.

I got up and went to grab some coffee at the Rainbow. Ed and Jeannie were there. A cute married couple that has been running the lodge since before I started coming to Montana 10 years ago. They have a way of making you feel at home and part of their extended family.

With a few sips of coffee in me and a doughnut in hand, I walked over to Ed to see how the fishing had been. The Salmonfly hatch had basically come and gone and it wasn’t all that this year. The fishing was currently just “okay.” Translation – it’s been tough out there.

There was that feeling again in my stomach. The one required ingredient of getting the fishing gene was catching fish. I thanked Ed for the information and headed back to our room, grabbed my computer, and did a little light reading while I waited for the day to start.


One by one they all started waking up, like rising fish. After discussing our time to leave, I walked the kids down to the front desk for some breakfast. As a parent, I typically am preaching about nutrition to Ethan so I think he was shocked to learn hot cocoa and doughnuts were on the menu.

After breakfast we headed out. In typical Ennis fashion the directions for the meeting spot were like, “turn right after the big tree on to the dirt road with the fork in it.” I really wish they would learn how to give GPS coordinates. After a couple of missteps, we arrived at our meeting spot a few minutes early. We got out of the cars to stretch our legs when this large pickup truck and trailer with a real cowboy behind the wheel pulls up, window roles down, and we hear, “Howdy, I’m Jeff.“ We exchange courtesies then proceed to head up the mountain in our cars till we reach the first lake.

We all unpacked out of our cars and gathered our things. You could see the kids were excited. Jeff had three small herding dogs that ran around and played with the kids.

Ethan has a special connection with animals. He loves them all, but especially dogs. He and Spencer kept themselves preoccupied with the dogs as Jeff started unloading the horses from the trailer. One by one he brought these fine animals out. It had been a while since I had ridden a horse and I remember looking at them thinking, “this should be fun, and a nice practice run for my South Fork of the Flathead Fishing trip later this year.”

After we were all ready to go, we each mounted our horses. My horse was named Buddy and he was a friendly, blondish horse with a very calm disposition. Jeff gave us some basic instruction on riding horses and then off we went.

We slowly navigated up the mountain. Ethan had this big grin on his face as he road up the hill. You could tell that this was a big deal for him. He was very happy. As we passed the first Axolotl lake, I wondered, “was that the lake where we saw the large school of cutthroat the first year I visited Ennis? I wish I had my fly rod and a float tube with me and an hour or so in that lake.”

As we passed the second lake, you could tell everyone was having a good time. The boys would take turns leading the pack with the rest of us following close behind. We finally saw the lake that had the big cutthroat trout. I pointed it out to Alex and he gave me a big smile. I moved up the pack to tell Ethan about the big fish we saw in that lake so many years before but he really did not seem that interested. That feeling came back again. “Is he going to like fishing? I hope so.”

Once we reached the top of the mountain we stopped for what Jeff called “snacks.” We dismounted our horses and witnessed God’s Country in all its glory. What a view. We sat down on some rocks and ate. “Snacks” included beef jerky, fruit, nuts beverages, and cookies - a complete meal for me. The boys sat next to me while we ate. They were obviously having a good time as they played around while eating. I asked Ethan how the trip was so far, and he said he loved it. That was a good sign. 

The second half of the trip was definitely more advanced as we navigated between trees and branches descending the mountain. We followed along the small trail that followed the edge of the other lakes looking carefully to see if we could spot any of the Axolotl salamanders by the lakes, but did not see any.

At one point, Sharad’s horse decided that he had enough and just stopped. The kids were busting up as Sharad is a big guy and it looked like his horse was just too tired to continue. He tried to get XYZ going again but to no avail. Finally Jeff circled back, and was able to get her going again.

Eventually, the landmarks looked familiar again as we road back, getting closer and closer to the cars. My backside was beginning to get a bit sore from the 3-4 hours of riding. I remember wondering how I was going to do on the ride to the South Fork of the Flathead. That trip will be 7 hours!

We reached the trailhead at about the right time. The kids were just about done and the adults were starting to get sore. I dismounted my horse by the trailer and opened the car. Ethan came up to me and gave me a big hug and said, “Thank you Daddy. That was awesome.” That was all I needed to hear. Perfect!

montana river map

As we gathered our things and loaded up the car, Alex and I looked at each other and had the same thought: I bet the kids are done for the day, and it’s only 3pm. Maybe we could sneak out for a couple hours of fishing alone. We got into our cars and headed back to the Rainbow.

My tired body became energized as I thought about fishing. I ran the schedule through my head. Drop the kids off at 3:30pm. Pack up the gear by 4. Be on the water my 4:30. I called Alex while in the car and we coordinated our plan.

Alex recommended Ennis campground. It was just a few minutes away from the Rainbow and it had some good wade fishing. We agreed on logistics and set the wheels in motion. I asked if anyone wanted to join us, knowing they were all zonked from the late night followed by a day of horseback riding. Sharad offered to take care of meals for the kids. What a nice gesture!

We arrived at the Rainbow and unpacked the kids. Alex and I quickly gathered our gear, packed the car and off we went.

Next - Part III
 
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Destinations
 (2)
This is a small town with a big heart, a veritable fisherman’s paradise. Located near the fish-filled Madison River, and surrounded by the waters of Ennis Lake, the Ruby River, Hebgen ... moreLake, Quake Lake, Henry’s Lake, the Big Hole River and scores of smaller streams, the town boasts what many consider the best trout fishing in the world. As well known for its wranglers as its anglers, Ennis has succeeded in maintaining the look and feel of its original, gold town roots. Warm and hospitable, the area offers a wide variety of accommodations ranging from simple campsites, rustic motels and gracious hotels, to full-service, luxury resorts. Fly shops are numerous, stocked by local experts ready to advise and assist, while guides can be booked for trips throughout the area.

Boredom is the only thing unavailable in Ennis. Throughout the summer season the city hosts a series of events, including its renowned 4th of July Celebration Parade and a genuine, old-fashioned rodeo. In August, fly-fishing luminaries from around the US, flock to Montana to compete in the Madison Fly Fishing Festival. Athletes also find their way to Ennis to compete in the city’s Madison Trifecta, two shorter races followed by a full Marathon at 9000 feet, the highest elevation run in America. For the true sportsman, October falls in with the annual Hunter’s Feed. What’s caught, typically elk, moose deer, pheasant and bobcat, gets cooked on the streets and served up to hungry spectators.

Flanked by three grand mountain ranges, The Tobacco Root, Gravelly and Madison, Ennis is scenic and entertaining – truly an authentic, fly fisher’s haven.
Fishing Waters
 (5)
The Madison River is arguably one of the best trout fishing rivers in all of southwest Montana, if not the entire world! It’s certainly the most talked over, written up and frequented ... morein the state of Montana – which is considered by some the capital of fly fishing. Anglers will find plenty of great access sites to wade or float along the Madison’s banks and reservoirs (including Hebgen Lake and Ennis Lake). Rainbows, browns, cutthroats, and more abound in this majestic fishing stream.

//

The Madison begins its course almost twenty miles into Yellowstone National Park. Within the Park, fishing rules apply: no live bait and catch and release only. Once outside the Park the river meanders past working ranches, stately conifer forests and cottonwood lined banks, interrupted by riffles and quiet runs that contain large rainbow and trophy brown trout. Flowing alongside Yellowstone’s West entrance road, the river enters Hebgen Lake, created by Hebgen dam, until it reaches Quake Lake, a bit downstream from the dam. At this point the river is commonly called either the Upper Madison or the Lower Madison, although in fact, they are one and the same.

Upper Madison – Quake Lake to Ennis Lake
Directly below Quake Lake the river roars into 5 long miles of Class V whitewater with steep gradients and large boulders along the way. As the rapids decline, the magic begins. For the next 53 miles, often referred to as the 50 Mile Riffle, the cold river runs north and the fish jump high. Annual runs of spawning trout make their way from Hebgen Lake, rainbows in the spring and browns in the fall. Known the world over for its “hard fighting” trout, it’s not unusual to pull a 25” brown from these upper waters. In deference to the purists and fly-fishing enthusiasts, it’s wading only from Quake Lake to Lyons Bridge. Boats may be used to access the river, but if you’re going to fish, your feet must be on the riverbed. Fortunately, the Hebgen Dam releases water throughout the year, leveling its flows and relieving it of spring runoff issues and summer shrinkage.

Lower Madison – Ennis Lakes to Three Forks
A short section of the river between Ennis Dam and the power station maintains relatively low water levels and provides wonderful opportunities for wading. Past the power station the river regains its muscle and for 7 miles winds through Bear Trap Canyon. Hiking trails offer the only entry, great for those that like to walk and seek the solitude of a designated wilderness area. Floating is permitted but requires a lengthy shuttle and the ability to work through Class III-IV whitewater. Once out of the canyon the river flows in shallow riffles until it reaches Three Forks and joins the Missouri. From Warm Springs to Greycliff, the river is easily accessible for drifters and wading.
Trips
$
1,075
/ Boat
Capacity:
1 - 2 anglers
Days:
Daily
Duration:
3 days
Experience the Madison River Like Never Before Learn the best spots on the Madison River with 3 great fishing days with Red Mountain Adventures. Eric Shores, with over 35 years of ... moreexperiencing guiding on the Madison River will take you down a journey of the best places to fish.

The journey starts on the Upper Madison River on a guided float trip covering about 8-11 miles of premier fly fishing water. The following day includes a recipe (location flies, and technique) on a do it yourself wade location near the fly fishing town of Ennis. The third day moves you on to where the Madison River dumps into Ennis Lake for a full float day stalking the giants.

Note: The order or location may change based on where the best spots are at the time.
$
500
/ Boat
Capacity:
1 - 2 anglers
Days:
Daily
Duration:
1 day
Destination:
Experienced anglers will apprediate The “Mighty Missouri.” Well develped skills of stealth and accurate casts are required to catch the large, cautious rainbows and browns. Wade fishing ... moreis great on the Missouri, with abundant hatches of BWOs, Caddis, PMDs, Tricos match-the-hatch dry-flies that compete with thousands of the real bugs, and a drag free drift are required to catch the huge, wary and finicky Rainbows and Browns rising to Caddis, BWO’s, PMD’s, Trico’s and more. The Missouri river can be one of the finest in Montana for experienced wade fishermen. But float trips can also be good when there are no fish rising.

We fish the Missouri from Holter Dam to Cascade, a 30-mile stretch of river designated a “Blue Ribbon” tail water fishery. Our guides know this section well and can help you hook an awesome catch.
$
500
/ Boat
Capacity:
1 - 2 anglers
Days:
Daily
Duration:
1 day
Destination:
Full day float trip with lunch and flies provided. Come experience the Madison River, one of Montana's most famous trout fisheries, and for good reason. We are located near Ennis for ... moreyour convenience.
Outfitters
 (1)
Welcome to Southwest Montana's finest fly fishing adventures. Blue ribbon trout water is literally steps away when you visit us in the picturesque town of Ennis, Montana. You may spend ... morethe day on our home river, the world famous Madison or drive to one of our other local rivers such as the Big Hole, Beaverhead, Ruby or the Jefferson. Whether you are a new angler or an old pro we have the expertise and patience to make your time on the water chasing wild trout a success.
Type:
Fishing
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