South Fork Lolo Creek

After huffing and puffing up through a series of switchbacks and then hacking my way down a steep canyon with downfall (an apt description), I was poised for my first cast at what looked like my only opportunity after such an arduous descent. The creek was raging, and I could see that it was still too early to wade up the creek and avoid the brush and downed lodge pole. Stepping into the creek, I made my first cast, and my faithful Labrador mistook the move for a crossing. Later I recalled reading about Jack London's dog Buck in Call of the Wild. In a demonstration of obedience, Buck almost plunges over a cliff.

Shadow is not nearly so dutiful; she is more on the impetuous side. In she plunged at the worst place. Shocked, I stood powerless to help as she tumbled and glided through a series of falls and chutes. Swinging to the far side about 20 yards down the creek, she reminded me of an Olympian kayaker. She didn't whine, but her forlorn look and those droopy wet ears clearly communicated that we were separated, and she wanted me on her side of the "Creek of No Return".

The far side provided three or four separate pockets to fish. In a space of 40 yards I caught six fish, the largest a 12-inch German brown. I also landed a 10-inch rainbow and four very small cutthroats. Satisfied, I looked for a crossing, knowing I would be back later in the month when I could stay in the creek and have more freedom of movement. Shadow refused to cross at the spot I selected and we subsequently lost considerable ground. Although it was less harrowing than her first crossing, I was still concerned for her. She appeared to shake both the water and the experience off as she lunged up the mountain with her faithful master huffing and puffing behind her. Up the mountain she would run and then back down to stop in front of me with tilted head. I couldn't tell if she was giving me a look of kindness or pity as I groped for every lodgepole in my reach.

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