Bear Trap

It was warm.  Heat radiated off of the canyon walls.  The temperature on my car gauge stretched into the low 80's.

Geez, what's this?


I've avoided Bear Trap Canyon, outside of winter, for decades.  It can be hot.  Dry. Theres snakes.  The last summer hike that I took, I saw seven rattlers, on the trail.   That's plenty for one day, don't you think?

Then there's ticks, poison ivy too.

It's really not that bad.  One does need to watch where one places important appendages though.

Ah, poison ivy.  It's incorrectly been called poison oak.  What we have here is western poison ivy.  It  grows as an upright vine and can be found along the banks of the Madison.  While fishing, I've also seen it along the Missouri and Clark Fork Rivers in Montana, the Selway, Lochsa and Clearwater in Idaho, and the Grande Ronde in Washington.  I still have flashbacks to childhood summers spent broken out and itchy from rashes.  The rash on unmentionable body parts is brutal.  Here's a WebMd link with some useful info about the plants, rashes, treatment, etc. and more here at .  

But I decided on a hike anyway.  Sans waders and fishing gear.  It's a pretty walk, especially with spring green up.

It was early afternoon, and like I said, hot.  There were a few fisherman, hikers, trail runners, and a gal on horseback.  I hoped that the horses would run the snakes off.

When I turned around at Beartrap Creek, a few welcome shadows stretched across the trail. 

Of course, I watched the water on the way out.  No fish rose.  Now, caddis like warmth.  But they like shadows too. I got most of the way out before the bugs and fish got going.

Once the shadows fell, the caddis really got to buzzing.  The fish noticed too, their splashy rises commonplace the closer I got to the trailhead.  

I figured that I owed myself a fish, or at least a token effort at fishing.  So I wadered up and took a short walk upstream.  The fish were willing.  The hard part was seeing the fly.  Even after tying on a black posted caddis, it was mostly a matter of a short cast, guessing where fly was, and striking if anything moved.  Often there was a fish on the end of the line.  I called it good after catching a  few spirited rainbows.  The last fish looked to have been caught earlier that day.  Good enough I thought.  They don't need me hammering on them.  Let them eat in peace and fill their bellies with caddis.

The days count of creepy-crawlies.....

Two garter snakes.  One bull snake.  One tick.


  1. Another good one, Les. Glad you found some Bear Trap denizens without the rattlers. Funny, I usually don't think of rattlesnakes when I consider MT but then I haven't hiked it like you have. I'll have to watch for them this summer if and when I get up your way. I'll have to view that ivy link you posted. Once when hiking in the Uintas I came down with some kind of rash so vicious that I had to make an ER run at midnight someplace in Iowa en route home. Awful experience.

    1. Walt, I'd rather not think about rattlers either. But, they can be found in many of the lower, drier, rockier areas. Out on the plains too. Heck, I had one swim within netting distance a couple of years ago while knee deep in the lower Madison.

      There's some good info on those poison ivy links. I cringe at the thought of all of the folks who float the Madison half naked. I see some pretty awful cases of poison ivy.

  2. Les: I didn't even know there was western poison ivy....I'm pretty reactive to the stuff having had several exposures growing up back east, where it is everywhere in Quebec and upstate NY. I always walk around the west confident I don't have to worry about I'll pay more attention. Nice post on Bear Trap...will look up where it is. You've been out and about a lot. Enjoy.

    1. Bob, if we ever cross paths on the Missouri, I'll point it out to you. It grows within spitting distance of Craig.

      Bear Trap is on the lower Madison. It's a spring, fall, winter fishery. The water gets too warm in the summer to pressure the fish. Lots of folks in float tubes though.


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