Close calls on the famed Rock Creek, as it lives up to its name

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Recently we floated a section on Rock Creek, east of Missoula.

Reason was the prolific salmonfly hatch which generally happens in early June.

At one point we floated next to some very high, steep rocky cliffs, casting our over-sized Water Walkers and Cat Pukes right up to the rocks, in hopes of fooling a hungry trout.

It was time to switch rowers so we moved to the other side of the river, secured the raft, and got out of the boat.

omeone spotted a pair of bighorn ewes, high on the cliffs. We watched a few minutes then grabbed a snack.

“Look at that!” I yelled, looking up and seeing a basketball-sized boulder falling through the air, then hitting the water at the same spot we had fished through minutes before!

I don’t know if those sheep were sending us a message, but I do know if that boulder had hit the raft, this story would end differently.

Over the years, we’ve “been lucky” more than once on Rock Creek.

One time, my son and I were planning to float in personal pontoons and we had stopped more than one vehicle asking about potential hazards.

None noted, our float went fine until we rounded a sharp bend and found trees across the entire river.

My tube got stuck on top of a log and my son’s also got wedged. Being patient, we managed to free both tubes losing only one flipper.

Two years ago, within a couple hundred yards of dropping a Yeti cooler onto my fly rod, we found another raft, punctured and hung up on a sweeper.

Graciously, those fishermen helped us over the logs, then were faced with either repairing the raft or carrying the pieces back to the road.

Last year’s plans to float Rock Creek were thwarted when a 3-inch rainfall raised the river so high you couldn’t float under the bridges.

This trip we found an abandoned raft bobbing midstream.

The rock episode taught us not all threats to safety are at water level.

Gotta stay alert!

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