My Fall fishing trip this year to Murphy's Lake, Wyoming
with my neighbor Ralph was shaping up to be a really
interesting experience. The weather forecast was for
constant rain, and snow at night. A hiker had been
mauled by a Grizzly only three miles from our base
camp just the week before. Neither of us could find
dog sitters, so we had to bring my big, elderly, black
husky dog Kodiak and Ralph's hyperactive Jack Russell
terrier Otis along – these dogs hate each other. And
then there was the Dog Ramp...
By Dan Fink (DanBob)
Since Kodiak is too large and old and arthritic to
jump into the back of the truck under the camper
shell, Ralph painstakingly constructed a wooden ramp
with cleats so Kodi could get out of the rain and
have someplace warm and dry to stay if it snowed
too hard, if her old bones got too cold, and while
we belly-boated Murphy's Lake. Otis, we figured,
would be fine and could always be used as live bait
for really big Rainbows. The Dog Ramp weighed 50
pounds and was constantly in our way in the back
of the truck. It was with many growls, snaps, whines
and woofs that we started out at 5AM for Wyoming.
The dogs were quite vocal about the whole thing, too.
After a few hours of counting FJRPMs (Flat Jack Rabbits
Per Mile, a common Wyoming driving phenomenon) and only
three dog fights in the pickup cab, we finally started
to get near the access road. A quick break, a look at
the maps, and two more dogfights later (first over the
food dishes, then over the water dishes), we found our
BLM road. Here at home in Colorado, we are used to fairly
dire official warning signs in remote areas. This one was
"Danger – steep terrain ahead. High-clearance 4WD required."
OK, that sounded fine—heck, both of our driveways
require high-clearance 4WD, even in summer. But
the sign continued:
"Road maintenance ENDS HERE. Extremely steep grade
starts in .2 miles, with no turnaround for 1.3 miles.
Deep ruts, washouts and large jagged rocks in road
ahead. Extremely durable off-road tires and extensive
off-road driving experience required. No cell phone
service available, and tow trucks cannot get down this
road. If soils are wet, your vehicle may not be
controllable going down, and will not be able to climb
back up. YOU ARE NOW ON YOUR OWN. PROCEED AT YOUR OWN RISK."
"Hmmmmm," I said. It was, after all, my truck.
"Have a nice day and enjoy your BLM lands!"
"This sign courtesy of your local Bureau of Livestock
and Mining office. Please don't call us if you get
stuck! Contact our public relations office in advance
if you need more information regarding local auto
repair shops, tire dealers, crane services, heavy-lift
helicopters, or divorce lawyers."
"It'll keep out the riff-raff." said Ralph.
"Ralph, we ARE the riff-raff!"
"Bet there won't be any campers or fishermen down there."
So down we went in my little Ford Ranger. On some of
the steeper, rockier parts, Ralph got out and walked
to better guide me around large rocks, or so he claimed.
In a couple spots, there was a loud, metallic screeching
sound coming from the truck, which I chalked up to the
camper shell flexing. "Your left rear wheel was off the
ground for 20 feet down that last one," Ralph said.
"Why didn't you tell me that?"
"Oh, I thought you heard me. I guess maybe the screeching
might have been from the camper shell flexing after all."
I told Kodiak, "Hey old girl, we're here!"
She growled. Then it started to rain.
We made camp, and got a soggy hour on the river
before dark without a bite, all the while dodging
and slapping at giant mosquitoes that came at us
in what seemed like tight-formation precision
squadrons. The lake would have to wait for tomorrow,
and the name seemed somewhat daunting -- I know all
about Murphy's Law. We built a campfire, broke out
the Wild Turkey and cigars, with Griz always on our
minds. We even met an actual 'authentic local character'
down there too, headed through just before dark on his
ATV after setting up a remote elk hunting camp for some
rich dudes arriving soon from Europe.
"Got a gun?" he asked by way of introduction. We live
in a remote area too, so we found that his friendly
and succinct greeting reminded us a lot of home. He
continued, "I saw Griz right in this campsite last
night. You didn't REALLY drive that little Ford Ranger
down that road did you?" I assured him that we had indeed
drove it here, and he inspected all the new scuff marks,
with a surreptitious check under the vehicle looking for
puddles of oil. I showed him my Beretta 9mm automatic and
asked, "Think this will be good for anything?" He said
"Sure – you can shoot yourself in the head with it right
before Griz eats you," and got back on his Polaris. I
noticed he was wearing bear bells and packing both a
.44 magnum and a can of anti-bear pepper spray that
held at least a quart. "You know how to tell the difference
between black bear crap and Griz crap, don't ya?" he asked.
"No," I replied. "Griz crap has little bells in it and
smells like cayenne pepper. Have a nice night, fellers.
It was a great campsite except that the F-14 Tomcat mosquito
squadrons were apparently night-vision equipped and pestered
us constantly. Kodiak laid by the fire, grunting and farting,
since she just could not figure out what purpose the dog ramp
was for, nor why I was coaxing her towards it. Otis ran around
out in the woods, chasing anything that moved or made noise.
When Otis came running back through camp yapping and running
at top speed just before dark, I climbed up on the roof of
the truck, thinking Griz was in pursuit.
"What the heck are you doing on top of the truck?" Ralph asked.
"Oh, I've found that it's easier to string up my rod
from up here," I stated calmly. "It gives a distinct
vertical advantage, since there's less gravity up here.
What did Otis find?"
"A cow moose and her calf, but he knows about moose from
home. He left them alone and ran away."
"Glad to hear it, Kodi runs from moose too."
If Ralph saw the tip of my rod shaking in big circles,
he didn't let on, which I appreciated.
I woke up at 3AM to loud yelling and snarling combined
with dogs barking and snapping, and I was fairly certain
that we were under attack from an entire herd of Grizzlies.
Actually, for some reason Kodiak had decided to sleep
outside of Ralph's tent that night. She heard him rustling
around as he got up to take a pee, and gave him her typical
friendly, early-morning greeting. Unfortunately all that
Ralph saw upon exiting his tent was a large black shape
in the fog and a large, wet, black nose in his face, with
hot, stinky, panting breath. Ralph claimed that he always
yells loudly like that when his pacemaker starts acting funny,
doctors orders, to better alleviate stress. I tried to explain
that grizzly bears generally do not lick one's face upon
exiting a tent, but Ralph could not be placated and muttered
about having his pacemaker re-calibrated when we got back to
Breakfast was rather dreary, and after one soggy bagel
it started to pour. Ralph said "Could be worse. At least
it's not snowing." I was at least able to grunt approval.
We hadn't slept much due to thoughts about Griz and rogue
moose. I set up Kodiak's bed in the back of the truck so
she could snooze in a dry spot for the day while we floated
the lake, and tried to coax her up the Dog Ramp again. She
gave me a very puzzled look again, sighed, and crawled under
the truck to await our return. Otis refused to get in the
truck too, so Ralph brought him along as we hauled the belly
boats down to Murphy's Lake.
The rain settled down into a cheerful and cozy
drizzle, much drier and nicer than the downpour
we had during breakfast. We strung up our rods
and flippered out into the lake in our tubes.
After I got over a nice weed bed near the outlet
and started trolling, I saw a strange creature
swimming toward me across the lake, snout above
the water. "A beaver!" I hollered to Ralph, excited
to see one in its natural environment. Ralph actually
paused in his casting to look my way. Then I noticed
the creature was white, with a few brown patches.
"An albino beaver--got your camera? It's rare, the
Weekly World News will buy the picture!" I hollered
again. No response from Ralph, though it looked like
he had a really big fish on, which is always a good
excuse for anything.
Of course the albino beaver was really Otis the Jack
Russell terrier, panting from the exertion. I tried
to out-paddle him to no avail--his churning paws and
endless energy far outmatched my old legs and plastic
flippers. Otis attempted to board my belly boat with
all the courtesy and grace of Bluebeard the Pirate,
and was quite pleased once he was sitting on my casting
apron, sniffing the beef jerky in my pocket. Unfortunately,
his underway boarding attack had included teeth -- and
my belly boat now had a slow leak. We flippered back to
shore with Otis at the helm, wind in his ears, his happy
yapping drowning out even my dark cursing about rain,
dogs, skeeters, and Murphy's Lake.
As I poked at the miserable remnants of our fire with
a soggy stick, Ralph sauntered back into camp with a
17-inch Rainbow on his stringer. "Any bites?" he asked.
"Just one," I replied, while trying to keep the rain
off the newly applied patch in my belly boat, as Otis
snickered from under the truck.
"Well, since you don't seem to want to fish today, you
mind cleaning this Rainbow? I'll be back for lunch. I'm
gonna try and fish streamers this afternoon," Ralph said,
swapping his dry fly rig for his sinking line one. At
that moment – perhaps as some sort of divine intervention
to keep me from throttling Ralph – the heavens opened up
into a downpour. We scrambled around camp, stowing gear
in and under the truck.
"Least it gets rid of the skeeters," Ralph muttered.
"I caught that big fish on a big skeeter, and now I'm
gonna try a big muddler." I was finally able to have
a chuckle too, as Ralph couldn't seem to actually find
his streamer box, he'd been fishing dry line all morning.
He paced and cursed, with much frenzied digging through
his pack, his vest, his sleeping bag, his tent and finally
in my truck's tool box for his streamer box. No luck, or
so it appeared. I tried to get now-soggy, cold, arthritic
Kodiak up the Dog Ramp once again.
"C'mere girl, you'll be warm and dry all day in the
Ranger Motel here! C'mon, you can do it."
Kodi looked me in the eye, sighed, and laid down in the rain.
"C'mon Kodi, it's nice and warm and dry, you can do
it! Load 'em up!"
Heavy dog sigh. I kept thinking of how many square feet
of dog towel it would take to make her suitable for
sleeping in my tent -- approximately 1 square mile.
So I started trying to demonstrate to Kodi exactly how to
use the dog ramp. I crawled up it, then down it, then back
up it again. "C'mon Kodi, we built this dog ramp for YOU!
You can do it. See, you use the cleats for traction!" I
crawled both down and back up the dog ramp three more
times before I noticed our audience of three well-dressed
folks and one local character. All of the dudes looked
like ads for The North Face and Patagonia raingear. The
local looked like Grizzly Adams with a bad hangover. I
froze. They froze. It was the local outfitter again, with
his high-class hunting clients from Belgium. They stared
at me, and I stared back. Kodiak crawled under the truck
again and farted loudly.
"Vaht ist dat man dooink in zee bahk of zat leetle truck?"
Dude #2 asked. Their guide replied, "Like I was saying,
once we get off the public lands here and into the PRIVATE
lands you paid to hunt elk on, we won't have to deal with
any of these strange tourists from Colorado. I honestly
have NO idea why that man is climbing in and out of the
back of his truck on a wooden ramp in a driving rainstorm.
I'd call the sheriff if we had cell reception here." "OK,
zat was as goot an explanashun as I coult eggszpect," and
they departed up the road in their chauffeured ATVs.
During the entire embarrassing episode, Ralph had already
slipped away back toward the lake. But he had switched
tackle and left the outfit with the dry fly he caught
that big trout on still attached! The rain was slackening,
so I set up my vise and proceeded to painstakingly tie an
exact replica of the fly Ralph had caught the lunker on. It
was the biggest mosquito fly I'd ever seen – majestic in its
proportions, and incredibly realistic. I had no idea where
he possibly could have bought such a ridiculously large dry
fly. Fully and inch and a quarter long – an exact match to
the bloodsucking insects that had been attacking us since
I hastily stoked the dying fire with the handiest dry wood
available, and got ready to fish. The patch on my belly boat
was still drying, so I was casting from shore. After only 15
minutes, I saw a silvery flash, watched the water boil, and
a monsterous Rainbow rose up out the weeds to gulp down my
giant skeeter. I set the hook, played him, and brought him
in. The rain started again, but I cleaned my fish and Ralph's,
stuffed the cavities with onion slices and pats of butter,
wrapped them in foil, and put them on the grate to cook
slowly over the fire.
Ralph came slogging back through the downpour a few minutes
later, claiming his boat was about to be swamped by rain. He
saw the pair of big fish roasting, grabbed my fly rod,
inspected my new giant skeeter fly, and asked "That the
fly what you caught that 20-incher on?"
I didn't want to nod affirmative, as that would send a
cascade of water onto my lap—it was really raining hard
now – so I just said "Yep."
"Why doesn't that mosquito fly you tied have any wings?" he asked.
"I modeled it after your fly, Ralph, the one you left on
your dry fly line after you landed that huge Rainbow. Your
trout is done, by the way."
Ralph replied, "What fly are you talking about? "
"The fly still on your floating line reel! Don't BS me!"
"Oh, THAT fly. I guess you're right, it didn't have any wings."
His big skeeter fly was incredibly realistic, really,
except for the lack of wings – the copy I tied wasn't
even close in quality. His fly looked like a real bug.
"Where'd you get the huge mosquito fly, Ralph? I know
it wasn't from Orvis. since they don't sell #2x mosquitoes.
"Well," Ralph mumbled. "If you promise you won't tell anybody..."
"After I realized I'd forgot all of my fly boxes but the
tiny one from my neck lanyard, I saw the superglue in your
tool box, and caught one of those damned mosquitoes that's
been after us all day under a beer cup. Had to pluck his
wings off so he'd stay still long enough to soak him with
superglue and hit him with accelerator. Stuck him on a bait
hook just like back when I was a kid, fishing grasshoppers
in North Dakota. Got that 18-incher on the first cast. This
doesn't mean you'll be calling me a bait fisherman again,
"Nope," I said. "It proves that you're a skilled Engineer.
It's brilliant! Tomorrow I'm gonna catch a couple of those
yellowjackets that were after us and zap 'em with glue too."
Both dogs growled as some sticks cracked off in the woods,
and we all looked up quickly for Griz. But it was momma
moose and calf down at the lake a few hundred feet away,
and heading away from us.
As we stoked up the fire, Ralph asked "Danbob, how the hell
did you find dry wood and get a bed of coals going to cook
these trout? It's been raining for hours."
"I burned the Dog Ramp," I replied. "It was the only dry
Then the rain started to slack off, and we could see some
stars peeking through the haze. The dogs came out from
under the truck for a quick stretch before going back
to sleep. It was shaping up to be a great day fishing
tomorrow at Murphy's Lake! ~ Danbob
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