Sink or Swim - A Fly Fishing Scouting Adventure

Sink or Swim – A Fly Fishing Scouting Adventure

Back when I was a Boy Scout I got a chance to combine fly fishing and adventure. Our summer camps were spent in the Uintah Wilderness at more than 8,000 foot of elevation on the shores of Marshall Lake. Shepard and Hoover Lakes were nearby and the hike from Fehr Lake below the Mirror Lake Highway was over three miles. Fishing at all of these lakes was great, but it was difficult to cast a fly rod. The pine trees grew right to the shore of the lakes making casting a fly almost impossible. No backcasting room. To fish you had to use a spinning rod with a water filled plastic bubble to cast your fly. You’d cast the bubble into the lake and retrieve it with the fly tied on about two feet of tippet behind the bubble. It was the only way to fish these mountain lakes.

One day, about half way through our week of camping, a thunderstorm was brewing. The rest of the scouts and their leaders had gone back to their tents to weather the storm. It was not unusual to have thunderstorms every afternoon in these high mountains.

I made one more cast when the bubble came off my line and was floating about 50 or 60 feet from shore. It was my last bubble, and I knew I had to retrieve it or my fishing for the rest of the week was over. With the wind at my back, I stripped down and got in the cold water, which was probably below 50 degrees. I started swimming for the bubble but the wind was pushing it further out. Still, I kept paddling and I when I got to the bubble and turned for shore I was amazed at how far I had managed to swim.

Unfortunately, when I gasped in surprise I swallowed a lot of water and soon I was in trouble.  None of the scouts or our leaders knew I was in the lake, so I had to gather my wits. I relaxed and took a lot of deep breaths while swimming on my back towards shore. It seemed like I was swimming for an hour as the rain pelted my face and body. Finally I bumped into the shoreline and was more than happy that I was safe. I decided right then and there that I would never do anything as stupid as that again. Risking my life when nobody was watching.

As fate would have it a number of years ago I explored a road off the Mirror Lake Highway that led to the Duchesne River. Together with some Jans fly fishing guides, we found a road that headed north and guess what?  It went to Marshall Lake.  No more hiking in for three or four miles. And we didn’t need a spinning rod and bubble to catch fish from the west side of the lake.  We did great with our own fly rods.

Jan Peterson

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