Exploring and Fishing around the Big Horn Mountains

here is a rock formation at entrance of Shell Canyon

Manderson, WY   One way might have been to Google local fishing holes in this part of Wyoming. Another way might have been to ask around just a bit. For some reason, we just thought we would take our licenses and see where the spirit moved us and what might develop, so away we went.

I should mention that if fishermen have the reputation of being as willing to just stand by the water and daydream in the beauty around them rather than really bring home the food, we are members of that tribe. A trout might have had to tap us on the shoulder and ask if they could come with us as fall prey to our skill.

shell creek where we fished

First we sent to Shell Canyon, certainly a place we had been before, but always driving from the Sheridan side on the east of the Big Horns, and never that I can recall from the western approach through the canyon, so it had never really struck us as clearly and momentously as it did now that we were taking it more seriously. The canyon is also a geological wonderland. Iowa State has a special geology field program located right outside of the little bitty town of Shell, and as you drive through the approach and into the canyon, the State of Wyoming, has posted signs as often as warranted alerting interested drivers of exactly what formation might be on their right and left. Some like the Tensleep Formation and others were named after local landmarks a short distance from where we were. Cretaceous, Triassic, Mississippian and others were all around us marked in the hundreds of millions of years.

along beaver creek road

Wyoming has deservedly earned its reputation as a deep red state, but it’s not based on some of the standard dog whistles of the right. This is an oil-and-gas-and-coal-and-anything-else-not-bolted-down-state, but there’s no pretend with all of these engineers and geologists around that the earth was born last night. Though they wouldn’t brag about it, there’s a fair amount of state socialism at work here as well that supports the cowboy independence culture. In Manderson there were four nicely appointed “teachers’ houses” that the state had maintained for the local school teachers. In Basin the water is all provided free. Game wardens are spread out all over the state, so they are provided houses as long as they are state employees. And so forth and so on.

on shell creek farther up the canyon

We thought we would see where Beaver Creek Road led, and after many miles of well graded gravel, we noticed the familiar green posts of underground telephone lines way out in the middle of nowhere that we normally regard as suburban. We were looking for a small lake on Chaco’s GPS, which turned out to be private property, and after having our road lunch by three dumpsters along the way, we plowed on until we got to a gate blocking the road and announcing that Canyon Real Estate was selling plots from that point on. This was obviously a development that intended to plant some mini-ranch-mansions on this road and was creating the infrastructure to do so.

lunch stop

We got a couple of bites on Shell Creek going back and then crossed Granite Pass at 9000 feet and fished at Tie Flume, where once railroad ties were made. It was another beautiful spot. Chaco called to me in a semi-whisper yell, and I thought he had a big one, but instead he gestured me wildly across the creek and there was a huge female moose and her calf. They sniffed us first and moved away, but hearing something closer to the road, they ate their way back. It was live and let live, and after watching them eat for a while we moved on up the creek.

some fishing buddies we made at Tie Flume

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