Blue Damsel Lodge

By Scott Turner

I first spotted Blue Damsel Lodge through lodgepole pines that arched over a driveway leading off of Rock Creek Road. The two-story lodge was framed by trees in a park-like setting. On our arrival, Gabby the Australian Shepard lodge dog, was quick to greet us--motivated with a treat--by ringing a welcome bell hanging from an old oak tree.

Lots of Surprises

Exquisite care was taken to build this log lodge into something more than a place to sleep, and it's filled with surprises from the moment you enter to the time you retire for the evening. Bold, colorful tile work is spread throughout each bathroom. Washroom sinks have fly patterns painted and kiln-dried upon them. As you walk up the stairs you are flanked by carvings of trout on the handrail.

The dining room is dominated by a large gourd-shaped table built from hand-hewn logs. Up to 14 diners share the table, a large carved fish centered between them. A huge riverrock fireplace provides heat and ambiance for the guests.

Each evening you'll find a bar, fashioned from an antique cabinet, well stocked with your favorite scotch or whiskey along with hors d'oevers to hold you over until the meal is served.

Don't Go Hungry!

For our first meal, Josh the lodge chef, began by serving a simple but delicious pureed asparagus soup. Following the soup course, we were served a perfectly prepared, hand-cut barbequed rib-eye steak accompanied by mashed red potatoes whipped with butter and blue cheese crumbles. An Argentine Cabernet went very well with the steaks. Dessert was a flourless chocolate cake dusted with powdered sugar and garnished with a mint leaf. All the herbs and floral decorations were grown on-site which added to our enjoyment of the meal. It's clear that no one will go to bed hungry at the Blue Damsel!

After Dessert, Fishing!

But the Blue Damsel Lodge is about more than food and ambience. Following dinner, I slipped out to fish the last hour of the evening hatch. Rock Creek is only a hundred yards from the lodge's back door. My wife took over a riverside hammock while I walked the bank looking for rising fish.

A nice wide pool in the river held several splashy trout. However, I noticed a subtle sipper on the far bank. After 30 minutes of casting a half dozen caddis patterns to this fish, a CDC pppX-caddis finally garnered its attention and in the waning moments of the evening, I landed a beautiful, fat rainbow trout.

Generally, the rainbows and brown trout in Rock Creek aren't super picky, but they can't be called pushovers either. I couldn't ask for a better start to my weekend stay.

Floating the Blackfoot

The next day promised to be sunny and hot, so an early start was advised. The lodge owner, Keith, was talked into joining me for the day's fishing adventure, while my wife preferred to reunite with the hammock behind the lodge and absorb a good book.

Keith had grand plans for my fishing pleasure, but first we feasted on a breakfast of bacon, eggs, English muffins, OJ, and coffee--certainly enough to give me the energy to get moving and hit the sssGrizzly Hackle fly shop in downtown Missoula where we met our guide, Tony Reinhardt.

I found Tony professional, knowledgeable, and quite pleasant to be around for the day. We decided the night before to give the Blackfoot River a try as reports had it fishing very well over the past few days. We launched Tony's three-man raft at the Russell Gates boat ramp, approximately 18 miles upriver from the confluence with the Clarks Fork. I tied on a big hair-wing dry fly with a size 14 Copper John on a three-foot dropper. This proved to be a successful setup right away as the cut-bow hybrids were as eager to take the dry fly as the dropper. The fish were broad shouldered and fought much stronger than their cutthroat cousins. We took trout behind boulders, as well as in places where the current created a seam or transition between two current speeds.

Equipment and Flies

A nine-foot, four- or five-weight rod will serve an angler well on Rock Creek and surrounding waters, including the Blackfoot River. One might consider packing a stiff six-weight rod if there's an interest in swinging large patterns for the big, predatory brown trout.

In June, Rock Creek is a salmonfly haven; when timed right, you can follow the hatch up the river each day for a couple of weeks. However, like most salmonfly hatches, weather and water conditions play a large part in the timing and duration of the hatch. Mayfly and caddis patterns will suffice most of the summer on Rock Creek.

Think big (size 12-14) for nymphs on other local rivers such as the Clark Fork and the Blackfoot River. Dry attractor patterns work well in the fast moving pocket water where the fish don't have a lot of time to make a decision about each fly going past.

How to get here

The Orvis-endorsed Blue Damsel Lodge sits within the Rock Creek Recreation Area, adjacent to the Lolo National Forest and about a 40-minute drive southeast of downtown Missoula. It's a destination lodge and requires reservations.

From Missoula, take I-90 18 miles east to Rock Creek Exit 126. Turn right at the overpass and drive just under 11 miles to the lodge; it's at 1081 Rock Creek Road.

Rock Creek Rd. parallels Rock Creek from Interstate 90 to Highway 38 some 30 miles to the confluence of the West and East Forks of Rock Creek. Rock Creek Road is paved for the first few miles before becoming a well-managed gravel road. However, the road is narrow and unsuited for large recreational vehicles.

Contact Information:

  1. Orion Adventures, Blue Damsel Lodge
  2. 1081 Rock Creek Road
  3. Clinton, MT 59825
  4. (406) 825-3077

Scott Turner lives in Portland, Oregon.