Gone Hunting column: Jam only enhances experience on Miracle Mile
June 20, 2010
The return address label read “From the Kitchen of…” Billings, Mont.
There are only a couple of folks that I know up in Billings, and it was neither of them. This package was a real mystery. It weighed about 6 or 7 pounds.
It wasn’t Christmas, and my birthday had been a couple of months ago.
I couldn’t remember who these names belonged to, and why would I get a package from them?
The packaging tape was no problem for my Browning pocket knife. When my wife and I looked inside, our eyes really lit up. The contents were amazing! There were a dozen individual jars of homemade jams and jellies.
Huckleberry jam, cherry jelly, grape preserves were accompanied by a note from the chef, a Mrs. Johnson.
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A few weeks before this bountiful bonanza arrived via UPS on our doorstep, I had been north of Rawlins, Wyo., scouting a place to hunt sage grouse while fishing the North Platte River.
This is where I met Mrs. Johnson, her husband and daughter.
They were stuck on a sandbar along the North Platte, well more than a mile below the Kortez Dam.
It seemed they had pulled a couple of fishermen off the sandbar and had become stuck themselves. The other fishermen left, most likely not knowing their rescuers had become victims themselves.
How fortunate for me. I have a long tow strap and was able to four-wheel them easily from the soft sand near the river.
The jams and preserves were a thank-you for taking the time to free them.
Even if we hadn’t come home with a cooler full of trout, it would have been a very successful jaunt to “The Miracle Mile” of the North Platte River.
Landing a huge German brown trout for my den is near the top of my bucket list. That trophy brown is payoff enough for traveling a little off the beaten path. When you add scouting for sage grouse and gifts of jams and jellies, I just couldn’t be better if I was twins.
However, all of those trout we brought home from The Mile were rainbows. My trophy brown is still somewhere out there growing to miracle proportions.
When you visit The Mile you will see abundant wildlife such as sage grouse, pronghorn antelope, mule deer and the ever-present western diamondback rattlesnake.
It is the highest concentration of rattlers I have ever seen in the wild. They were in the sagebrush, on the roads and even in the shallow waters along the banks of the North Platte.
There are a series of reservoirs on the North Platte in central Wyoming – Alcova, Pathfinder and Seminoe.
There are abundant recreational opportunities that surround these reservoirs and the North Platte. My primary interest was looking for sage grouse hunting opportunities on the Bureau of Land Management acres that can be found around these reservoirs. Fishing is just a bonus.
The Mile is a “flies and lures only” stretch of water. However, once you get down onto the flats on your way to Pathfinder Reservoir, I have been told that the nonpurist fisherperson can drown a worm if they choose to.
If you’re thinking about a fishing/scouting trip to central Wyoming, be advised that the flow of water from the Kortez and Seminoe dams fluctuates quite a bit during the summer. The water from the North Platte is used for irrigation.
The best fishing obviously occurs when the water flow is slow and steady. The fishing during the spring and summer is very much hit and miss.
Your best bet for a boxcar-sized German brown is during the winter when the flow is low and consistent.
However, any time you venture off the beaten path to The Mile, I think your chances of coming home with some great pan-sized trout are much better than coming home with 12 jars of homemade preserves.
Jim Vanek is a longtime hunter who lives in Greeley with his family.