It was a brisk, sunny morning when we arrived to a small, undeveloped parcel of land near the end of Finley Point along the southeast shore of Flathead Lake.
The lakefront was on a narrow cove with rocky slopes on either side that were steep, but easy enough to climb up to a good fishing spot. The small campsite sat at the bottom of two hills on either side that sheltered us from wind. The land is owned by my roommate’s uncle, who months before offered to let us camp there. I jumped at the chance to check it out during my spring break from the university.
The five of us set up our tents and dug a fire pit. Dark clouds loomed over the mountain range across the lake, but even with an easterly wind the weather hugged the opposite shore.
I wasted no time rigging my pole with a jig lure and night crawler, feeling the heightened confidence I get with the first fishing attempt of the year. I grabbed my fishing pole and clamored across the rocky ridge to a point at the edge of the cove where I thought the water would be the deepest. I wanted to raise a lake trout. Although they tend to stay in deeper water, they occasionally search for food in shallower depths during the spring when the water is colder. I kept this in mind as time ticked by. After a couple hours with no bites, I returned to camp discouraged but still in good spirits.
No rain or snow fell during our three-day stay, but it was cold enough to keep a fire going nearly the whole time. This allowed us to try out various fire-cooked food variations, including “beer can soup,” which involves cutting the top off of a partially-emptied beer can and filling it with potatoes.
At dawn and dusk the next two days, I sat for an hour or two with my fishing line in the water and enjoyed the great scenery. This made up for the lousy fishing. I didn’t get a nibble. The only action came from getting snagged a few times on the rocky shore.
Our camp was visited multiple times by small groups of deer who did not seem to mind our presence. On the final day, I awoke to a pileated woodpecker chipping away at a downed log for hours. It didn’t stop working as I slowly approached it to snap some photos.
The cool Montana spring required us to be constantly gathering wood. Most of our time was spent this way. Otherwise, we just enjoyed the scenery. During summer months, Flathead Lake is buzzing with boaters and other recreationalists, but this early in the season it was pleasantly quiet. It didn’t feel like backcountry camping with large, empty cabins sitting on the ridges to either side of us, but at the same time it felt good to be able to set up a camp on the shore of Flathead Lake on what seemed to be a rare undeveloped site.
As we left Polson heading back to Missoula we were reminded of the erratic Montana spring climate and snow started to fall. I’d love to go back in the summertime and enjoy this spot again.