Fishing at 6,000 feet


The other day during our snow storm I was looking at a photo of myself, our fishing guide and a huge Brown trout I caught fishing the Madison River in Montana when I was a publisher for my old company, Dickson Media. Jeff, my son, took the picture. It brought back wonderful outdoor memories living the western lifestyle. The story below was a special day way out West and today, the old place I describe is now the Moonshine Gulch Saloon with paved roads coming up from Lead and Deadwood, SD. It’s probably a favorite hangout for Sturgis bikers.

His talons were outstretched headed directly for my head. I was prepared to duck underwater. At the last moment the beautiful Osprey veered off to my left to swoop down and snatch a rainbow trout from the lake’s surface.

I had assumed the Osprey was after the rainbow I had hooked and was trying to reel in as fast as possible. That moment was just another wonderful outdoor experience I enjoyed while living in the Black Hills. I was fishing in Deerfield Lake, the highest in South Dakota at over 6,000 feet.

Judy had moved back to Tennessee and I was going to follow her three months later. My weekends were spent fishing and camping in the West. The remote mountain lake above Hill City was a perfect place to escape the 100-degree heat in Sturgis, SD. At 6,000 feet the crystal clear air barely reached 70 degrees and it was a perfect day trying to persuade rainbow or brook trout to eat one of my prepared flys.

I was fishing from a float tube; a fancy fabric covered inner tube designed for lake fishing. It had little pockets; a backrest and other gadgets fishermen seem to need. I used special fins to propel myself through the water. Getting into one of these contraptions is a delicate balancing act. Walking in fins with all your fishing equipment is next to impossible. Once in the water though it’s a great way to fish.

The state record brook trout was caught in Deerfield Lake at 8 pounds 5 ounces. I was happy to catch the smaller rainbows. I was the only person on the lake that Saturday morning. It was complete solitude except for the Osprey buzzing my catch. The bird of prey only nests in the Black Hills and is a threatened species in South Dakota.

As the sun climbed higher and wind started kicking up, I decided to call it a day and tubed my way to shore. I knew one of the best hamburgers in the state was waiting for me only a few miles away.

I climbed into my truck and headed down the dusty mountain road toward Rochford with a population of 25 and elevation at 5,305 feet above sea level. The Rochford Café was famous for huge burgers and is one of the most remote towns, settlements, or ghost town in the Hills, if not America. Only a few hardy bikers during the Sturgis motorcycle rally make the trek to Rochford. Most of the roads are gravel in this part of the Hills.

I pulled into Rochford. The old wooden building would be as you imagine a café in the old west. Inside was an old potbellied stove, old wooden chairs and tables even a worn out faded pool table. The menu was a folded piece of thin paper.

When you look up the first thing you notice are all the hats nailed to the ceiling. It’s tradition that if you take your hat off the owner will grab it and nail it to the ceiling. I had heard about this and pulled my old hat down tighter on my head.

The husband and wife owners greeted me. “Been fishing, have you,” they inquired.

“Yes, mam. It was pretty good today. An Osprey attacked me. Nearly took my head off,” as I expanded the story in traditional western style.

“I’ll have one of your famous burgers, order of fries and the coldest drink in the house, please,” placing my order.

The old grizzled man went back into the kitchen and started my order. I could hear the meat sizzling, the fries frying. The lady who was obliviously the boss and I carried on a conversation. I noticed a photo on the wall of her feeding a baby deer and asked her about it.

“Oh yea, that’s my pet deer. I’ve raised a bunch of them. They come by every afternoon to be fed,” she said proudly.

After finishing my delicious meal. I traveled back down the mountain into Lead, Deadwood and then Sturgis. It was still over 100 degrees but the day had been almost perfect except I was alone and had no one to share it with except myself. I called Judy and told her about the Osprey. Today, she doesn’t remember the story. I do. That’s what makes that day special.


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