Catch Some Trout on Rock Creek
Way up past Red Lodge, roughly following the Beartooth Highway, Rock Creek originates in Glacier Lake. It dips down into Wyoming briefly, and then flows through Red Lodge, Roberts, and Joliet before emptying into the Clark’s Fork of the Yellowstone. The entire creek is a great place to go fishing; you can hook into a lot of trout regardless of where you are. However, I find one of the best places, especially for ease of access, is the Rock Creek Fishing trail just north of Roberts.
The trail starts at the edge of the parking lot for the rest area on the way to Red Lodge. You have probably seen it; it is just after the bend in the road right before you cross over Rock Creek. The sign starts the trail and it is a short 50 yard walk through the trees and over a swampy area to the shores of the creek. From there it is up to you if you head upstream or down. The fishing is great regardless of which direction you go.
Fishing Rock Creek is pretty easy. It is open enough that you can fly fish without worrying about hooking into a bush or tree. But my favorite is to simply load a worm onto a hook, throw it upstream and slowly reel it back in as it drifts down through the deeper water. You are almost guaranteed to catch quite a few trout (brooke, rainbow, brown, and cutthroat have all been pulled out of this area) in an afternoon of fishing on the creek.
If you are looking to fish the creek, you need to get out there soon. In the next few weeks the weather will warm up and the mountain snow will start to melt. When this happens the creek swells to at least double its regular size. The mud gets churned up, the water moves faster, and despite the fact that you won’t catch fish it is pretty dangerous to even try. But the water level will come back down, and by early July the creek should be calm and clear again. Head out on a nice hot afternoon, put on some old shoes or sandals and just walk right through the creek as you make your way from hole to hole. You can fish the creek all summer and into the winter if you want.
While you could hit up the creek to go watch wildlife, fishing really is the main thing to do here (at least this particular spot). There are no picnic tables, and no lush meadows in which to throw down a blanket. The trails really only run from the parking lot to the edge of the water, so there is not much hiking to be done either.
If you head out there, bring some waders while the weather is cool. The trails don’t go very far and to get most places on the creek you will need to walk through the water. Pack appropriately for the weather, and there is quite a bit of private land that goes right up to the water’s edge, so respect the owner’s and don’t trespass. To get to the access take Highway 212 that head from Laurel to Red Lodge. Shortly before you get to Roberts the road does a little S curve, and the rest area will sneak up to you on the North West side of the road. There are two entrances, so if you miss the first one just hit up the second. Here’s a map of where you need to go. If you do go, try not to go on a day I will be there. I don’t want any competition.