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Hung Up in the High Mountains

Ulterior Motives

As it is with every fly fishing addict, I am always jonesing for the next time I’ll get to wet a line. So when I go on a camping trip with my brother and his girlfriend and they suggest going on a hike, naturally my first thought is “what creeks or lakes are on the trail?”. Turns out there was a nice little high mountain lake on the trail they wanted to hike. I was sold. I packed up my gear and strapped my rod case to my backpack and off we went. 

We made our way across the cascade range and cut through the town of Roslyn before reaching the trailhead. The hike was absolutely gorgeous and the early July weather made for crystal clear views. It turns out going on lunchtime walks and standing in rivers isn’t sufficient preparation for going on high elevation hikes. My cardio kicked my butt, BUT the 360 degree view at the top was majestic. You could see what felt like the entire cascade range and we had a clear line of sight to Rainier. The best part was, I could see the lake that we passed on the way up... and on the way down I would get to fish that turquoise gem.

Stillwater Bound

I was so eager to hit the lake I pretty much galloped down the mountainside. We spit off on the side trail that serpentined downhill to the lake and soon enough I saw the crystal-blue glacial water peaking through the trees. I rigged up a dry fly as fast as I could, kicked off my hiking boots, and walked out on a log to get past the barren shallow water. 

The sun had been beating down in a toasty July fashion all day with close to zero wind. But as soon as we got down to the lake, the wind kicked up pretty fierce. I was casting into a stiff headwind which was making it hard to get my line far enough out to the shady structures that hold fish. I had an ostentatious amount of line out as I tried to shoot for the shady structures and wound up snagging the trees on shore. Thankfully my brother was there to the rescue and untangled my rookie mistake. I ditched my log strategy, bit the bullet and waded through the freezing cold water (up to where my abs should be) in order to get closer shot at the fish. Unfortunately, the lake floor was silty and muddy and had bits of sharp wood fragments scattered randomly beneath the soft surface. It did not make for a pleasant barefoot wading experience, but I was on a mission.

The 3 Cast Ultimatum

I got far enough out and decided to give my feet a break when I found a semi submerged log to hop up on. The wind would get tired every so often and I timed my casts during the lulls so that I could shoot a proper amount of line. Now we were fishing. I saw a little trout rising near a woody structure about 25 feet away. I switched over from my streamer to an elk hair caddis. Stealthy and strategically I casted my fly, landing the fly a couple feet away from where he surfaced and slowly honing in on my target. The fish just wouldn’t bite. Not understanding my stubbornness when it comes to catching fish, my brother and his girlfriend said that I only got three more casts before we had to head back down the mountain. Leaving without a fish was not really an option in my mind. I likely would’ve stayed till it was fully dark to get a fish if it were my choice. Anyhow, I kept on casting. One cast right where I wanted it...nothing. Second cast a little to the left, wait for a few seconds… nothing. Third cast in the same spot as the second and GULP! A little rainbow took the caddis right off the surface. I stripped the line in and brought the creature in with my hands. It is funny how your expectations for a nice fish can change depending on where you are fishing. When I get a 7 incher on the river I am happy but not overly thrilled. When you’re on a mountain lake and catch that some 7 incher, spirits are at all time highs. I’m glad that I got the trout on my last cast because I’m sure it saved me from bickering with my brother about how I refused to leave until I hooked at least one lake creature.

No Rod Left Behind

Hikes are amazing on their own, but fishing in the high mountains adds a whole new level of excitement. I have vowed to myself that I will always pack a rod when I know there’s a body of water along the trail. I would recommend you make the same vow so you don’t kick yourself the next time fish are rising in a mountain lake.