The Change-of-Plans Trip
I was planning on going to Alberta last week to fish for big bull trout and cutthroats. But high and lingering snowpack and some torrential rains had the rivers running high and dirty. So I decided that I would head to the Beartooth Mountains of south-central Montana and backpack in to fish for golden trout and cutthroats. Before I loaded up with my backpack though, I wanted to hike into a lake that's just a couple of miles off the highway and, according to Montana FWP anyway, should have held some pretty big cutthroats (20-24"). It's only two miles from the trailhead to the lake, but it's a several hundred foot drop, followed by a several hundred foot climb, then another big drop and another big climb to 10,000'. The lake is just over that hill:
I finally made it to the lake, and it was absolutely stunning:
There's plenty of backcast room, as you can see. This is the view behind me from where I was casting:
Anyway, the lake didn't turn out to be what I was hoping for. I didn't see any large fish, but the lake was instead loaded with tons of little (~6") cutts after the FWP stocked it a couple of years ago. Oh well, maybe in a few years it will be loaded with giants again. I'm all about little fish, but that wasn't why I was there. I fished around the lake, and without seeing anything of any size, I headed back to the truck. Unfortunately, I'm a little bit fatter and out of shape than I was last year. Last year I was able to backpack/hike 38 miles in 4 days. This year, I was going to go for 42 miles in 4 days, but after making just that 4-mile round trip at that elevation, I realized I was not going to be able to do what I had planned on. At least not comfortably enough to actually enjoy myself.
So, I decided to head back to some water that I had been to a couple of weeks before. When I was there two weeks ago, one of the streams I wanted to fish (that I'd never fished before) was still too high and off-color to fish, so we tried a different nearby stream and had good luck. The water was high then, but clear. The fishing was good, but the fish were really only holding in the deep, slow pools, out of the current. Or at least the only fish willing to hit a fly were holding in that water. Well, two weeks made a lot of difference. Now a lot of holding water was clearly defined, and low and slow enough that the fish were looking up. I made it to the stream about 4 in the afternoon, and proceeded to catch about 20 or 25 fish in the next three hours.
This guy was the best fish of the day, a surprisingly nice fish for the water he was in:
And, of course, he splashed the camera lens... jerk.