Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Defeated at Cottonwood Lake

I passed by Cottonwood lake about a month ago and saw, in the water, that someone had gutted a fish and left its head in the water. The head looked like it would match a trout of 14-16" so I was interested to return.

Last Friday, I talked poor Amy into giving the Float Tube another try and joining me to re-visit Cottonwood Lake. She had only been on one other float-tubing adventure before and it had been a long slog and she didn't like it. I promised her that this would be an easy trip that was a sure-fire easy hike where nothing could go wrong.

I had no way of knowing it would end with sobbing. And vomit.

cottonwood lake
Sunny at Cottonwood Lake

Everything was going great. Easy drive to Lost Lake. Used the F-150 to get up that last little bit to get to the upper trailhead for Mirror Lake. 10 minute walk with tube and trailboat to Cottonwood. Got us inflated and in the water. No noise except birds every now and then.

Great weather -- probably 70 degrees out. Sunny. The lake was full of water though -- not down at all, and that should have been a clue for me. Small fish were rising, but we couldn't entice them. The lake was MUCH larger than I thought it was from shore. There's some kind of optical illusion going on there.

After about 2 hours, Amy announced she wasn't feeling well and she paddled herself to shore. When she got there she said she felt so sick. She had the worst headache of her life she thought she was going to throw up. I told her that she was probably just too cold from the water (she had been wearing thin, breathable summer waders) and that she should try to get warm.

She curled up in a ball, clutching her head and weeping (I have that effect on many women so I was not too surprised). I hurriedly packed our stuff and we started stumbling down the trail. We got about halfway down when she announced that she wanted to sit down but I wouldn't let her.

She then vomitted on my sandaled feet.

After that she slowly got better. Later, at home, she was back to normal, and decided against ever float-tubing again.

Here's what I think happened. The warm, sunny weather kept the top half of her nice and toasty and giving her the impression that she wasn't slowly freezing. But because she was wearing uninsulated waders in cold water (is Cottonwood spring-fed?) her core temperature slowly dropped until her body started taking drastic measures to keep her warm, including giving her the worst brain-freeze ever and removing all the blood from her stomach, causing her to get nauseous...

It goes without saying that I was skunked once again. These alpine lake fish are too smart for me. I was even tring 6x tippet. Maybe I need to go flourocarbon or something.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Okanogan Fishing Report

Ready for Trip
Ready to Go
Amy and I both love the Okanogan region; its that upper-right-hand quadrant of the state right up near Canada but not quite into Idaho. We've been looking forward to this trip all summer (we knew Casey would be in Disneyland with his Grandparents). I bought a new camera and Amy got all pretty (see above), though as she points out, by the end of the trip you can't tell the two of us apart.
Before leaving, we fished a local favorite in the tree farm, Calligan lake, just to warm up. Fishing was slow but we did manage to get a few cutthroat on dry flies. The fall sun looks golden on Amy's skin as she casts to some fish rising in a pocket.
Snake eating a fish
Snake Eating a Fish
The next day we drove as far as the Methow river before we had to stop and release the fishing pressure. The river was crawling with other fly-fishermen and the water was very low. In a strange coincidence, Amy found a snake eating a fish in the river. I think this is a bull snake and a sculpin. And, unlike earlier this summer the snake looked like he could complete the deal.
Steer on the road
The Okanogan countryside reminds us of Colorado where we both grew up. But the region is definitely remote -- a town of 1000 is a metropolis. Often on these trips we'd stay in sketchy 2-star roadside motels with bad beds and funny smells. This time we decided to try to stay in cabins and resorts. Some friends recommended Eden Valley Ranch as accomodations.
eden valley ranch
Staying in a cabin
Our cabin was cute and cozy -- a great wood burning stove kept the interior toasty against the cold air coming down from Canada. We watched movies on our laptops and surfed the net on the Ranch's wireless network -- all the comforts of home, really!
Eden Valley Ranch -- has wireless!
2 Laptops, 1 iPhone, 2 coffees, 3 Netflix = Party Time
If you are in the area, I HIGHLY recommend that you stay there -- Robin will take care of you and tell her that David Holmes sent you.
eden valley ranch,okanogan
Panorama from our door at Eden Valley Ranch
The Ranch is fairly close to the quirky little "town" of Chesaw, where our friends from church, Gordon and Kelly Kyle, have a cabin. They were nice enough to invite us up to their property (only one mile south of the Canadian border) and feed us lunch. It was so nice to see them.
Ready for Blue Lake
Blue Lake
If you are a fisherman, by now you are thinking ENOUGH ALREADY, how was the fishing? The lowlights were Sidley Lake, Big Twin, Blue Lake and Beth Lake, where we skunked. The weather at Sidley and Big Twin was cold and very windy so we were unable to fish them long. We pounded Blue Lake for 7 hours, searching for those big Lahontan trout, but, aside from Amy landing one small 12" juvenile, we left disappointed. We also stopped by several lakes which were WAY lower than they usually are even in October, rendering them unfishable. For example, both Conconully Lakes were ridiculously dry, though the other Blue Lake in the gorgeous Sinlahekin valley looked good.
okanogan,spectacle lake
Morning on Spectacle Lake
The only bright spot as far as fishing the Okanogan region was Spectacle Lake. Terri, who runs the Spectacle Lake Resort told us that it was slow at her side of the lake but good at the other side. We had good success, finding fish all over the west side the 300-acre lake. The Cuda 242 fish finder came in very, very handy, as the fish were definitely schooling at specific depths. Amy caught 13 fish there, and she lost a big one before we could get a good look at it.
Speaking of Spectacle Lake Resort, we did indeed stay there for a night. We literally almost blew ourselves up working the natural gas appliances to heat pork and beans that night for dinner. This is when Amy told me that maybe this trip had gotten a little too rustic for her. The resort also appeared to have wireless, but I forgot to ask for the WEP key.

Video of Amy catching a one-eyed-jack
Even though we fished identical equipment, Amy caught the last nine fish in row on Spectacle Lake. Literally the last three hours she caught fish after fish while I had nothing. Just goes to show you, a woman can outfish a man sometimes.
Rocky Ford
The Ford
On our way back home, Amy steered us to one of her favorite fishing spots, Rocky Ford. There, she continued putting on a clinic, catching four respectable trout on dries, including a monster fish that she swears was over two feet long. I was in the truck at the time having a soda and I didn't hear her yelling for the camera. So there is no picture of the fish of the trip and for that I am to blame.
Columbia River
Columbia River
The most exciting part of our trip was when we stopped at the Columbia river just south of I-90 to look out over the smooth, lake-like water. It was so enticing that we launched our little 12' craft and headed north toward the freeway, paralleling the shore. There was feeling of intense anticipation because there are all kinds of crazy beasts in that water, from 3' Chinook Salmon to 8' Sturgeon. Who knew what we'd catch????
northern pike minnow,columbia river
Columbia River Northern Pike Minnow
I caught three fish: all were Northern Pike Minnows. The water was alive with Salmon smolt and these ugly predators were probably gorging themselves on the poor little guys who were just trying to get 500 miles downstream to the ocean.
Demon Eye
Look closely for the Demon Eye
As we neared a large island in the river, we spooked a couple of big fish were were hanging out at the surface. Amy thought they must be salmon. We continued North and saw a few more. We cast to them and they spooked again. But this time when they swirled about 50 other swirls happened all around us! We were frantic to figure out what the fish were. Finally we got a good look at them -- they were carp and some of them looked to be 15-20lbs. We fished to them for hours but they were very shy, fleeing at our every approach. Though we didn't catch one, pursuing them was exhilirating.
Columbia River
Placid Columbia
It was a five day trip which is one of our longer trips. The extremes were freezing our buns off in Sidley Lake to getting sunburned in the Columbia River. For the most part, the weather was good -- too good. You see, we usually do this trip in October, but I was getting tired of the short days and cold weather during our trips. But now I realize that you have to have those short days and cold weather in order to get the excellent fishing. If you go too early, like we did, you get the nice weather, but often the trout will still be in summer mode. We'll see we what happens next year.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Lower Twin Lake, Pacific Crest Trail

lower twin lake

Redemption. That's what this hike was about. Countless times I have promised Amy that a hike would be easy or short or flat only to have the hike turn out to be long, steep or brutal. When I asked her to go with Casey and I on Sunday on a hike to a lake she refused. I promised that this one would be easy and she still refused. I told her that I had changed and this one would be easy! She reluctantly agreed to try again.

lower twin lake

The trail to the Twin Lakes (the ones south of the Pass) satisfies all these requirements. It's close: 30 minutes from our house. It's easy: 1 mile to the lower lake with only about 200 feet elevation gain. Its pretty. The Lake has fish.

lower twin lake

After the short, easy hike, Amy brought out some apples, cheese and sandwiches for a picnic. I prepared the fishing gear. In this picture, Casey is hunting down frog egg sacks (which were abundant) and Amy is fishing in the background.

egg sack,alpine lake

Speaking of egg sacks, check out this one that Casey found. I told him not to play with them but he said he couldn't help it.

lower win lake,fly fishing,sevylor trail boat

Amy tried out the trail boat and did quite well at it. The lady can throw a line, even sitting down only an inch above the water. Casey and I spotted some fish and Amy paddled over and cast a brown hare's ear to the vicinity. She was talking to us about something and she "oh! oh!" and she had the fish on. It was surprisingly big cutthroat for such a small, shallow lake.

lower twin lake

While Amy kept fishing, Casey and I explored the forest around the lake. There are three nice campsites at the lake, though it probably gets pretty busy during the peak season, being on the Pacific Crest Trail and all. We came across this little log cabin nearby. A sign says private property.

lower twin lake

We crossed creeks on fallen logs and practiced bushwacking some more, coming back to the lake by a different route. In the picture above, check out the WALL OF GRAVEL that this winter's floods had pushed a quarter mile down to the lake.

lower twin lake

When we got home we all felt like we'd been on a much longer, harder adventure. Nice way to spend a fall afternoon.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Lower Loch Katrine, Alpine Lakes Wilderness

loch katrine
Lower Loch Katrine Panorama

There's something about lakes named after women. See the August report for Lake Laura. Well this month its Loch Katrine. If she's anything like her namesake, Katrine is dark and deep and um, full of fish! If you know who either lake was named for, please share.

loch katrine
Self Portrait at Trailhead

Loch Katrine has been on "my list" for a long time. Took a day-cation yesterday to cross it off. The Sevylor trail boat actually fit into one of the paniers on the bike so I was able to take the small day pack. Rode the first (flat) mile, then spent the next three hours pushing the bike up the logging road. Had to park it 1/2 mile from the lake where the road becomes a boot trail.

loch katrine
The Island in the Lake

Arrived at the lake at 1:30pm and took some pictures over lunch. Put my feet into the water. Napped on a log in the sun for a bit -- that was a long walk! A rainbow cruised under my log as I was inflating the boat. Good sign.

loch katrine
Fish Cliffs

The wind gently pushed the little trail boat across the lake, allowing me to hook fish wherever there was structure. The best fish were at the far end of the lake, hanging around these cliffs, for example.

rainbow trout,loch katrine

The fish were definitely hungry. Constant action on flies cast toward shore and slowly retrieved. Over the course of 3 hours, caught 11 rainbows mostly 10-11". Lost another dozen or more. Many seemed thin.

loch katrine
Fireweed on a log in the lake

Remember how the walk up took 3 hours? After I got back to my bike it took only 15 MINUTES to get back to the car. Sort of a surreal end to a nice day.