Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Snow Lake II

Snow Lake, late in the day

I don't usually double-dip anymore; that is, I don't fish the same place twice in a row. In fact, last year I didn't fish the same place twice all year. That was actually a resolution I followed just for fun. But last week's trip to Snow Lake was so enchanting I made an exception and went back there today.

This time I arrived by myself and WITH my Sevylor Trail Boat. I floated the North Eastern quadrant of the lake for four hours. There was a constant wind which kept my back wet (a drawback to the fishing a large lake in a small flotation device) and required me to row constantly just to stay oriented. As a result I missed half of the strikes I got.

Throughout the afternoon I netted 7 fish, all between 2" and 7". I hooked another half-dozen fish, including some that felt like they had some heft but they all got away, to be caught again another day. As I packed my gear in the late afternoon, I decided that next time I'd start on the Western side of the lake. Or maybe just move on to Lake Caroline beyond!

Friday, August 13, 2010

Bikinis at Snow Lake

Alpental's Snow Lake

Snow Lake, at Snoqualmie Pass, is the one of most beautiful places you can see in an afternoon. The last time I'd been there was over ten years ago -- I had hiked to it before I got the fishing bug. Why hadn't I been back there in 10 years? Three reasons: One, its never been known as a good fishing lake. Two, due to its southern flank it stays frozen well into June (July, this year). And three, because of its moderate difficultly, the Snow Lake trail is extremely popular. Its still well worth the visit, just go on a weekday and avoid the worst of the crowds if you can.

Casey and I arrived at the parking lot at Alpental and started hiking at 11am on a Friday. I made a mistake and didn't bring proper footgear for Casey; he started out the hike in some old sketchers sandals. We had to apply band-aids to the blisters on his heels at the two mile mark; just when the trail starts climbing the Northern wall. The climb up the wall is quite easy, to our delight.

Snow Lake

As we topped the crest we were greeted by the beautiful sight of the largest alpine lake at the pass: Snow Lake. By now the old sandals had eaten through all four of the band-aids in my first aid kit and Casey elected to go barefoot the last mile to the lake. The descent takes longer than you'd think. We ate "Strawberry D" sandwiches (Grandpa Al's jam and peanut butter) on the lake shore. Casey chased a big frog while I threw flies at rising fish. A good sized trout (12") cruised up right in front me. I tossed my fly out to it and it rose up but then refused at the last second.

a trout passes by us

Around the shore from us, a dozen young people were frolicking in the water. Some of the girls were in bikinis and the others were just in their underwear. You don't see THAT at every alpine lake you go to! I'll take that over bears and dudes with guns any day!

Bikini Model

I caught a 6" trout from shore and I waded out to my waist trying to catch another but didn't get one. There was an honest-to-goodness bikini model posing in the water nearby and a photographer with a DSLR was snapping away. I later got my own picture (above); its from far away and its grainy but it proves what I was saying for the disbelievers.

Casey walked back to the trailhead ALL FOUR MILES in bare feet. Everyone we passed commented about how tough he was and he ate it up. I was proud of the guy and I've been telling him so ever since. This 8 miles hike is his longest so far, and 5 miles of that with no shoes! When we got home he had to take a bath and his blisters hurt so bad he cried. Poor guy.

If you've never been to Snow Lake, definitely DO go, don't miss this true gem. I recommend going on a weekday in September. The crowds will have thinned significantly, and the cooler weather will keep the aggressive deer flies at bay.

Take exit 52 and go north into Alpental. Park at the large parking lot at the end of the road. Be sure that you have your North West Forest Pass, which you can get at any ranger station for $30.

I plan to go back, so maybe I'll see you on the trail!

Northest Forest Pass

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Fly Fishing From Colorado

Okay, I'm feeling a little guilty. Soooo many of my blog entries this year have been not exactly in the Valley. And this one is even further away than most! Most years wewe take a vacation to visit our families back in Colorado, which is another fine fishing state.

The Gunnison

This year we were in Colorado for 9 days. My father and I drove up to Grand Mesa and fished a lake that we had "discovered" last year and we had a ridiculously good day of fishing. It was non-stop action from launch to take-out. Between us we landed maybe a dozen fish, and lost many more. We fished until the last possible moment and then high-tailed it home, with five trout for my mom (who fried them immediately).

A couple of days later, we returned to the same lake but were soon caught in a summer thunderstorm. The rain and hail were NAILING us as we motored our little boat back to the launch. I was breaking down all the gear when a flash of lighting lit everything around me. A tenth of a second later the thunder ripped the air all around, chasing me into the truck's cab. My dad, who was safe inside, said that he thought it had hit less than 500 feet away. I had no choice, I went back out and kept stowing gear. Again, lightning struck very nearby and I found myself in the cab again a second later. Finally, I had to go back out and finish stowing all the gear, knowing that we are at 11,000 feet in the middle of a lightning storm. I got it done but just barely.

We drove back down into the valley, surrendering the Mesa to the storms. Our map showed a body of water on the way home that we were unfamiliar with; the Fruit Growers Reservoir of Orchard City. The launch was decrepit, the water was murky and there were signs that said something about health hazard but they were so shot up with buckshot that we couldn't read anything else. We launched anyway, and caught Carp for a few hours using flies and worms under indicators.

I explained to my dad that Carp is the new rage in the PNW but I don't think he believed me; "Do you realize that they call these fish 'turd suckers' in Texas?" he said. I told Casey that and he thought it was hilarious. Anyway, the strong-fighting Carp were a hoot! They were chasing minnows in the shallows and we could tell when they were near us because all of the sudden the water all around our boat would boil with little fish jumping out of the water in fright. We'd put our flies and worms in the water and BOOM, carp on.

Skunked on the Gunnison

Amy and I took a morning and fished the Black Canyon of the Gunnison, one of our favorite places in the world to fish. But sadly on this day, the fish just weren't co-operating at ALL. We fished HARD for about 5 hours with not a single tap to show for it. The water was low and the sun was hot. It sounds like we had just missed a great stone-fly fishery by a couple of weeks. As we were driving out Amy said dejectedly "The Gunnison is no longer my favorite place to fish."

In Loveland, we tried to fish for the carp in the nearby irrigation pond (they grow HUGE there) but again, the fish weren't co-operating! I hooked one but broke my fly off in its face. Part of the problem was that almost every single day we were in Colorado we were plagued by intense afternoon rainstorms. In the photo above, the blur on the right isn't a smudge, its yet another thunderstorm coming. The rains definitely kept the temperature down but they also supressed the fishing, too. I can't remember ever getting rained on so much in August!