May 15, 2015

Friends Trout and Teriyaki

When I was in elementary school, my absolute favorite event of the year was our annual fishing trip to eastern Washington for opening weekend of trout fishing. Forget the water park, Mariners games or the zoo; the boys’ annual fishing trip was the thing I looked forward to the most. Drowning worms, debating which color of powerbait was better, and bringing home a cooler full of trout was all part of the experience. I even wrote an essay in sixth grade about my favorite place; Lake Jameson.

Fins and Friends
Things have changed for me since then. I rarely drown worms, I have decided that the blue and pink sparkle powerbait is by far the most effective color, and I mostly bring home empty coolers that started out the weekend full of beer.

Emerald green waters
I have made a spring trout trip to the “basin lakes” of Eastern Washington trip almost every year except for a few times when living in Idaho. Getting out of Eastern Idaho in April was a bit more difficult than it sounds on this 80 degree day.

I made it happen every year in college when there were many other things that I should have been focusing on; mostly studying… but I always managed to get a friend or two to go camping for a few days while we celebrated the rites of spring at a beautiful lake.

This year I convinced Jon and Ryan to join me at _________ Lake for two days. Jon and Ryan had never met, but I know two peas in a pod when I see them. Both are recent transplants from what I call back East, but both have convinced that Austin, Texas and Chicago are not actually “back East”. But to me, anything east of Wyoming might as well be New York.

Unable to get out of the Gorge after work, we met up at o’ dark thirty in my driveway, the beginning of many epic trips. Three and a half hours after departing Hood River, we arrived at a chain of lakes that I had been curious about for some years now, but had only camped at many years ago with some friends when it wasn’t open for fishing. While I didn’t fish these lakes back then, they were put on my radar and I have been reading up on them and hatching a plan for several years now.

Camping in the Desert
This year however, fishing was the primary objective of the trip. We struggled to find a nice camping site, but eventually found a nice quiet little spot on the opposite side of the lake from the hordes of RVs. I had forgotten that arriving at a busy lake on a Friday morning can make for a tough time finding a good spot, since I am normally not a “weekend warrior” and rarely find myself camping in such a well-used area.

Packing Float Tubes
The lake that I really wanted to explore involved a very short drive, then a “nice” hike. It was maybe a little under a mile over broken basalt, a crooked path and a several hundred foot drop in elevation. Not the easiest thing to accomplish while carrying an Outcast Fat Cat, two rods, and all of our gear and food for the day. After what seemed like too long since we left town, our arrival at the lake could not have been better. There were several nice trout working just under the surface about ten feet from shore where we had just arrived.

One poor cast, made too quickly with a terrible presentation and the fish were gone. We took a minute, sat down and rested in quiet solitude, gaining a bit of focus and calm that would guide us through the rest of the day.

Once launched, it took a few minutes to get the first fish or two to our nets. Jon landed three before I was even settled in. I then missed the first four I hooked, but fish were coming to hand with ease within an hour. The rainbows in this lake were not huge, but they put up a huge fight. We believe this is due to being released as fingerlings; they are forced to fend for themselves and grow strong from an early stage. Fourteen to seventeen inch trout are still dandies in most places on earth.

We soon found this little point in the lake where fish, wind, currents and food all met. Soon after that, we stopped being impressed with double hook-ups and only made a passing notice when all three of us had bent rods at the same time. Laughter echoed across the otherwise empty lake as grown men giggled like school boys every time a rainbow trout went airborne.

Leeches and Buggers
I caught most of my fish on a chironomid nymph, but we all caught fish on just about everything that we could throw at them. Leech patterns, callibaetis nymphs, damselfly nymphs, soft hackles, and dries were all working just fine. Jon mostly fished an olive or black bugger, while Ryan threw a squirrel fur sculpin pattern he calls the Mohawk.

On the way out, Ryan and I hiked into a couple of other lakes as it was getting dark, but didn’t see any signs of life. The approach to the first lake included a treacherous descent of a basalt cliff, and nearly falling to great injury several times. I wish that there had been enough light to get a picture or two of this backwoods journey. The jagged basalt faces, endless thorny brushes and loose rock made our trek more of an adventure than we were expecting. Unfortunately, there were no fish in these small lakes. After such an amazing day, the lack of trout in those last couple of lakes didn’t affect our day at all and I am so glad that we had the opportunity to see these little gems.

Trout bugs

While Ryan and I explored these little side lakes, Jon made it back to camp and was prepping steaks and potatoes for us to be just in time for a gorgeous sunset at our campsite. After a filling meal and a couple of frosty beverages, we turned in to bed quickly. We all slept like bears in hibernation until morning.
Day two proved to be a little bit harder than the first. Jon was too sore to hike back into that lake. His knee was bothering him, so he fished a couple of the lakes that were close to camp and required no hiking. He reported that there were indeed trout in those lakes and indeed, they did eat flies with gusto.

While Jon explored the “camp water”, Ryan and I hiked back into the lake that we hit the day before. While the first day offered a fish every couple of minutes, there were a couple of near hour long stretches on day two that fishing was really tough; alternated with hours of slaughter. While we were exploring a different part of the lake, we got sucked into sight casting for pre-spawning fish in the shallows that were not at all interested in our flies. Once we got back on track working the productive shoreline, it was “game on” again. While we still hooked and landed tons of fish, the best part of the day was spent on unproductive water.
Worth the Hike

The hike into the lake was strenuous the first time. The way out was fueled purely by adrenaline from a day of slaughter. The hike in on the second day was definitely tough. Every muscle in my legs and back burned with every step. Through pure grit and determination, we fished hard until 5:00 and then we had the hardest hike out of a lake I have ever experienced. Every time I looked up from the trail, the rim of the canyon (our destination) appeared to be further away than when we started. We made it out running on fumes only to have to pack up camp and drive four hours or so back to Hood River.

Tiger Trout
A quick stop for Teriyaki in Ellensburg mildly fueled us up for the final couple of hours of driving. Upon arrival at my house just shy of midnight, we haphazardly dumped all of our gear in my driveway and went our separate ways, agreeing to deal with our camping gear in the morning. I am guessing that I was asleep within 21 seconds of Ryan and Jon getting back in the car.

It’s so nice to take a break from steelheading every year and get back to my roots. I don’t spend nearly enough time on a lake, but I enjoy every minute of it regardless of the size or quantity of the fish. No matter where I am, I will always plan to take a weekend in April or May to get out to a desert lake, camp with my friends, and catch a trout or two.

Andrew Perrault
Gorge Fly Shop | Product Specialist

Float Tube Buyers Guide

"Fly Fish the World with Us"

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