Emerald Lake in Yoho National Park
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High Alpine Lakes: Some Things to Consider

by Garry Elgear

My summers as a youth involved lots of hiking into the high alpine lakes of BC where hungry trout were waiting for my fur and feather offerings. Once school was out, these lakes were all ours, that is, until school’s inevitable grip would pull us back to reality.

Through the summer months, when low elevation lakes start to warm, trout-much like humans-lose their appetite. Hatches start to dwindle and trout begin to sulk, leaving us with poor fishing.

Higher elevation lakes have a shorter window of opportunity from ice off to ice on. The trout feed more actively during this time, increasing our catch rates during the hot summer months.

Considerably smaller in size than our monster triploid trout of BC, the spirit and spunk of these high alpine trout make up for their lack of size, especially when you target them on ultra light pack rods or two-to four-weight fly rods. Fly selection in these lakes is not as critical as color selection. Find a Doc Spratley that is the same color as the lake and you are set. Alternatively, a simple spinner or spoon in your confidence pattern with light line such as four-pound test will suffice in these lakes and can be quite effective since these trout will crush just about anything. The fish are pretty opportunistic and have only a few months with no ice for active feeding.

Usually when you hike in to a high elevation lake one of the many rewards for the effort of the hike in is less people. The pressure is considerably less and the feeling of grandeur is much higher. Sometimes you’ll fish these lakes and feel like you’re the only one that has ever cast to these trout. Another benefit of less people around is that fewer people generally equates to less litter.

Excuse me while I digress a moment; one of my biggest pet peeves is ignorant people who don’t take out what they bring in. I always make a point of a few minutes of garbage duty. Just because it’s not mine doesn’t mean it should be left there. I figure that a little effort and care goes a long way on the karma scale!

While I practice catch and release 98% of the time, hike-in lakes are where I practice the other 2%. If the lake has a healthy population of trout and the regulations say that I can take one, this is the time that I will eat my catch. Nothing is better than fresh trout cooked over an open fire. I’m actually salivating as I write this, thinking of succulent trout flaking off the bone.

There are so many ways to cook a trout when camping, but when hiking in to these lakes, the weight of cooking supplies is an issue. So I’ve devised a simple recipe for Hike-in Stuffed Trout. Pack enough tin foil to well wrap any fish you catch and a small container with a blend of fresh herbs: rosemary and thyme, mixed with fresh garlic and butter. Simply stuff this mix into the cavity of your clean trout, wrap it and cook it on your fire and you’ll be enjoying the best meal ever! Make sure to soak in the glory of your surroundings, the accomplishment of the hike and the fresh catch. Just make sure you take out all you brought in. The bears will surely come for your leftovers.

However, if you have difficulty hiking in to these lakes, don’t despair; there are other options for you. A good all terrain vehicle is great for getting in to the backwoods of BC and negotiating the climb into these high-elevation lakes. Many lakes in BC are accessible by ATV. With a little research and know-how you can access them and have some great fishing.

Most map books will show you the elevations of the lakes you are considering fishing, the higher the better. A good rule of thumb is this: if you can see snow, you should go.

Some of these lakes do not become ice free until late June or early July, so do be careful in planning your trip or you show up to find your little piece of paradise still embraced by winter’s grip. It’s wise to check with local fishermen or hikers that know the area before embarking on your journey.

For even more insight on this topic check out Aaron Goodis’ article in the 8th Annual Lake Guide of this publication, “Fly-Fishing Lakes of the Sea to Sky & Fraser Valley”.

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