Thursday, April 17, 2008

A Fishing Story

The next morning after my near disastrous experience on Mt. Hooker, I decided to do something a little less risky and every bit as much fun. I loaded up my daypack and set out up the drainage full of little cascades and pools until I reached the natural dam that forms Baptiste Lake. The large lake is nestled near the base of the shear vertical wall of Mt. Hooker that makes it such a distinctive landmark and even has a small glacier (or at least did) at the far end.

I put together my fly rod, tied on a fly and began searching for fish. Seeing them was no problem because the water was completely crystal clear. At one point, I climbed a big rock hanging out over the lake and looked into the water. The bottom seemed just below the surface and yet when I dropped a pebble, I watched it tumble and turn over and over for many seconds before coming to a rest. I estimated that I could see at least forty feet straight down through the water. I fished for a couple hours as I spotted them. With clear waters like that, no sense wetting your dry fly without a fish in sight. But I had to be careful because if I could see the fish, they could see me and often did, darting a way at the last second. This lake probably gets fished quite a bit so it was no surprise that the fish were skittish and over the few hours that I fished, I only hooked a couple but on my barbless hooks that I use for easy release, they both got away before I landed them.

Enjoying the day, I found some shade underneath some scrub brushed among some big rocks along shore. Well above tree line where I was makes the sun very intense at times and the last thing I wanted to do was to fight sunburn for the rest of the trip. I pulled out a book and began reading the day away, stopping occasionally for a nap or some food. Late in the afternoon, I saw a figure crest a small rise between Baptiste Lake and the face of Mt. Hooker and walk up to an inlet stream about a hundred yards away. After the man had washed up in the lake and ate his lunch, I walked over to exchange pleasantries. He had just crossed over the pass (that I had ran down yesterday in the hail storm) humping 150 pounds of climbing gear that he and a climbing partner were going to use to climb the face of Mt. Hooker. He would make another trip over and back for the rest of his gear tomorrow but tonight he was just going to catch a fish for supper and go to sleep.

Although there I was standing with a fly rod and this guy had nothing but the clothes on his back and an empty plastic baggie that had once contained his lunch, I refrained from asking him how. I didn't have to wonder long because he soon excused himself and walked up the little feeder stream a dozen yards, lay down on his belly and scooted up to the edge where the grass was overhanging the bank. He draped his arm over the bank and submerged it elbow deep in the icy cold water. Perhaps ten minutes went by when suddenly he jerked up hauling a nice three-pound cutthroat trout out by the gills. He pulled a pocket knife from his pocket and within about a minute, a gutted and cleaned fish was glistening on the grass. He shook my hand, picked up the fish and headed over the little rise towards the base of Mt. Hooker. I grabbed my stuff and headed back towards camp, duly impressed.

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