Chasing Rainbows

A high-lake adventure

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

The sky was dark and the moon was still glowing when our fishing guide reeled us out of camp that morning.

Even by trail crew standards, it was an early start. So early, in fact, that Uncle Don neglected to zip the side pouch on his rucksack all the way shut. That didn’t cause any problems during our first mile of road hiking, but when we had to duck beneath the locked gate at the bottom of the first clearcut most of his special bait mixture spilled out.

It wasn’t pretty.  There must have been more than 100 mini-marshmallows on the road. And Uncle Don, being militant in his practice of Leave No Trace ethics, wouldn’t leave the area until we’d recovered each and every one.

Meanwhile—as we crawled around the gravel hunting dainty delicacies in the dark—our fishing guide took the opportunity to engage his turbo-thrusters and disappear up the road without warning.

Normally, this wouldn’t have been a problem. But being that neither Uncle Don or I had ever navigated the arcane network of decommissioned logging roads that lead up to Stovetop Basin before, we were compelled to proceed at an unsustainable rate just to catch up with him.

Fortunately, it soon became apparent that our elusive fishing guide possessed sufficient forethought to anticipate our quandary. A bouquet of hot-pink flagging tape looped conspicuously around a fir sapling helped us select the first crucial road junction in his absence. And when we encountered another flagged junction about a mile later, we intuitively followed that one too.

Finally, after meandering wildly through a circuitous five-mile maze of well-marked but increasingly washed-out and impetuously overgrown thoroughfares, we emerged through a steep stand of heavy timber onto the shore of the lower lake just in time to take full advantage of the first subalpine insect hatch of the day.

But our fishing guide was nowhere to be found—he used the extra time he’d gained to ascend a courtesy footpath to the upper lake—so that meant Uncle Don and I had the entire shoreline all to ourselves.

He cut far left toward a distant marshy opening while I veered rightward to the first available outcrop of cast-friendly rocks. The boulder top I claimed couldn’t have provided more favorable piscatorial conditions. As I heaved my rucksack onto a conveniently situated log, I watched in wide-eyed wonder as the gin-clear surface of the lake erupted in a cacophonous boil of leaping trout.

But within a precious few seconds of rifling through the contents of my pack, it became apparent that I’d forgotten an essential item. Although the absence of my collapsible rod was regrettable, it didn’t stop me from landing my daily limit of chunky lunkers before lunch.

A length of monofilament line wrapped around a stout stick did the trick on my first three rainbows. And once Uncle Don filled his creel up, he was happy to rent his rod out—for a minimal fee, of course.

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