It’s Trout Time!
From now until the end of September, maybe first couple weeks of October, some of the most beautiful country in the lower-48 can be found in the Cascades. Beautiful summer-like days, sparkling lakes, plump huckleberries, uncrowded serenity at its best punctuate the opportunity that awaits the eager angler.
In some cases you can drive right to the lake, others require some hiking but they’re perfect targets for a weekend, or better, a long 3 or 4 day weekend getaway.
If you’re in Washington, use the Department of Fish and Wildlife’s website and you’ll find plenty of trout lakes to explore. They have a whole section populated with hundreds of lakes that boast an “overabundance” of fish. In Oregon, The Guide To Fishing In Oregon is required reading if you’re interested in finding new trout water in the state. You’ll quickly find hundreds of great targets, there’s more than a thousand to choose from.
Finding where-to-go takes a little effort but you can figure it out quickly.
Wherever you live in the Northwest you won’t have to drive far to find fabulous trout fishing. In all cases, probably in less than 2 hours, you can be in a beautiful secluded wilderness area teeming with trout.
Over decades of trout fishing I’ve learned not to overthink it. A small box of spinners loaded with Roostertails and Panther Martins, some spoons like a Little Cleo or Kastmaster will work just about anywhere you go. If you prefer bait then Power Bait or Pautzke’s Fire Bait are great choices. We have some advice on sizes and colors in our earlier blog entry titled “Trout!”.
I’ve learned to keep meals quick and the hundreds of freeze-dried choices make it easy. REI has plenty, you’ll find plenty more online. Boil water and you’re set. No fuss, no muss (aka “mess”). There are plenty of powdered coffee mixes that work, tea is easy too.
You will need to be able to make water…that is, filter it so you remove all the potentially nasty parasites and bacteria that lives in most pristine lakes and streams. Very important! Giardia is nothing to mess with and if you can easily avoid it then why chance it? You can also just boil what you need that works too but if you want water to drink filtering it is a whole lot easier and faster.
Tents are affordable, so are camp chairs, a table and stove if you’re car camping.
If you’re only hiking in two or three miles, packing a few creature comforts is always welcome after a day of fishing. A light camp chair may come at a cost of an extra pound but you’ll welcome it as much as you will a nice sleeping pad, sleeping bag and good hiking boots. A good set of binoculars is an excellent idea especially if you plan to hike to a viewpoint.
Know that NW forests are tinder-dry so no campfires. A little Jetboil stove is all you’ll need if you go freeze-dried (BTW, you don’t need to eat oatmeal every morning, they have freeze-dried biscuits and gravy, egg dishes and other breakfast makings that are quick, easy and tasty).
The more time you spend cooking, cleaning and setting camp, the less time you have for fishing and other fun.
Be sure you bring some butter, fresh onions, salt, pepper, maybe a clove of garlic for those thick mountain trout you’ll be catching. And a pan to cook them in. If you really want to jazz it up you’ll bring some mushrooms and green peppers too.
There can be so much more to these trips. An hour of photo work, capturing some choice moments or landscapes you can frame and enjoy the rest of your life. Foraging. Late summer berry picking can be very productive in the Cascades. Side hikes, lounging, camp craft and wildlife watching are all meaningful additions to these trips.
Only keep what you’ll eat. The days of the bodacious stringers of dozens of dead trout dangling like wind chimes is long over. We know better now. Fishing has evolved nicely where trips are measured by the quality of the experience and not how many fish you can catch in a day.
A little homework for these trips goes a long ways. If you’re just getting started try car camping or a short hike-in of a mile or so. Get acclimated to the experience. Learn from each outing and get better at it.
I’d taken a break of a few years from backpacking. Mind you, I’d hiked most of the 2,650 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail over several years so I was no newcomer to backpacking but it had been a while and I needed to refresh some of my trekking skills. So I set out on a pretty simple 3 mile in and 3 mile out two night trip. It was early summer in the Cascades and it poured. The hike-in was brutal, all uphill over slushy, muddy and slippery trail, but I took my time shouldering around 40 pounds of gear. I felt every ounce of it. The outing was fine, I got wet, but clearing skies on the way out had me damp and not drenched.
When I got home, out of curiosity I weighed all the gear I hadn’t used. 17 pounds! I would have much preferred to carry 27 pounds than the 40 I’d schlepped in…it was a definite learning experience. On subsequent trips I shed that 17 pounds and carried increasingly lighter packs which improved my backpacking experience immeasurably.
If you’re new to the outdoors, camping, backpacking, etc. use each trip as an opportunity to learn and refine your skills. All this stuff takes time and if you don’t get overly ambitious and can have fun as you grow as an outdoorsperson, there’s so much more to be gained as you improve your skills.
There’s also plenty that can be done at home before you go. Learning how to operate your stove at home is a good place to start. Setting up your tent is another good skill to learn at home. Try making a freeze-dried meal at home. Just so you know how it’s done and what to expect. The more guesswork you take out of your trip the better. You’ll have enough to deal with wherever you’re headed. And you’ll only need a few minutes to do all this.
Now’s the time, there’s so much fabulous opportunity to enjoy this time of year it’s a shame not to at least commit a long weekend to spending some time out in the backcountry of the Pacific Northwest. Catch a trout or two, set camp, enjoy the solitude, fragrance and majesty of a world that’s worlds away from the city but only a short drive to experience.