Golden Fever

by Kris F

My buddy helped me land my “fish of a lifetime”

My buddy helped me land my “fish of a lifetime”

Some fishing locations have a certain reputation and mystique. Montana’s best golden trout fishery is one such lake. It had been on my bucket list for a few years before I finally decided to make the trip several years ago. The stories about the difficult hike and the large picky fish had peaked my interest. I did my research to learn the “best” bushwhacking route, which requires additional miles and elevation gain, but avoids the worst of the downed timber and boulder fields. The last few miles and roughly 3000’ of steep and tangled mess is enough to deter all but the most determined fishermen. I learned about many trips that required an overnight to get in or those that just gave up and turned around. Even more stories exist of those that made it there, but were unable to catch a fish in the big lake and settled for catching small trout in the adjacent nursery lake. I believe one of the articles commented on taking plenty of pictures because they were never going back.

To make a long story a little shorter, I made the trip and caught a nice golden my first trip. I convinced my buddy to make the trip the following year so he could catch his first golden, which he did. In the process, I also caught my “fish of a lifetime,” and witnessed him battle a giant that ultimately got away. The nightmares were so haunting that we had to go back again so he could redeem himself. That same trip, I decided to try to catch one on a bamboo rod, which I did. Those were all with traditional rod and reel.

This year, I decided to try my luck with a fixed line rod. The conditions were extremely tough, hot and dead calm water that is crystal clear. I watched the lunkers cruising around feeding only feet from shore, but they seldom gave my fly a second look, assuming I didn’t spook them before I got the fly wet. Ultimately, I was able to find a cooperative fish that was a very nice representative of the golden population. The first 15-30 seconds were touch and go, but I was prepared with my Flying Dragon 53. That may seem like overkill, but I know how these fish fight and I know the size of some of the fish that Fish & Game have sampled from this lake. Although this particular one was not the 5+ pounder that I was hoping for (and saw cruising), it didn’t disappoint. After an initial straight away run, a couple spectacular jumps, and a few semicircles, I had it in the net.

After the release, I took off the indicator and big weighted fly, collapsed the rod, and started back to camp to get a late lunch, or perhaps an early dinner. As I walked along the shoreline, I watched a group of fish feeding in a shallow bay...within range of my 7m floating line. I quickly got my rod rigged and tied on a size 18 midge emerger. It only took a couple casts and I saw my leader twitch...dinner was served.

I felt satisfied to have accomplished my goal and I enjoyed the rest of that day relaxing and catching small fish with my Traveler 39 in the nursery lake. The following morning I hiked the 12 miles back to the truck, fishing a great freestone for countless chunky little rainbows along the way.

I wonder what my excuse will be for going back again next year...

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“The bitterness of poor quality remains long after the sweetness of low price is forgotten” - Benjamin Franklin

"Be sure in casting, that your fly fall first into the water, for if the line fall first, it scares or frightens the fish..." -
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