(all photos courtesy of Darren Petersen and Bob Vanderwater)
If you love large colourful trout then lahontan cutthroat are certainly a species to add to your fly fishing calender. It is a long drive to Washington State from Red Deer but it is so worth the effort. Pyramid Lake in Nevada, has the monster lahontans but that was too far a drive for us, so we settled for a lake in Washington State. Doug, Larry, Bob and Darren headed out of Red Deer at 5 am and by 4:30 pm local time, we had checked into the motel, bought our fishing licence and were rigging up our rods at the lake. The mercury hovered around -5C when we left Red Deer and when we arrived at the lake, the thermometer read 27C.
As I stretched my muscles after the long drive, I could see my friend Claude fly fishing from a lawn chair! Claude had knee replacement surgery just 9 weeks ago and he was not going to let that be an obstacle to enjoying the upcoming week. My buddy Leon gave me a run down on what had transpired since their arrival at noon from Spokane. It was neat having our Central Alberta gang meet up with a few members of the Inland Empire Fly Club.
Claude caught a ton of lahontans from his lawn chair. Each day he hiked up a local mountain as his physiotherapy for his "bionic" knee.
A quick scan of the beach made me smile. The lahontans were cruising along the drop off only 7 or 8 feet from shore. At times, pods of lahontans that numbered 10 to 100 cruised down the shore. I knew we were going to have a great week!
Darren had not caught a lahontan before but that quickly changed with a healthy 21 inch buck! Everybody was hooking up.
The sun slipped behind the mountains to the north west and that signalled us to head to town to get supper at our favourite Mexican restaurant. The owner was there to greet us. He smiled when he saw our gang walk through the door. He remembered us and like last year, the service and food was outstanding. Yes, Doug drank his tequila although his eyes seemed to bug out after the shot glass hit the table.
We knew from our past visits, that damsels were a primary food source at the lake as were sculpins and chironomids. I tied up 100 baby damsels for all to use. The North Forty Fly Shop (used to be called the Big "R") guys suggested we use sculpin patterns with a sink tip line, we preferred sight fishing with our damsels.
Each morning started off with breakfast at 6 am at the motel. A quick stop at the Safeway deli counter and then we were off to the lake. We stopped at a steelhead fish ladder each morning to say hello to the steelies heading up the creek. We saw lots each morning!
Doug's wife, Marlene, baked muffins and an apple pie. They were delicious and quickly devoured.
We lucked out with the weather. No waders were necessary because it was so warm. Out came the lawn chairs as the guys headed to their favourite spots on the lake!
Bob Burton got it just right. He brought his lawn chair down to the lake, sat his Starbucks on the side table, put his gear bag down within arms reach and lit his cigar! Bob was not expecting to fly fish this way but what the heck!
I love to chase lahontans down the beach so I wasn't going to be sitting in a lawn chair. I even hooked three lahontans from one pod. I had to be quick landing the trout and sprint down the shore in pursuit of the pod.
The rookie, Darren, had the fly fishing figured out fast and he was catching his fill of colourful lahontans. Double headers happened all the time, even triple headers.
Doug caught the "tank" of the trip. At some point during the week, we all caught sizeable lahontans. The typical fish were 18-22 inches and we did catch several specimens that were 25 inches or larger!
It was interesting to see that one day, we caught primarily male lahontans; the very next day we caught mainly females.
Bob and Leon, 3 miles down the lake looking for cruisers.
Sight fishing was fantastic!
The week flew by and luckily the weather changed so we did not feel too bad about heading back home. My buddy Leon, like me, loves the camaraderie. We had amazing fly fishing and the gang had a ball. Eating out at the end of each day and talking about this and other trips made the week quite special!
The last stretch of pavement to Red Deer greeted us with a monumental rainstorm. Just after parking the jetta in the garage, it started to snow. The snow escalated to a blizzard, we made it home just in the nick of time.
Yes, we will be back! Great fly fishing and connecting with friends makes my heart soar!