Wednesday, August 12, 2015
The Quest for Golden Trout
Steve and his buddies' quest for golden trout was a success. The trip started well before the guys donned their hiking boots and packs to tackle the tough hike up Owen Creek. The guys did a "shakedown trip" to ensure their gear and legs were ready for the challenging adventure. We are lucky to have several high alpine lakes that have golden trout here in Alberta. Off of Highway 11 you can hike to either Michelle Lakes or Coral Lake and in southern Alberta you can hike to Barbaby Lakes, South Fork or Rainy Ridge. You can hike into all of them or you can helicopter in as well. Steve and his buddies elected to hike to Michelle Lakes. There are several routes to get in. The guys choose the most direct route which is literally straight up Owen Creek. Owen Creek is just off of Highway 11 just before you enter Banff National Park. You head up Owen Creek right behind Mt. Wilson. A number of years ago, there was a forest fire in this steep valley and so there is deadfall to negotiate everywhere. As you can imagine the going can be tough. I understand that there is a bit of a trail but for the most part you are bush wacking until you hit the tree line. Yes the trail is steep but the reward is amazing. If you decide to helicopter in, the ride is definitely amazing. Many years ago I hiked Owen Creek. My legs were scrapped up pretty good from the willow along the steep tumbling creek.
As you hike up Owen Creek, you get glimpses of the glacier on the backside of Mt. Wilson. Most people admire Mt. Wilson from their car as they tour down the Icefields Parkway. Few adventurers get up and personal with this area!
As you hike to about 6500 feet, you break out of the trees onto a long steep scree slope and eventually you hit a pass and then you excitedly take those wobbly legs down to the Michelle Lakes. Camping at Michelle Lakes is spectacular. The views are amazing. There are some protected places to camp in the event of bad weather. My first trip there one late August included an all day snowstorm.
Michelle Lakes is well above 7000 feet. The fishing season here is only 8 short weeks long. The last 4 weeks of the season can be almost impossible. Karen and I had to cancel a helicopter trip to Michelle Lakes one September when a snowstorm turned the area into a winter wonderland. We did manage to get the trip in a week after.
The excitement of arriving at Michelle Lakes will quickly help you forget that your legs are sore and tired. The beauty of this harsh alpine area and the opportunity to catch golden trout will make you realize that the big bucks it would cost to helicopter in was still in your back pocket.
Steve reported that the fishing was decent. The guys concentrated their efforts on the lower lake. Micro leeches and small nymphs allowed them to catch several goldens. The goldens had not turned colour quite yet. They were mostly chrome. Nevertheless what beautiful fish to catch.
It is not unusual for you to see big horn sheep along the lake.
This is definitely a 'bucket list" type trip! The hiking in this rugged area is spectacular. The peaks and ridges give amazing views.
The hike out is way easier but yet it is still challenging because of the steep terrain and vegetation as well as deadfall.
I bet the guys will be talking about this trip for years to come. Well done fellas!
Heading up Owen Creek
The hike gets quite steep as you head up Owen Creek!
Michelle Lakes from the top of the pass
Finally at the Lake!
Golden Trout do not grow large. You will catch the occasional 12 to 14 incher.
Lower Michelle Lake
Steve even had a double header! Cool!
Small flies work best. Here are Steve's best two flies.
A size 18 micro leech tied using Harders Bloody Black Ice Dub and a size 18 Christmas Tree chironomid tied with olive thread and extra small red wire for rib with a red glass bead head!.