Monday, August 10, 2020

Wild Flowers, Tamarach, Cutthroat and Brook Trout in Banff National Park

Karen, Steve, Taryn, Dr. Bill and I just got back from 4 days in the backcountry chasing cutthroat trout, enjoying the wild flowers, camping and exploring. It is an area that we have been before but the land is so spectacular that we had to go back again. We hoped to time our hike with the wild flowers blooming. We hit it perfectly! We knew the weather was going to be narly but we were all strong, well prepared hikers and we had booked this trip way back in January. 

We loaded up and took until mid afternoon to hike the 15 km to a Parks Canada camping area to set up. We climbed up into the alpine where the wild flowers were amazing. Last year we were a bit late to enjoy the wild flowers in all of their glory. This year, we hit it perfectly! As we headed up the pass, the weather started to change. We topped the pass and the rain showers began. We layered up. Both Steve and I decided to carry our good camera equipment and we lingered in the pass taking photos of the colourful alpine flowers. The stunning colours made the effort to carry the extra camera gear well worth it. Karen was getting chilled and had to pull out her winter coat. We finally headed over the pass and worked our way down 4 km of switchbacks to our camp site. Dr. Bill wandered ahead of us and got set up. Once Steve, Taryn, Karen and I arrived; the showers tapered off and we were able to set up without our gear getting wet.

After a snack, Steve and I grabbed the camera gear and my tenkara rod and headed to a small creek that we knew was full of beautifully coloured brookies and west slope cutthroat. We were trying to get a few "eat" shots. We had fun enjoying the willing brookies and cutthroat. We took a break for supper and then got right back to it! As dusk set in, it was time to get into our tent for a well deserved rest. Karen and Taryn enjoyed a visit in our tent while Pepper the dog kept a close eye on pikas and Columbian ground squirrels. Just as we had settled in our tents, a light drizzle turned into steady rain. The rain kept up all night but fortunately tapered off in the morning.

We were relived that the rain stopped but the wind was blowing. We were heading to 7200 feet to revisit a lake with beautifully coloured cutthroat trout. We had another pass to climb and then a beautiful meadow to wander through before climbing a rock fall area.

Once we topped out and saw our destination, we knew that we were going to be dealing with a serious wind. Dr. Bill said it felt like being at Jurassic Lake in Argentina. The wind was rocking. Well, we found a rock wall to hide behind while we set up. I was quite distracted by the amazing wild flowers. I stopped to take photos. By the time I got fly fishing, everybody had caught some cutthroat. Casting was tough with the wind. I had a stretch of 6 casts with 6 straight crazy tangles. Grr, frustrating.

Well the cutthroats were incredible colours. Steve and Taryn only fished dry flies. Now think of the fact that the lake is rocking. Steve and Taryn were using chernobyls. I was amazed at their success considering the wind gusts at over 80 kph.  Karen, Dr. Bill and I used small balanced flies. We also did very well.

Everybody had to find a spot to warm up. Snow started to fall but did not last too long. We all had to find a rock wall to hide on the lee side of so we could warm up. I went off to take pictures of the wild flowers and soon Karen and I went to a small shoal that was mostly out of the wind. Karen caught a monster on the shoal. I found a spot to sight fish and had a ball. Pepper hung out with us.

As late afternoon approached, we all decided to head back to camp. The hike back takes about 90 minutes. Once back at camp, we got our supper from the storage bear proof bins. We devoured our dinner and wound down the day with some drinks. We all got into our tents early. The rain came back so we just settled in. We had made the most of a tough day to fly fish.

Steve and Taryn were hiking out in the morning while Dr. Bill, Karen and I wanted to explore some other lakes in the area the next day. We said our good byes to Steve and Taryn. They had a new puppy (Chili) to pick up the next day. Dr. Bill, Karen and I explored two other lakes that also had cutthroat in them. We caught lots of smaller cutthroat and we were mostly out of the wind. We were back in camp early so Dr. Bill and I got out the tenkara rod and fished the creek in front of camp. We had fun catching smaller brookies and cutts.

After a hearty supper in the drizzle, we crawled into our sleeping bags. The sky cleared, and the mercury went well below zero. We were snug in our tents.

Our last morning dawned clear. After a coffee and granola; we packed up to head back up the pass that headed to the parking lot. It is a good grunt. We lingered at the summit. We got out the map to identify lakes and mountain peaks. As we headed down the pass to the parking lot, we enjoyed the amazing wild flower colours. Three hours later, we were heading to Canmore for a well deserved beer and a burger.

The weather was less than perfect but we were all well prepared. The fishing was excellent. We did not let the wind ruin our big day. Sometimes things do not go exactly as planned. We fished 4 lakes and one creek. We had a fantastic 4 days.

Steve Luethi photo

Steve Luethi photo



Unknown said...
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Unknown said...

Thanks for always capturing the moments, Bob! - Taryn

Bob Vanderwater said...

You are very welcome Taryn!

Flylife83 said...

Awesome shots as always