Sunday, March 7, 2010


Thank God for trail-blazing snowshoers. Without them, the mile-long hike in March down Beaver Creek to the ice-free banks of Quake Lake would be a slog through thigh-deep snow. As it is, even with trail of packed snow and ice, falling through the crust is a frequent hazard. 

And why make the hike? Fish, of course.

Although, today, the pickings were slim, thanks largely to a tactical error only a fly fisher would make. While at the pullout near the Beaver Creek bridge, I debated on the tackle I'd need to match wits with the lake's brown trout. With "lake" being the operative word, I strung up a 7-weight, put a spool with a sink-tip line on the reel, packed a box of  streamers in my vest, and started down the trail to the lake. 

Half an hour later, with my feet planted in the gravel where Beaver Creek enters the lake, and after shedding my fishing jacket, I realized my mistake. With the temperature hovering near 50 degrees, I'd worked up quite a sweat punching my way into the lake. And the same warm weather that caused me to sweat through my turtleneck had triggered a surface midge hatch. 

My sink-tip line and my box of heavy streamers ... well, let' s just say I chose poorly. Watching big trout gulp surface bugs while I dredged the bottom was beyond frustrating. Fortunately, I did manage to hook a couple of decent fish in spite of the obvious preference for the surface action. 

But the real adventure, as is the case more often than not, was in the journey. There's something that makes fishing more rewarding if you have to really work to accomplish it. busting along a partially broken trail into water accessed only frequently this time of year was certainly rewarding, even if I guessed wrong on the tackle. 

And when I hit the Madison a couple of hours later and landed a handful of very nice trout, I felt those fish were my reward for my sacrifice, my earlier penance. I paid for my success in sweat and spit, in throbbing knees and ankles. Time. Energy.


The Madison, of which Quake Lake is a part, can be a finicky river, especially this time of year. But when you get it right, you know it. For a short time today, even though I guessed wrong, I got it right. That's all I need.

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