“I can’t find Goose Lake Road on the map; all I see is Goose Creek Park Road.” Gracy said, as she looked on her phone to find our turning point.
“It will be there, this is Roger we are talking about.” I said, as we drove. When looking for a trailhead, the last thing you want to do is miss a turn and go the wrong way. But we were following Roger Philips’s Hiking and Angling McCall book, and I knew he wouldn’t send us on a wild goose chase. I had tripped the odometer to get an idea how far we had gone, and we should have seen the road at any time.
“Oh there it is.” Gracy said, pointing at the road to turn on. Low and behold it was the same popular road leading to Brundage Ski Resort.
“I knew Roger wouldn’t let me down.” I said as I took the turn…and now only 25 miles to the trailhead.
25 miles is a long way on a gravel road, but it seemed short with the surrounding view. Gracy and I took our time driving up the mountain and were quickly passed up by my brother, Kris, and his friend Becky, who seemed to be in a real hurry to get there. Naturally we would have all fit in one car, but they both wanted to bring their dogs and that required taking two vehicles.
Picking the first season’s alpine lake to hike to was quite the process. If it was up to me, I would have picked an easy, quick lake to hike to that offered some nice fish to catch. Gracy, on the other hand, was more interested in the hiking than the fishing. She wanted a longer hike, with a nice easy trail to follow. After a little digging through some hiking books, we found that Rainbow Lake in Roger Philips’s book offered just what we both wanted.
The sprinkling rain was enough to keep the dust down, but was not heavy enough to make the trail muddy. The recent rain, paired with the cloud cover, really made the air crisp and the colors of every plant pop with vibrancy.
“Smells nice out here huh, Brother?” I asked, as I put on my pack.
“Yeah, it smells really nice.”
“Hopefully the fishing will be good for us.”
“I can’t wait to catch a fish!” He said back enthusiastically.
I was all synched up and ready to go when I looked over at Gracy, who looked very cold.
“You will warm up after a quarter mile.” I reminded her as she put on her fleece sweater.
“I want to put it on anyway, because I’m cold now.” She said back.
“I’m putting mine on.” Becky said, as she and my brother joined us at the trailhead with their dogs, Coot, Becky’s French Mastiff, and Oakley, Feef’s Golden Retriever. Both dogs were happy to be on the trail with no leash, and led the way down the path.
“Okay, stop.” Gracy said.
“Hot?” I asked, as she unclipped her pack.
“Yeah…” She said, “I was going to try and make it a bit further, but then I realized I’m not that proud.”
“I think I’ll take mine off too.” Becky said, also removing her pack.
“Have we even made it a quarter mile?” I asked my brother, who rolled his eyes and sighed very loudly.
“Shut up!” Becky told him, then slammed her pack in his chest for him to hold. My brother let out a whimper as he grabbed the pack, then acted like he was going to throw it down. In the process of taking her sweater off, Becky missed my brother’s joke, and that made us both laugh.
“All you guys do is laugh at each other all the time.” Becky said, clipping her pack back on.
“It never ends.” Gracy added.
“It’s because we are funny.” I said.
“Yeah, only to each other.” Gracy noted, as we continued walking.
Although the path was relatively flat, there was still a fair amount of effort involved when hiking it, so the breeze that picked up was a welcomed natural air conditioner to help cool us down.
“Did you guys hear that bird?” Becky said, excitedly.
I looked over to my brother, and we were sharing the same questionable look: we hadn’t heard a bird…
“There it is again!” Becky said looking at my brother then looking at me.
I looked at my brother like I had just smelled something wretched, then he spoke.
“Are you serious?” He said, as if he was scolding a toddler. “That’s the wind blowing between the dead trees!”
“Oh!” Becky said, laughing with embarrassment.
“There it is, that wonderful bird call… what is it?!” Feef yelled, doing an exaggerated version of Becky’s excitement.
“I guess you can take the girl out of the city…” I said, looking at my brother with a drooped head and wide eyes.
Between my brother and I, we will beat a joke to death, wake it up, and beat it again, which is what was happening to poor Becky. Every time the wind blew hard enough to howl between the branches, we would ask each other what kind of bird that was and if we could see it for a rare photo.
The only thing that could take us away from insulting a friend was the possibility of throwing grasshoppers to feeding fish. We came to a log that had a bunch of little green grasshoppers on it, which brought us back to the topic of fly fishing.
“I hope the fish are active for you today, Brother.” I said, as we drew nearer to the lake.
“Me too! What fly are you going to tie on first?”
“A pico spider of course!”
“Good choice!” Feef said, excited to have finally reached the end of our path and see our destination.
“The water looks good, Brother!” Feef said with enthusiasm, and he was right. Just near the shore we saw a fish rise, and we both looked at each other, smiling.
“Hey check it out, a raft.” Becky said, and jumped on a fallen tree to balance her way over to it. Coot quickly followed, and was not timid at all about getting in the water.
While Becky and Feef looked around the lake, Gracy and I found a nice place to sit back. I unclipped my pack to start rigging up my fly rod. I opened up my rod case when I noticed there was no rod in it.
“Oh no, Brother. I forgot to put your fly rod in the case.” I said through gritted teeth.
“Are you kidding me?”
“Sorry, Brother. I guess you and Becky will have to share.” I said, looking at Becky.
“I’m not sharing mine!” Becky said quickly.
“Whatever, yes you are!” Feef complained.
Gracy just sat back, eating her lunch, while Feef and I bickered about leaving the fly rod at home. It wasn’t long before I had my other rod put together, Feef had hijacked Becky’s fly rod, and we were both fishing.
My pico spider was slammed after a few twitches on the water, and I brought in the first fish of the day. The little brook trout fought with all its might, but bringing it in was as easy as pie.
The little fish bolted as soon as I slipped it in the water, and I was back to casting again. I was walking further and further away from where the path ended on the lake, and casting along the way. Blam! Another brookie nailed my fly, and before I let it go I got a quick shot of it underwater.
“Did you get one?” Gracy asked, as she walked over to see how I was doing.
“Yep, but they are little.”
“Okay, I’m going to keep walking.” She said, and started her trek around the lake. Becky was also walking with Gracy, with both Coot and Oakley following. Oakley was being very timid about getting in the water, so Becky picked him up and threw him in. They were far enough away from me to not disturb my fishing, but from then on Oakley was not afraid to hop in the lake whenever he wanted.
Gracy and Becky were walking further around the other side of the lake when a gust of wind blew over, bringing a downpour of rain.
In a matter of seconds I was drenched, and I could see Feef, who was on his way to join me, starting to walk back to the trailhead. Gracy was there trying to call us back, when the rain stopped pouring on my side of the lake. I looked up to see the wall of rain still drenching Feef, Becky, and Gracy, and they were waving for me to come back.
“There’s no rain over here!” I yelled, and I saw by brother stop to come back my way.
“How’s it going over there, Brother?” Feef asked me as he approached.
“It’s good over here. A fish took my pico spider so I switched to the little green beetle. How about you?”
“I’ve only caught one fish.” he said bitterly.
“Yeah, I didn’t have a pico spider or a little beetle.”
“Why didn’t you ask me for one?”
“I don’t know…”
Just then a fish took my fly, and I brought it in quickly.
“Are these brook trout?” Feef asked.
“Yeah, they are cool huh?”
“Yeah, I have never caught one before. The pattern on their back looks like a tiger trout.”
“That’s because they are a crossbreed between a brown trout and a brook trout. The colors of the brown trout are all over the fish, while the maze pattern of the brook trout covers their bodies.”
“That’s cool.” Feef said, as I placed my trout back in the water.
I handed Feef a green beetle, and we both went back to fishing; however, my beetle ended up in the water, while Feef’s ended up in a tree behind him.
“Damn it!” He yelled, walking over to his snagged fly.
“Don’t worry, Brother, I caught a fish for you.” I said, bringing in another brookie.
Feef was able to unhook his fly quickly, and was back to casting.
“There’s one!” Feef said with happiness. He was using a superfine fly rod, which is a softer rod, so the little brook trout was putting quite a bend in the rod as he brought it in.
I too had hooked into a fish, almost right after Feef had. It was a nice little trout, and I did my best to get another underwater shot of it.
“Come over here and hit this spot.” I said to Feef. He gathered his fly line and stepped into the small spot I had suggested.
“That looks like a nice spot.” He said, looking at the lush bushes that created a nice shelter for an unsuspecting brook trout. Feef pitched out his fly, and WHAM, a brookie nailed his fly as soon as it hit the water.
“There it is!” I said, as Feef brought in another little trout.
“Do you know what time it is?” I asked.
“Well, we better start heading back to meet up with the girls.”
“Ok.” Feef said, and we started fishing our way back.
“Do you see them anywhere?” I asked, while looking on the other side of the lake.
“Me neither, but I would have liked to walk across the entire lake to fish near that rock wall.” I said, and that’s when we saw them: both Gracy and Becky had climbed to the top of the rock wall and were waving at us to get our attention.
“Jesus!” Feef said, unimpressed.
“Is it just me, or does it look like they are jumping around right near the cliff’s edge?” I asked.
“Wouldn’t surprise me. Becky would be the one to get too close, trying to look over, then fall off it. Then we would have to carry her out.”
“We? She’s your friend…” I said.
“That’s messed up, Brother.” Feef said, laughing as we made our way back. We all quickly met back at the trailhead where Oakley came up to say hi.
“What the hell… You look like Swamp Thing.” I said, petting his nose, because it was the only part of him that was not dirty.
Before we took off, Feef and Becky wanted a picture by the lake. After we all had our packs on, they got one last picture before we headed back.
The temperature was dropping fast and the wind was starting to pick back up. The howling sound came from the dead tree branches again, and Feef and I looked at each other, smiling.
“Not again, you guys killed that joke on the way here.” Gracy said, but Feef and I still thought it was funny.
“That rain looks like it’s headed our way.” I said, looking over to the angry clouds on the neighboring mountain top.
The cars were now in sight. We got to them quickly to gear down and get in before the rain started. We had no sooner pulled the cars around to head out of the parking spot when the rain hit. Large droplets of water pelted my windshield, but now that we were in the car looking out, it wasn’t bad at all.
As we drove out, we saw alpine lakes just off the road.
“We should come back here and hit some of these in a day.” I suggested.
“That would be fun.” Gracy said back, “Maybe we should camp up here.”
“Good idea.” I said, passing Hazard Lake on the road back. I slowed down to get a better look at the lake, but the rain was making it hard to see. So much to fish and so little time, I thought before rolling up the window, leaving it cracked to take in the fresh smell of the rain on the way down the mountain.