Little Brook Trout

It wasn’t long before Mason was propped on my back again on the trailhead to Upper Hazard Lake near McCall, ID. I heard it was the place to catch brook trout, and I’ve wanted to photograph more brookies for the passed three years. With Upper Hazard lake being an easy hike while toting a kid, off we went to prospect for trout.

We had struck gold on the hike up; that’s if you count berries as gold, and we certainly do.  The grouse whortleberry was in full harvest mode and plentiful. The little berry is roughly the size of a BB and hard to pluck off the plant rather than just smash it still attached. Still, as we hiked Gracy would stop and pick twenty or so berries at a time to feed Mason, who devoured them quickly with not so much as a thank you. When the small handfuls were gone, Mase would buck his legs lightly, kicking my side muttering little “mmmm, mmmm” sounds. We took that as his way of telling us he  wanted more.

Picking those little berries takes time, a lot of time, but it made the hike up fun for Mason. I took the little guy off my back after we had reached our destination, and gave him the best view of the lake as I rigged up to fish.

Gracy took Mason out of the pack to discover, once again, that he was quite the explorer. The first thing he did was run towards the lake to get in it, but Gracy was there to lead him the other way. Kiwi followed Mason closely. Not out of love, but waiting for the opportunity to pick up an inevitably dropped lunch item.

Both Gracy and Mason were enjoying some time around the lake, as I set off to fish.

Finding a spot to cast around a mountain lake can be a challenge in itself. I figured with brook trout in the lake I better tie on a smaller fly to start. The little green beetle is my go-to fly for such an occasion. The fly hit the surface of the water and out of the depths shot three little torpedo awards. A tiny mouth engulfed my fly, and a little hook-set did the trick. As the little fish fought to get away I realized I hadn’t even set my camera for underwater shots. A little slack in my line was all the fish needed to spit my fly, and off it swam as I set up my camera.

With as many fish that came up to hit my fly on the first cast, I wasn’t worried if I was going to catch another one. I fired my fly out onto the water and, of course, nothing took. I searched left and right with not so much as a hint of a fish. Where did they go? I asked myself sending my fly out again. Slam!
A hit!
This time I was ready for pictures. I took my camera out and flicked it on. The fish was going crazy as I held it out at arms length, but I still took some shots.

I easily took over one hundred shots of fish before realizing the shutter speed was still a little too fast, and my pictures were coming out dark.

A slight adjustment corrected the problem, and this time I could easily see the fish on the small monitor of the camera.

Taking pictures of fish can be a real pain. First off they don’t like to stay still, therefore 80% of the photos end up blurry or with only a quarter of the fish in the shot. However, when a shot does turn out, to me it is worth the effort.

With over a thousand shot taken, I had confidence that at least one would turn out, and there was still plenty of time left in the day.  On the hike around the lake I ran into a multitude of huckleberry bushes that were ready for picking. I knew Mason would love them, so I did something I never thought I would do. I stopped fishing.

I found both Mom and Mason not far from where I had stopped. They were on their way to come and see me when they too had discovered the huckleberries.
“Hey!” I said happily, not expecting to see them this far around the lake.
“This kid.” Gracy said, playfully.
“He won’t stop eating huckleberries. Look what happens when there are no more.”
I watched Mason happily plucked the last berry from his mom’s hand and pop it into his mouth.

Almost immediately after he had stuck the berry in his mouth, Mason was looking for another one. He grabbed his mom’s hand and lifted it up to to check if there were any huckleberries underneath it. Upon discovering there were none he dropped her hand and started to shake his fist at her while making the “Mmmm, Mmmmm, Mmmmm” sound.  Gracy started picking more, but it wasn’t fast enough for Mase. He started to hyperventilate with anticipation, shaking his hand at his mom all the while.
“Jiminy Christmas!” I said, picking a huckleberry and handing it to my kid. Before this moment he had yet to recognized my existence, but with a berry in my hand I became someone of importance.

“Okay, man, come over here. We are going to catch a fish together.” I said, and brought Mason over to the bank. I held up my fly rod and Mason grabbed the cork with his huckleberry stained fingers.

With the lightest flick, Mason and I prepared a roll cast to send the little green beetle out into the lake. I was surprised that he had the patience to watch as I gave the beetle a little twitch, and had to make another cast. Still his little eyes were fixed on the fly, and finally a fish hit.
“There it is, man!” I said, and together we reeled in his fish.

Mason was happy to see the fish and went to touch it, but the little brook trout flopped itself off the hook. It landed in the tall grass near Mason’s feet, and by the time I got my fingers under its body it had to go back into the water. A little flick of my hand shot the fish into the water, and we all watched as it flicked its tail once, twice, and after a third flick it was gone. Mason struggled to get into the lake after the fish, but Gracy held him tight. The walk back to the car seemed long due to Mason’s need for more berries. But I am happy to report that we made it all the way home without any berry “blowouts” from Mason in his car seat. Instead he waited until the next morning after breakfast. What a purple mess.

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