Flies for High Lakes

A couple friends and I are heading up to the N. Cascades to fish a few lakes up there. I know for sure we're heading to Hidden Lake, but we may hit a couple others. Anyone have any recommendations for types of flies to bring up there, size and type would be great. Thanks


Active Member
Natelo -
back in the days when I spent a lot of time in the back country my bread and butter flies included:
soft hackle wets tied sparsely in sizes 12 through 8 in dark olive, black, tan, grey, and any other fishy color you like
a handful of chromids (smallish) - black is usually good enough

These ususally were sufficient to cover the periods without surface activity, typically fished them on a sinking line (type 3).

For Dries I always had a selection of sizes and colors of caddis (16 to 10), some BWOs, a couple general attractor patterns (royal coachman, humpies,,etc.) and some terrestrails (flying ants).

If you happen to stumble on a lake with some larger fish, especially cutthroat and couple streamers and any pet patterns that you have confidence would complete the basic box for the alpine lake.

Be sure to include some pretty light tippets and/or some leader sink. During the day on flat water the fish can be pretty spooky.

Tight lines


I would definitely include damselflies (nymphs and adults), dragonfly nymphs, and some hoppers in this heat.

Kent Lufkin

Remember when you could remember everything?
Generally speaking, the higher the elevation you'll be fishing, the shorter the summer is. Spring comes late to the high country and the short, cooler days of fall start much earlier than they do here near sea level. As a result, mountain lake fish have to cram a lot of calories into a relatively few months if they're going to have enough body fat to survive the long winters.

I've found that high lake fish aren't all that picky about specific patterns that match the hatch. If it looks like food, they'll slam it first and ask questions later.

My mountain lake box includes medium to small dry flies, medium nymphs and a few streamers. For dries, I like Adams (regular and parachute), mosquitos, elk hair caddis or CDC & Elk, red humpies and BWOs, all in sizes 14 and smaller.

For nymphs, my go-to pattern is a gold ribbed hare's ear (no bead) in sizes 12 and smaller, but pheasant tails, chocolate-brown soft hackles, copper Johns, lightning bugs and damsel nymphs also work well.

I also pack both olive and black wooly buggers in sizes 10 and smaller. (A friend recently has been tying miniature wooly buggers tied on a size 16 hook with a shank only about 1/2" long. Who knows what the fish think it is, but he says they work far better than the larger size ones.)

I catch almost everything using a floating line with a 8 to 12 foot 5X leader. If weight isn't an issue, you can bring along an extra spool with a clear intermediate, but I've found that it's rare that I have to fish deeper than a few feet to find hookups.

I used to fish the high lakes a lot. I once stood in one spot and C&R 25 cutts and bows between 8 and 10 inches on a size 14 Renegade so it would still be one of my top choices. My other two dries would be flying ant and an elk hair caddis tied with a peacock herl body. You usually won't need a subsurface fly but a black or olive size 14 or 12 beadhead woolly bugger works wonders. The fish can be "brought in" by surface commotion like twitching your fly every few seconds and they readily cruise the shoreline at dusk. I usually take a small spinning reel and a casting bubble to get to hard locations. I use the same flies to save weight though a Mepps Spinner or Rooster Tail will get you fish if you are desparate. They are all put and take fisheries so eat a few smaller ones to add to the experience. Sometimes you get lucky. I once landed a 21 or 22" cutt in a small alpine lake.


Kent Lufkin

Remember when you could remember everything?
Natelo said:
How important would it be to bring some sinking line with me? Dont have any yet, not sure if I have the time to go get some?
IMHO, I wouldn't bother. It's not likely that in a lightly-fished mountain lake the fish will be sulking down deep. I'd stick with the floater instead.