Trip Report Report: Golden Trout in a Cascades high lake


Active Member
I've wanted to catch a Golden Trout for a long time, and since moving to Washington four months ago I've been studying stocking reports and maps of high lakes. I figured Labor Day weekend was a good time to try a lake that had been relatively recently stocked with them (2012), where almost nobody goes, because there's no trail and it's crazy to try to get there.

The trip started with 3,000 vertical feet of this sort of thing:

From there on the route got easier in places (huckleberry meadows), but much worse/scarier/steeper in others. I really should not have been up there alone.

I did, at least, catch some pretty Cutthroat at a lake 600 feet below my destination for Golden Trout, which was a pleasant surprise since this one wasn't listed in any stocking reports. Fish of all sizes were active and rising all over, but I didn't want to linger too long so I only caught enough to make sure they weren't Golden escapees from above.

In the afternoon of the second day of the trip I finally reached my destination lake, and fish were rising.

They proved difficult, though. I could see them well, briefly cruising into the shallows and then back out into the depths, occasionally rising once in a spot before moving on. Unlike the Cuttthroat in the lake below that would slam any dry fly in their general direction, these Goldens were easily spooked by a line landing on the water, and they weren't feeding consistently on the surface. I saw maybe 15 fish during 5 hours of fishing in the afternoon, missed 3 strikes, and had no hookups. It was really demoralizing after so much work and stress to come so extremely close and not quite make it.

My last chance would be in the morning, but I couldn't afford more than an hour or two at most to fish, because I would need most of the day for the downclimb. I was up at the crack of dawn lacing my boots when a fish started rising consistently, right in front of camp. This time luck was on my side.

It was the only consistent riser that morning, and the only fish I needed to catch. The sun rose shortly thereafter, and I broke camp.

The climb back down to the car was a brutal 11 hours on steep, sketchy slopes. I got back to the car bruised, cut, blistered, parched, more exhausted than I've ever been (including sheep hunting in Alaska), and stung by a mess of yellowjackets. Two days later it still hurts my legs to stand up. I never need to go this radically off the beaten path for a trout again, but I'm glad I got one.

I posted a much more detailed trip report on my website with more pictures. The lakes are still anonymous, though. Partly I don't want to throw any extra pressure at Golden Trout, but that's not too much of a concern here. It's more that I don't want to encourage anyone else (unless they're in superb shape and with a tested partner) to take on this ridiculous hike. All the places to find these fish are hard to reach, but most of them should be much easier than this. I'll be doing one of those next time.


Active Member
Yeah, Saturday was smokeless. Sunday I could see the pyrocumulus clouds towering in the distance in a couple directions, I think from the fires at Teanaway and Pasayten. Monday started out clear, but the wind was blowing the smoke across the nearby mountaintops as I left camp in the morning, and it was a bit smoky for the rest of the day.

Jim Ficklin

Genuine Montana Fossil
Congratulations. Absolutely spectacular report, country, trip & the "Gold" at the climax of your quest! Great photos on your website also. Forum rules prevent me from "liking" this enough. Thank you for sharing.

I remember such journeys in search of Goldens & other high mountain trout from many years ago. Goldens just seem to always be in beautiful, pristine & remote places. Fortunately, there was a golden lake near home & but for the last mile or so of a 15 mile journey could be reached on the back of a horse. Those fish were smaller than one you captured on camera but they were every bit as gorgeous & elusive.

It was the only consistent riser that morning, and the only fish I needed to catch.
This pretty much sums it all up perfectly. While I envy you your saga, I thoroughly enjoyed my vicarious journey (and a trip down memory lane). Thank you for sharing one more time . . .


Active Member
I once hiked 9 miles to catch a six inch golden on Volcano creek in northern Cali. Nice hike, be careful around here on how you handle fish and then post pictures. I got no problem with you lippin em, but you might catch shit for it. Thanks for sharing a great trip. Mems.


Active Member
I got no problem with you lippin em, but you might catch shit for it.
I'm not worried about that. I think it's a bad idea if you're using the lip to hold them up at an angle other than vertical, or you're doing it with a heavy fish. But for trout this small and light, a vertical thumb lip hold is a nice quick way to get a clean picture without scraping off a bunch of slime and get the fish back in the water. I've never encountered any evidence to the contrary in my training as a salmonid ecologist, but if someone knows of a scientific paper contradicting this impression I'd be interested in reading it.


Wild Trout forever
I encourage all WFF readers to visit Jason's web site to read a longer account of his trip and see more of his great pictures. I thoroughly enjoyed both. Thank you, Jason, for including us in your adventure.
I agree, to go the site. Super read.

I have said it before, Golden Trout can make finicky Brown Trout seem like opening day planters. Golden are buggers to catch, often.

Always try and give myself a few days at a lake to learn, heal and get up enough guts for the hike out. And, oddly enough, bee stings and Goldens go hand in hand.

Great report, thanks for sharing!
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Active Member
Just read your report. Fantastic!

What a great trip and good on you for taking on that adventure. I've got many hours & days of humping the PNW and know how tough the terrain can be. Moving through that terrain with 100 lbs of lightweight gear I got a whole new respect for the WWII 10th Mtn Div, guys as they did much of their training here.
Great report! A fellow WFF member and I tried to go there one spring and had to turn back due to snow. Looks like it's worth the effort.

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wadin' boot

Donny, you're out of your element...
Spent a while trying to figure out how you got there but could not come up with an easy route, the photos make it look serene, the humping it through the topography looks like a royal bitch...


Active Member
Spent a while trying to figure out how you got there but could not come up with an easy route
There isn't one! And the sketchiest parts of the route are in spots along a ridgetop that look very easy on Google Earth and topo maps... they just aren't fine-scale enough to show some of the terrain obstacles in the mountains in general. In researching this spot I found a couple of reported routes on hiking/mountaineering sites, so the info is out there, but the climb up and down is really bad even with a known route to follow.

I think my knees still ache from a trip I took in 1969!
Given how long it's taking my legs to stop hurting, I'll be saying that same thing about this trip in the year 2065.