Some final thoughts on Chopaka

Discussion in 'Stillwater' started by IveofIone, Oct 1, 2012.

  1. IveofIone

    IveofIone Active Member

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    I visited Chopaka on Saturday and fished with good friends on what will be my last trip up there. It was a nice day, a little overcast with a light breeze and average fishing for average fish. Fishing with friends for a change was the highlight of my day and certainly the dinner at Fat Boys in Oroville feasting on all-you-can-eat fish and chips with onion rings and micro brews was a perfect way to close out the day.

    I first fished Chopaka over 30 years ago. On that first trip there was only one vehicle in the campground and a guy and his girlfriend came up in the evening in a Honda sedan and caught fish form the bank on an Adams pattern. Primarily a stream fisherman at the time I knew little about lake fishing for trout but did okay fishing right up against the reeds with wooly buggers. I remember the fish being strong and aggressive with hard takes and spirited fights. Over the years I made occasional return trips but each time it seems that the crowds increased and the experience diminished. Before Friday the last trip I made up there was a couple of years ago and it seemed like there was a record number of rigs parked around the lake. There was about 25-30 guys on the lower end lined up in a daisy chain soaking cronies. I was fishing 20 feet of water just at the upper end of the campground and just hammering fish on a full sink line when the wind came up. It quickly blew everone off the lake and left long foam streaks down the center of the lake. It blew us all the way back to Fat Boys for hamburgers, onion rings and micro brews while we contemplated making such a miserable drive for 2 hours of fishing.

    It is one of those places about which the perception seems to exceed the reality but if you haven't been there you must go simply to fill out your resume'. Are there better lakes with bigger fish and more enchanting surroundings that are much easier to reach in Washington? Definately. In fact Islander and I spent a couple of days on just such a lake last week where we caught a double armload of 20"+ fish up to 23" and more 17''-19'' fish than we could keep track of. So if you are anything like me in wanting to avoid fishing with a crowd start doing your homework. If you are driving to Chopaka every year just because you always catch fish there you are doing yourself a disservice by not expanding your reach and applying your experience to other waters.

    On Thursday I fished a lake where I was the only person on the water. I only had a couple of hours to fish but landed probably 15 gorgeous brook trout up to 15", I'm sure there are bigger ones and I'll go back in the spring when I have more time to explore. And on Saturday the four of us fished our favorite Okonogan brook trout lake and had it all to ourselves. The fishing was crazy good, the fish feisty and the lake charming.

    So if I find myself in a similar situation again with our particular group of friends going to Chopaka I will simply take my boat over to Palmer and pound the banks for smallies. I have wanted to do that for years but just never made time for it. So essentially my messaage is this: Find your own Chopaka. There are so many good lakes in Washington that are underfished and have good sized fish and almost no pressure. They are a pleasure to visit and some times the fishing is mind bogglingly good. Find these places and enjoy them and for christ sakes don't blab about them on the internet. Treat a good friend or two to them when possible and hopefully they will still be good the next time you return. If Chopaka somehow fulfills your need for an adventurous drive or is your gold standard for quality fishing you need to raise your sights. Chopaka will always be the same-a rough dusty road with hordes at the end fishing for average fish that have seen every type of fly known to man. Some years will be outstanding, some poor, some average , sometimes winter kill. But always the crowds. You can do better.

    Ive
     
  2. atomic dog

    atomic dog Jive Turkey

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    I've never fished Chopaka, though I've been up there on a drive with my in-laws (They used to live in Loomis). Honestly I was never quite sure what the appeal was. There are so many reports on here of making the long drive up there just to fish that lake that, as you said, always seems to have crowds. Is it because it's designated as a "fly fishing" lake? There is so much stinking water up there to explore. Maybe it's not regulated for fishing flies, but much of it sees little pressure it seems.

    I've had some ridiculously good times hopping around boulders fishing plunge pools and beaver ponds on some of the skinny water up there too.

    Also, you really should get up and poke around Palmer some time. There are some BIG smallies in that water.
     
  3. troutpocket

    troutpocket Active Member

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    I've come to appreciate that certain waters act as "fly paper". I like to get the reports because I can use that data point as an index for other destinations.
     
  4. Rick Todd

    Rick Todd Active Member

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    Ive-it was nice to meet you at Chopaka and your thoughts are just like mine (and watching Scott catch lots of fish while Patty and I went fishless didn't help my attitude about Chopaka!) I can tell you are a man who values good food and good company just like I do! We need to meet at one or more of the lakes we talked about. I will look forward to next spring! Rick
     
  5. Topstoy

    Topstoy Member

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    Nicely said Ive, I have found many great lakes in the area that have great fishing and their own kind of beauty. I hope to meet you some day on the water.
     
  6. mtskibum16

    mtskibum16 Active Member

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    Thanks for your thoughts. Coming from an area with much less people, I too enjoy a bit of peace and quiet while fishing (and good food afterwards). I don't have much experience fishing lakes but I hope to get out and explore next spring - find my own Chopaka as you said.
     
  7. Guy Gregory

    Guy Gregory Active Member

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    Chopaka holds lots of great memories for me given the few times I've been there. It's always been crowded, but the crowd has usually been jovial. I remember several years in a row in the early 90's the gentleman who would, just before noon on Canadian Memorial Day, emerge from his trailer dressed in full dress Scotch regalia, row across the lake, ascend some fair distance, and at high noon exactly would play Amazing Grace on his pipes.

    And I've driven that road in a 77 Honda Civic many times, what's wrong with you guys?

    But yes, I've other memories at other places, and there are many, many Chopakas, most without Gore-tex hatches.
    Thanks, Ive, for your eloquent post.
     
  8. Scott Salzer

    Scott Salzer previously micro brew

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    Ive:

    It was a real pleasure to fish with you for a couple of days. I finally started getting brookies and had once very nice, colorful fish of about 17" - got a decent picture but it just doesn't do justice to the real thing. I also enjoyed the travel conversation. Thank the misses for the sweet treats - very good. Good advice on taking the road less traveled.

    Rick:

    Good to see you and Patty again. I look forward to seeing you later this month. Sorry about my catching, I get lucky once in a while. BTW - nice raft!

    MB
     
  9. Vladimir Steblina

    Vladimir Steblina Retired Forester...now fishing instead of working

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    When I lived in Colville in the early 80's I would drive over to Chopaka on my birthday in late September and have the entire lake to myself. It was great.

    It is a nice lake and usually a nice social experience. I guess I still have one trip left since my wife has never been there and now wants to camp up there. We missed this year due to the fires in Wenatchee.

    However, some people always assume that their values should be your values. The gentleman and the bag pipes is one reason to avoid places like Chopaka. The difference between rap and bag pipes is ONLY time measured in centuries. The more crowded the spot, the more inconsiderate the neighbors. At least it was NOT a Mariner's ballgame being broadcast over a loudspeaker which I experienced at another lake.

    There are much better lakes for catching fish. Chopaka is like taking a kid fishing. It is not about the fishing. So enjoy the company and the scenery. Save your serious fishing for other lakes.
     
  10. Islander

    Islander Steve

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    It was fun fishing with all the folks, but I have to agree with Ivan as to the work versus the reward. Basically, I hate that road! The fishing was good and they fought well but there are some other quality lakes with better access and less crowds. I hit one on the way home that I had all to myself and fished excellent, thanks to Rick.
     
  11. mtskibum16

    mtskibum16 Active Member

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    I've never been there so I don't know what the road is like, but I've always enjoyed driving rough unimproved mountain roads. Different strokes for different folks I guess. Although, said roads usually lead to uncrowded locations so that might be the difference here.
     
  12. SteveA

    SteveA Gnu to the board

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    Agreed. What's all the hubbub about the road. It's a 7 mile stretch of Forest Service road. Big whoop.
     
  13. Vladimir Steblina

    Vladimir Steblina Retired Forester...now fishing instead of working

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    It is an Okanogan County road. That's why it is in such good shape. It is merely steep and going out is no fun when the washboards take hold.

    Have you driven Forest Service roads lately??
     
  14. Nick Clayton

    Nick Clayton Active Member

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    All this talk of this awful goat trail of a road is making me itch to take my Dodge over and see what all the fuss is about. Spent many summer weeks in my younger days crawling around the "backroads" of BC looking for off the radar lakes. We learned real quick that when the guide book said a 4x4 was necessary to gain access they TRULY mean it
     
  15. Preston

    Preston Active Member

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    As a member of the Washington Fly Fishing Club, Chopaka has, for many years, been an annual pilgrimage over the Memorial Day weekend for the club's outing. The weather has ranged from snow to 90 degree temperatures but the camaraderie and the Sunday night tempura fish fry have always made the trip more than worthwhile. Crowds have varied over the years but the beauty of the setting has always made it a very special place. The fishing has changed over the years and I will always have hopes that the days of absolutely massive Callibaetis hatches, seemingly bringing every fish in the lake to the surface (said fish averaging a fat 18-20 inches) will return. As to the road, its reputation far exceeds the reality.