Trip Report Time Travel Is Possible!

Old Man Jim likes to check out little blue lines on maps. I like to check out little blue blobs. I did a solo day trip to a new-to-me lake in the upper reaches of the Santiam country in the Oregon Cascades.

From the maps and Google Earth the lake appeared to be not much more than a puddle, but while it was a sure thing I wouldn't catch fish sitting at home there was a chance the lake might have fish. I remembered comments made by old-timers decades ago, back before I was one of them. I went in at mid-week and when I found the trailhead I was pleased to see no other vehicles. I struggled into the pack straps of my Fish Cat with waders, boots and fins lashed to it and headed up the hill. The trail was clear and good for the first quarter of a mile, and then in a tight little gulch I ran into this:

A big cedar had gone down and all the branches on one side had sheared off into a head-high tangle of interwoven leg-breakers, spears and daggers, 20 feet front to back. With the float tube I couldn't penetrate the jungle of rhododendrons and vine maple flanking the mess, so I had to pick my way across. When I exited the far side it was like travelling back to the 1950's. The trail width shrunk by half and the understory was closing in on it.

Though the lake is less than a mile from the road I arrived to find no fire rings, no campsites, no beer cans, no toilet paper in the brush, no hatchet-hacked trees, no Power Bait jars, no tangles of mono, no Tampax tubes, no bottle caps, no trash of ANY sort. Not a gum wrapper, not a cigarette butt, not even airsoft pellets! The little lake was partially ringed with a fringe of dead beaver-cut willows and the rest guarded by marsh, vine maple thickets, and boulders the size of Honda CRV's. Long-fallen firs could be seen under the water surface. There was nowhere for an angler to bank fish. “Pristine” was the first word that came to mind. “Tiny” was the second. This pond is small!

From atop a beaver slide that would let me get my tube into the water I watched the lake for several minutes. Nothing disturbed the surface except one Rough Skinned newt. Bummer. But, I was here and had nothing to lose so I launched and finned out beyond the sunken snags. It really was a pretty little lake.


Ten minutes with a soft-hackled pheasant tail yielded nothing so I swapped it out in favor of a small black bunny leech and WHAM! Showtime!


This first fish measured 16 inches on my stripping apron. So did another. Over the next few hours I brought several more fish to hand. Some took the leech, some took a chironomid fished naked with a slow retrieve, some took other flies. It was a grand and solitary day. None of the fish were mortally hooked and that made it even better. I'm 72 and pretty sedentary so backpacking that awkward tube through the blowdowns was a chore, but I got back to my Jeep a tired but contented old coot.

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