Trip Report Muddling around between Mt. St. Helens and Mt. Adams

I took a week-long vacation last week to camp and fish in the Gifford Pinchot NF. It was a chance to explore an area of the state I have not seen before and try out some new gear. My friend Todd joined me for the first three days. I recently gave him his first fly rod and he was eager to learn.

On the way down, we had an excellent lunch at Cascadia Grill in Olympia. We stocked up on beer, chips, and ice in Cougar and camped at the Lower Falls Campground. What a beautiful spot!

Below the falls salmon were spawning and the trout fishing was slow. Above the falls, trout were eager to hit surface flies. I got all my fish, the entire trip, on various muddler patterns like this one:

Here's the well-chewed MVP fly:

The rainbows were mostly 7-8", with a few bigger fish.

The stream bottom was really interesting. It is volcanic ledge rock with incised channels, so that you walked on rock covered by a few inches of water and cast to channels 4-5' deep.

We took a drive up to the Mt. St. Helens Windy Ridge overlook and stopped to read the interpretive signs. I learned that had the 1980 eruption occurred in the summer, the surrounding area would still be barren. But because the eruption happened when there was 7' of snow on the ground and animals were hibernating in their burrows, most of the fauna escaped the blast and were able to repopulate. There is a nice little lake on the access road to windy ridge that was teeming with life: a million tiny frogs that scattered with every step, birds and snakes, and brook trout. The beavers had raised the water level above what the viewing platform was designed for.
Here's me:

After my friend left on Wednesday, I went exploring on forest roads. I found a nice view of Mt. Adams.

And I found some nice lakes up near "Chain of Lakes."

I packed up my camp on Thursday morning and moved camp to the lakes. The first lake was deep and cold. I got to try out some new gear. My Wilderness Lite Backpacker Pro float tube worked great! I like it better than my Fishcat 4, and it sure takes up less room in the back of the car! I also got to use my new Echo Carbon XL euronymph rod in the 3wt. I bought a Rio multitip system in 4wt from a forum member and had that strung up. It casts great from the tube, even with the heavier sinking tips. But subsurface wasn't getting any bites. Back to the muddler! I got several nice rainbows out of the deep cold lake on the small leggy muddler.

I met a nice couple who suggested that I camp at a nearby lake with a good view of Mt. Adams, so I drove there and set up a minimal camp, leaving my tent in the car for this last night.


This lake was shallow and warm, but had nice rainbows. I got several in the 12-14" range and missed one much larger rainbow. All on the muddler. And the view from my tube was outstanding!

Friday I poked around on FS roads, drove past Mt. St. Helens (with very poor visibility in a drizzly fog) and caught brook trout out of a few small streams. Then home by Friday night.

It was a great trip and my first vacation in a year. We live in such a beautiful part of the country!

I hope you all are getting a chance to get out and explore!



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Sigh. There you are, exploring the great outdoors, here I am puttering around the not-so-great indoors. The envy!

Thanks much for sharing,
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Living at the place of many waters
WFF Supporter
Great report and scenic pics. I'm finding out how versatile that muddler is too, inspiring. Nice, I can put a face to your postings now also. Big smile, love it.
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