There is a trophy golden trout lake in the Crazy Mtns of Montana that I've been meaning to get to for a few summers now. It's known well for two things: large goldens and its difficult accessibility. I've heard the hike is off trail and very difficult. But I've seen pictures online of the lake and and its large goldens....so I know other folks have made the trek. So I figured I would give it a look.....I was confident I could probably make the hike, I was just worried that I could find the way. Well, I didn't make it......half way thru the hike there is a creek you have to cross but it's way deep down in a canyon about 200 feet deep. And you must find a place in the canyon to make a scramble down to the creek. I walked up and down the ridge all day long and I couldn't find it. This is one of those places that you have to have someone else show you how to find the way or you're not making it. Freakin' shame too......the thought of holding a 20 inch golden in my hands seemed like the perfect way to cap off the summer. I was pretty devastated.........
My attitude was pretty cracked and I was feeling very sorry for myself. As I walked back down the drainage I noticed how pretty the main creek was. There was a section about a mile long filled with amazing little waterfalls and plunge pools. The stream looked like storybook trout habitat. Every fifty yards was another beautiful waterfall or chute. It was gorgeous. I figured if I couldn't make it to the lake there was time to savor this little headwater stream. A backpacker's version of turning lemons into lemonade.....
The creek was absolutely loaded with 10-12" rainbows and cutbows. There were brazen little guys in every plunge pool and pocket. I caught about 30 fish in two days and the only fly I needed was a size 16 black wooly worm with an orange tail. I doubt these fish see but a handful of anglers a year, and they were quick to pounce.
I don't know why I don't fish more of these types of headwater streams. I hike past dozens of them every summer on the way up to the high lakes. On stillwater smaller fish just aren't very exciting but on headwater streams they all of a sudden become a blast. I found a lovely campsite that other folks had used and there was a nice grill at the fire pit so I enjoyed some eleven inch rainbows for dinner for two nights. I've always baked my trout in tin foil but grilling them was much better!!! They were absolutely delicious with the grilled taste. I do have a small backpacker's grill that I think I may have to start bringing along on backcountry trips. It weighs a pound but I think it may be worth the extra weight!!
storybook trout habitat
Best trout I've ever put in my mouth. Grilled over campfire coals, S+P, tartar sauce
all but two of my fish were returned to the water unharmed