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Old 07-24-2010, 04:59 AM
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Default Re: Glacier National Park

I have never been to Glacier, but my backpacking angler's bible by Rich Osthoff titled Fly Fishing the Rocky Mountain Backcountry covers Glacier pretty well. I'll copy some excerpts from the chapter on Glacier:

- "Over half the backcountry lakes in the park are within 6 miles of a trailhead and can be reached on day hikes. If you can't get a permit to camp on a lake you really want to see, then consider a day hike. An angler with just a week to spend in the park could probably visit more good lakes by day hiking than by camping in the backcountry."

- "All camping is at designated sites - designated campgrounds, really. Backcountry sites on any given lake are so closely grouped that several parties hang good from the same bear pole and prepare meals in a central area (wood fires are prohibited at many sites)............Even aside from the obvious aesthetic drawbacks of this arrangement, I don't like camping near strangers in bear country, because I have no control over what they do."

- "Although Glacier may be the most beautiful backcountry I've camped in, the camping experience itself is a far cry from what's available in most classified wilderness areas."

- "Dense willows and steep terrain make fishing difficult from many shores, especially on the lush western slope of the park, which receives a lot of precipitation. Lightweight waders and wading shoes wll get you out of the brush and make fishing and traveling shorelines easier."

Lakes that Osthoff mentions with enthusiasm are:
- Lake Ellen Wilson
- Gunsight Lake
- Trout Lake
- Arrow Lake
- Hidden Lake - "There are cutthroat lakes this good and better all over the Rockies, but if you're going to be touring Glacier and want to slip off the the road for a taste of productive high-lake fishing, Hidden Lake should deliver."
- Oldman Lake
- Kootenai Lakes - brook trout only
- Otokomi Lake - "The cutthroat fishing is rated on par with that at Hidden Lake - which would make this one of the better lakes in the park."
- Grace Lake

From reading about Glacier in Osthoff's book, I would not rate Glacier a great fly fishing destination. The hiking sounds sublime but the camping sounds like utter hell. And the fishing sounds sub par at best. I assume you're locked into going to Glacier, but if you aren't and backpacking-fishing is your prime reason for coming to Montana, I would recommend the Absaroka-Beartooth Mountains as a prime fishing/backpacking destination. Also, mid-September is pushing the weather a little bit. The peaks will be receiving regular dustings of snow and the backcountry campsites and lakes may as well.

As far as gear suggestions, you heard Osthoff talk about waders. I would never recommend toting waders on a backpacking you said, when it comes to backpacking, only the essentials get packed. But, in the case of Glacier, you should consider waders. I personally take along Teva sandals and where them to wet wade when it's warm enough but that's usually only about half the time. Most of the time, i just fire casts from shore.

Fly fishing high lakes is my specialty. This is what I take (again, only the extreme basics come along with me): A lightweight camera bag with all of my tackle, which includes: 3-4 different replacement leaders (I usually tie on a 4x nine foot tapered leader), one spool of 4x and 6x tippet, a lightweight lanyard with my nippers, hemostat, and dry floatant, and one box of small tackle (split shot, strike indicators, and extra flies) and one bigger box for all of my flies. As far as a rod is concerned, you're on your own there. My philosophy is that high lakes are usually breezy places and you need a rod that can buck some wind. I personally take a 9' 6wt, which is great for firing long casts along lake shores, but dreadful for small streams in the high country.

As far as flies for high-lakes and headwater streams:

Scuds (can't over emphasize the importance of scuds on high-lakes)
Attractors like Wulffs and Humpys
Parachute Adams (my go to high country fly)
Griffith's Gnat
Midges (adults and emergers)
Pheasant Tail and Hare's Nymphs
Elk Hair Caddis
Caddis emergers
Wooly Bugger/Leaches (especially for high country Brook trout)

My usual setup for high country lakes is a good, visible dry fly and one dropper with a nymph or scud on about 1.5 feet of tippet. For the tippet coming off the leader, I usually just do the usual 3-4 feet. Also, I never carry a net in the back country. I use bandanas to help land and handle trout.
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