The Illustrious Golden Trout

Twisp Highlands Golden Trout

Twisp Highlands Golden Trout

The illustrious Golden Trout is what some call one of the “Holy Grail” fish of the North Cascades. As a policy the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife stocks these fish into lakes without trails and they do not disclose their location. Much of the more challenging stocking is still done by plane, mule and hardworking volunteers. All this hard work, toil and secrecy can make one understand why some treat this fish with such reverence. Of course all of this is nothing compared to actually holding one of these high mountain beauties in your hand.

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Of course as they say nothing good comes easy and that is definitely the case with any of the golden trout lakes in the Methow area. I have been to two of the approximately 6 or 8 in the area and they are the “easiest”. This particular lake lies about 7.5 miles from the trailhead, the first 5 miles is easy trail, that’s when you start to earn it though. After what seems like an easy start the route sends you 2 miles up through thick brush at 1,000 feet per mile (this time we tripped two ground hornet nests too). At this point you break above most trees and welcome the last half mile of rock scramble.

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Many of these areas where first explored by white trappers with help of the Methow native peoples knowledge and trails. Later miners following gold in the streams below starting looking for its source in the high peaks, this lead to the many grown over trails and cabins that can still be found. Once one gains a knowledge of how these people where moving around in our backcountry many options open up for fun tours through amazing country.

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Originally from the Sierra Nevada Range of the California the Golden Trout are not native to Washington State. However these beautiful fish are literally made for the high mountains as they will only take on their full potential coloring at altitudes over 5,000ft. As well these fish thrive in water so cold and so small other fish would find it almost impossible to even get by. In this trip me friend and I observed two fish over 12 and up to 14 inches in the tiniest of pools in the lakes out fall. At only about 10 inches deep with an average snow fall of 6-10 feet in the area it literally boggles my mind that these fish not only survive but also manage to thrive in these arduous conditions.

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As far as advice for finding the nearest Golden Trout Lake in your area I would just say ask your most knowledgeable backcountry fisher friends. Any one attempting one of these trips should be aware of your fitness and skill level, if not you will find nature very truthful and blunt in her critique as I did on my first mission.

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I do not guide backcountry however I am happy to point you in the right direction on most things and am happy give advice as well. May your next trip into the backcountry be awesome and safe! – Leaf