High Country Trout

Diamond Peak is a massive monolith in the high country of the Lemhi Range of Idaho, towering 5,377 feet above the valley floor to an elevation of 12,202 feet. North and slightly west of this peak sits a small body of water called Meadow Lake. Despite its name, few meadows are found nearby as the lake is enshrouded by trees starting from the east and running counterclockwise around to the western shore. Only the southern edge is treeless, though this is due to the rock slide from the peak which forms its southern border. Mountain goats can occasionally be seen wandering through the crags while small cutthroat trout swim in the water below. On this our first trip to Meadow Lake, the cutthroat would be our quarry.

My second son, Matt, turned eight in December. We have a family tradition where one of the parents takes the birthday child on an overnight trip of their choice (within reason). My wife took our oldest on a trip to Utah a couple of years prior, which meant it was my turn to take child number two on a trip. Months had passed since Matt’s eighth birthday and I had failed to take him on a trip. After school ended in June, he asked when we could take our trip, so I left it to him to determine when and where. He decided that he wanted to camp, fish, hike, and shoot at Meadow Lake when it opened in July. From that point on, it was officially set in stone.

The narrow road wound up the side of the mountain through a long abandoned old mining town. A handful of boy scouts were exploring the ruins with their leaders as we sped by, making a mental note to stop by on the way down. Before long we found ourselves engulfed in a world of tall pine trees and granite outcroppings. The campground was full, so we drove back down the canyon and pitched our tent in a grove of trees off the single track. With camp set, it was time to fish!

My 3-weight fly rod was ready to go. My son brought his Zebco rod and reel, but that would prove to be unnecessary. Shortly after tying on a light brown caddis pattern, the first of many trout was caught. My son looked at the small trophy enviously, and once my fly caught a second fish, he was suddenly very interested in learning how to fly fish. When the student is ready…

Matt’s crash course in fly fishing went very smoothly, which is amazing considering he fits the mold of a typical second born. It helped that he was able to catch fish on every third or fourth cast! The cutthroats proved to be small, most barely reaching eight inches. The camp host said he had heard that some 15 inch giants hid in the deepest holes in the lake, which barely surpassed a depth of 30 feet. After a few quick pictures, each of our catches was returned to the lake to be caught by another angler. Matt was all smiles as we drove back to camp to roast some marshmallows. With several fish under his belt, he could now call himself a fly-fisherboy.

The next morning we were greeted by a light rain shower, which caused me to doze lightly in my sleeping bag longer than expected. As it turned out, sleeping in was perfectly fine for this fishing trip. After a rushed breakfast of oatmeal and granola bars, we returned to our spot and continued catching more fish. The brilliant colors of these high country trout amazed and thrilled us. After several hours, the rain returned and Matt was interested in doing other activities, such as hiking and shooting. We stowed the rods and continued exploring the area around Meadow Lake. Our campout to Meadow Lake was a great bonding experience and a memory never to be forgotten. This would not be our last trip after these high country trout.

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