August 22, 2013 Cirque and Island Lakes (White Clouds Boulder Lakes Chain) Day 4: Cloudy/Breezy/Warm/Thunder and lightning and light rain

Posted by Nate at 3:38 PM on Thursday, Aug 22nd, 2013

There was one large lake left in the chain that we hadn't fished--Cirque Lake. It was about a half mile above us. We decided to pack the backpacks, hang them in a tree to keep them away from squirrels, and walk up to the last lake in the chain. Almost all of the lakes we visited had streams coming in and out which created spawning water. As I have mentioned earlier, if fish spawn naturally on a lake, the fish tend to be smaller. Cirque Lake was at the top of the drainage with spring-fed water into the lake and underground out. There would be limited spawning and the possibility of larger fish.           

We entered the lake from the dry outlet. Steve went right, I went left. I had no sooner started when a fish feeds six feet off the bank and about 20 feet away in very shallow water. I served him a Black Flying Ant #16 and twitched it slightly to catch the fish's attention. In slow motion I see a big head rise up at the fly and bingo...fish on. It was a frisky fight but I finally slid the cuttie to the edge of the lake. It was a nice fish, about 16-inches long, fat, and gorgeous. I moved up the bank and spotted another big fish feeding around a boulder that was protruding out of the water. After a couple of deliveries, I hook the fish, but he rolled and kicked the hook.           

I began to notice a few large mayflies on the water--yes, large mayflies at 10,100 feet! The bug looked mahogany in overall color with an almost a BWO abdomen and mahogany thorax. I don't tie anything that would exactly imitate that bug, but at a tying presentation, I had tied two BWO Comparaduns #16 with CDC wings. It was a very close match to the bug on the surface. The second I tied it on, it was lights out. I would cast it to the transition line from deep to shallow and the fish would find it and eat it. If I saw a fish rise, I caught almost every fish that peeked its head up. Eventually at the far corner of the lake there was a small point with a deep drop off. I began to long cast way out in the deeper water and watch the Comparadun float the choppy surface. I would move the fly ever so often to infuse a little life. Eventually a fish would find it and attack with vigor. Sometimes I'd hook a fish after he ate a natural; sometimes they would come to the fly from out of nowhere. The one thing they did was come, and when there, they ate. No false takes, no messing around, they were on that bug. At times I'd spot a natural mayfly floating the surface and cast my bug to settle next to the natural thinking two would be more interesting to a fish than one. That worked, and one time a fish porpoised for the natural; and in one swoosh, ate both of the flies. I could read the surprise at the tip of the rod as the fish ripped down to deep water. It was a great run of pretty nice fish for both Steve and I.           

The clouds were again building and the one thing we didn't want was to get caught in a thunderstorm at 10,200 feet. We moved back to camp, top loaded the backs and began a new, uncharted journey to Island Lake in the next bowl over to the south. Island Lake would be our final destination before we packed out the next morning. We had to get there going down a one-mile ravine with at least three large boulder fields toward the bottom. The ravine took a turn to the left toward the bottom and we couldn't see the lake or any obstructions toward the bottom. The topo indicated no bluffs so we plunged through a low saddle on the southwest side of Cove Lake and worked our way down the long ravine. The top was a steep, loose mountain that fell into a grassy bottom. Even though we saw no mountain goats, they had been all over the ravine, especially around a spring that bubbled up from the earth. About mid mountain, we crossed the first boulder field then a patch of grass and another boulder field. The west shore of the lake began to appear as we made the corner left for the final descent. There was a third rock field below us of a different nature--small loose shale rock with no solid footing. We carefully navigated the shale to the bottom of the hill. We were at lake level and felt the battle was won until we started around the lake.

The northeast side of the lake was impassable because of a giant bluff so we headed around the southwest side. We made it to within a hundred yards of the outlet of the lake and ran head-on into a monster boulder patch starting at water level. You couldn't wade around it or go above it, and it was questionable whether we could go through it. I knew it would be impassable for Mudd, so I took off his pack and had Steve hold him as I attempted to cross the boulders. Having the dog's pack, my pack, and my fishing rod didn't help matters. The boulders were gigantic but I picked a way through to the other side. When I arrived at the other side, I had Steve cut Mudd loose hoping he would swim around the boulder field when I called. He approached the first big boulder, paused, then plunged in the lake for a 75-yard swim around the boulders. Steve made it through and we set up a final camp at the outlet of Island Lake. This lake, as all others we encountered, was spectacular with looming mountain peaks, slide rock, and sheer bluff. We took a final nip of gin and lemonade as we celebrated our good fortune--especially as the thunder started rumbling up the ravine we had just come down--perfect timing. Mudd even celebrated by doing his Olympic swimming routine complete with Figure 8's, swirls, and falling off a log. An 8.6 was about the best score Steve and I could give him because it certainly wasn't a perfect performance!

Flies that Caught Fish:

1) Mahogany Searcher #16
2) Black Flying Ant #16
3) BWO Comparadun #16
4) Carpenter Ant #16 (Tester Fly)

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