It will be the first of many “Fish Camps” for years to come. This trip included my good fishing buddy Nate Green, his neighbor and overall great guy Aaron Brown, my old friend and new fishing buddy Mike Pierson and myself. I got Mike into fly fishing about a month ago and now he is “hooked”. Anyway, this trip we decided to head to Pacheta Lake in the White Mountain area and stay for about 3 or 4 days. We chose this area because of the numerous lakes and streams and reported great fishing. So here are some of the events and memories created throughout our time there. (This was a much longer trip than normal so the story is long as well. Relax, grab a drink and enjoy)
DAY 1: The plan was to leave around 4pm due to some work schedules, etc. With a 5 hour drive to camp I was a little concerned about leaving that late because none of us had been to Pacheta Lake. By 10am I already had the truck loaded and was pacing back and forth. Nate called and said that he and Aaron were running late and suggested that Mike and I head out and they would find us. Great idea! So after some late minute details and loading Mikes gear we headed out around noon.
We hit the dirt roads to the lake about 4 ½ hours later. Right of the bat we see elk and antelope. We meander our way back into the hills to some of the most beautiful country I’ve seen. About an hour later we finally find Pacheta Lake and a perfect campsite. We didn’t fish this day because it was dusk and we still had to set up camp and eat. Nate and Aaron finally arrived at camp around 11pm. We were excited to see them and get our weekend started. I eventually went to bed around midnight or so, however, I quickly learned that I should have place my tent a little farther from Mike’s (and Aaron’s) tent as they both snore something ferociously. I didn’t get much, or any, sleep that night. The last time I checked my watch it was 3:14 am. The next thing I know it’s 4:55am and Nate is up and ready to go. Huh.
DAY 2: After a quick breakfast we all geared up and walked down to the lake with our float tubes. The fishing started out pretty slow. Actually, it was non-existent for the first hour or so. I had eventually kicked over to a small cove where Mike was working some fish that were rising. Then it happened….he caught his first fish in a float tube. It was only about 5 inches long but you woulda thought it was 25 inches by the smile on his face. After a while Mike decided to head back to camp and as he was getting out of the water he quickly learned that the soft mud and fins don’t like each other. I heard this huge splash and looked back as Mike was fighting the elements. And then I heard him say some curse words that would make a sailor blush. You had to have been there but that was pretty funny watching that. Anyway, I caught a few of those little guys there and then worked the shoreline heading towards Nate. Nate had found an area that we dubbed “Brown Alley”. He was catching a ton of fish here but they were all pretty small. Earlier he had caught a 16 incher along the shore. I caught a bunch of browns in the alley but like Nate, they were all small.
We all headed in about mid-day. Back at camp we learned that Aaron didn’t catch a lot of fish but the one’s he did catch were of decent size (15” to 18”). Aaron didn’t bring a camera so we had to raz him a little because there was no evidence. He is an attorney…he should know all about evidence!
After a quick lunch we decided to try to find the “Black River”. It was only about a ½ inch away on the map but I think it took us almost 2 hours to get there. The roads on the Indian Reservation aren’t marked very well. Throughout our journey to “The Black” we saw some elk and mule deer. We finally find this river and it looks great. We all jump out of the truck, suit up and head down. Unfortunately there was a little rain we had to contend with but nothing too bad. I was more sleep deprived than anything. Nonetheless, Nate and Aaron headed upstream, Mike stayed near the truck and I went downstream. This river was absolutely gorgeous. I caught four browns there but they were only in the 10 inch range. Nate caught three small browns there too. But…Aaron ends up catching the monster. Apparently, he saw a fish rooting around the shoreline. He cast in a fly and ends up catching a huge 21 inch brown. The coloring on this fish was gorgeous. Eventually we all made it back to the truck and headed back to camp.
At camp, I was exhausted. With minimal sleep under my belt I was in need for a power nap. Mike hung out around camp and Nate and Aaron hit the lake again. I finally woke up around dusk and missed my fishing opportunity but sleep was well needed. Nate ended up catching a few that night (some in the 15”+ range if I remember). That night we cooked up some great dinners, talked about the days catch(es) and told some jokes and stories. Hit the hay around 10pm.
DAY 3: We actually slept in ‘til about 6am. On the water at 7am. Again, the fishing started out slow. I was so tired of catching those really small browns that I changed my set up to only catch bigger fish. Ya, that didn’t work either. My plan was to work the shoreline around the entire lake. About ½ way around the lake Nate and Aaron had moved a few hundred yards in front of me and ended up catching some nice fish on dry flies. I put on an orange stimulator and started getting some hits. A lot of strikes but nothing hooked. I eventually worked my way around the whole lake and made it back to camp around 12:30.
We ate some lunch and made our plans for the rest of the day. I just spent 5 ½ hours on the water and was ready for a break. However, them young whipper snappers, Nate and Aaron, were ready to hit “The Black” again. A few hours later they returned with Nate catching about 13 small ones and Aaron…zip. That happens.
About 5pm or so we all decided to hit the lake again. Nate and I worked the north shore while Mike and Aaron worked the east shore. We were catching the usual 5 inchers while moving toward “brown alley”. I was using a grey “hopper” with no dropper. As I was working the reeds near that area I ended up getting a nice surface strike and hook set on something a little more substantial. I was pretty excited because for the past two days I was catching nothing but small ones. Anyway, this fish came close to the surface and it appeared to be about 12 inches or so. However, it headed back down to the bottom and I was concerned about snapping a line and loosing it. Of course, Nate it razing me and telling me that I was “show boating” and to hurry up and land it. The fish just decided to hang out for a while. Eventually I got him to the surface and netted him. He ended up being a 17 inch, female brown. Absolutely gorgeous. That made the entire weekend for me! Almost…..
It was starting to get darker now and I slowly worked my way back along the shoreline. As I was working the shoreline I would occasionally hear a rise or two behind me. So, with nothing else to do, I cast my hopper behind me and bam! Ended up landing a nice 13” rainbow. And then something amazing happened. Within just minutes there were hundreds of rising fish all around me. I was getting a strike with most casts. Between the beauty of the lake, the trees, the great weather, the enormous amount of fish activity and the fact the I just landed my largest trout ever…I was in heaven. I ended up landing about 7or 8 rainbows during this time with 3 of them being between 12 inches and 14 inches. After a while the rising activity continued but the strike level decreased so I kicked my way back to shore where I met up with Nate and Aaron.
Back at camp I learned that Mike had also landed a good sized one. He was using a nymph with a midge dropper. He had caught a small rainbow on the midge and as he got it to the surface a larger brown either tried to eat the smaller rainbow or was going after the nymph. Nonetheless, at one point he had two fish on at the same time! The rainbow ended up getting free of the hook but the larger brown was hooked well. After the net it measured out at 16 inches.
The excitement at camp was pretty cool. Especially from Mike and I. Mike couldn’t stop grinning and talking about his first big fish. It was pretty cool just listening to him recap the even. Throughout dinner we rehashed some of the catches, told some good stories and pondered the thoughts of future Fish Camps. We all hit the sack around 10 or so with Nate and I prepared for another night of snoring.
DAY 4: The plan for today was to wake up early, pack everything up and leave. Nate and Aaron were going to go scout the West Fork of the Black for an upcoming backpack trip while Mike and I were going to check out Lee Valley Reservoir on our way home. During our drive out we found a gorgeous meandering creek through a meadow. I think it was called Thompson Creek but can’t remember. Anyway, we all fished this little waterway for an hour or so with little to no luck. It really didn’t matter though, it was gorgeous and just fun the be there.
From there we split ways. After checking out Lee Valley, Mike and I decided to call it a trip and head home. The drive home was typical. Hungry, tired and the silent rehashing of the weekend. As we approached the valley the temperature raised about 30 degrees and the reminder of Mondays work hit us. Overall it was a great weekend. The fishing was a little odd for Pacheta Lake as the normal rainbow stockers were not biting. We did well though, with 3 out of the 4 of us catching the biggest trout we’ve ever caught. The next Fish Camp will be even better, if that’s possible.
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