So my brother and I had another adventure with Jack Bauer in search of the fabled Washington golden trout. We had to drop the wife off at work at 430 and made it to the gate 11 by five. It was still dark when we got there, but we knew where we were.
There was something at the gate that smelled RIPE. I think it'd been dead for at least 2 weeks. I dunno, but it smelled gross.
The Hancock roads are really nice for logging roads, but they're STEEP. The goal was Lake Nadeau, SMC and Moolock which I've not heard anything about save for some stuff from Moosefish, a local south bend blogger and old WDFW reports that they stocked it with Golden Trout fry. So we got some maps and went for it.
So when we started hiking it was cloudy, and we hiked straight into the clouds. At about 1000 ft, we were in them, which we climbed over a span of a mile. It was STEEP. And it was about 100% humidity, so we were drenched. And lost. As it turns out we missed a turn and walked right past Lake Hancock at about six AM. Since we missed a turn, we kept looking for it and we finally found it. The map showed a gain in elevation and we just thought we had to climb another ridge, but there were so many new roads up there that we didn't realize that we'd made a wrong turn until the clouds started to break. We then realized that we'd climbed the mountain to the north of Hancock and saw the lake in the valley below us. We'd gone about three and a half miles out of our way and gained another 1800 feet, pretty much straight up.
Now anybody that does a lot of alpine lakes hiking knows that the down hill is the worst, and it was so bad that I started making my own switchbacks down the logging road. It was bad and we didn't get to Hancock until about 11:30. But it was neat,, there're a bunch of houses on the lake with docks and stuff. We only fished there for about 45 minutes, but they were taking spinners like crazy. I caught 2 cutthroat, healthy fat fish, and my brother c&r'd about 7 fish from 8 to 10 inches. I didn't fish that much because I was trying to soak my feet because they were so sore. I didn't have wading shoes and didn't want to pump up the raft yet, and the lake shore was covered in sharp rocks around the edge, so I took it easy. But they were holding and feeding at the drop off on the south side of the lake. I was using a rainbow trout holographic panther martin and a Kastmaster. As usual, the first couple casts would get strikes, but then they would be fewer in between until I'd change my lure, which would immediately reset the strike. We kept one fish at 13 inches. These fish were not stunted and had a good belly full of food.
So the hike to the three lakes up the logging road was really steep. It climbs 2500 feet up the ridge to Mt. Moolock. Along the way we saw numerous spots of Cougar scat. There was lots of wildlife and deer, and bunnies. There was one fisher cat that I saw for s split second. The road was rougher as it's used less, and at times I was wishing I'd bought a pass because it was still really drivable. At one point the road goes along a recent clear cut and straight drop off where you can see for miles. A panoramic view of North Bend, Renton Lake Sammamish, Lake Washington, Seattle, Puget Sound, Belvue and through the haze you could just glimpse Everett. It was amazing. We were above the clouds at this point and we rested while I took some pictures. I'm stiching together a pano, but I left the camera in my brothers car so no pics yet.
After another couple ridges we made it to SMC, which was gorgeous. They were cystal calm, and we didn't see any risers. There were scree slopes all around the lake and we heard the cries of pikas all around us. We didn't see them, but you cannot mistake that call at all. The wildflowers were in bloom and it was amazing. We only fished the outlet of SMC for about ten minutes with no takers, but we wanted to find the rumored golden trout in Nadeau. The road climbed another ridge and we got to the lake. It was full of brush and rockslides, we had to bushwhack to get to the shore, and it was about a foot higher than usual so there was no bank. At this point we had an hour to fish, we pumped up the rafts and realized that I'd brought the wrong oars. So we tied our rafts together while my brother rowed. I was worried that the lakes may have died off because there was no surface action at all. Until I started getting major takes. I was using a single point barbless hook so I missed a LOT of them, but my brother caught three and I caught five. They were starving. But cutthroat. Not golden trout. They were pretty and catching them on the little one man raft was a blast because even an 8 incher pulled the raft around in circles. But we had to leave at 5 because we needed to be back to pick up my wife from work at 9:30. So we packed up as fast as we could and left with one 12 inch cutthroat. Which was starving. Empty stomach. I don't think the growing season is long enough up there to get really big fish. The meat on the Hancock lake fish was nice and pink which means that they eat more crustaceans. The meat on the Nadeau trout was white. Very cool looking lake though.
We left and the 8.4 miles back was a killer. It's straight down hill. We caught the sunset on the view points, and pretty much ran the whole way back. At the end I every part of my body was in pain. Super super sore. My knees couldn't move any more. But, we weren't late to pick up the wife, which is the only thing that matters right. Next time I'm staying up there 3 days to get less sore before I do the decent.
So in all, we hiked about 27 miles, and went up at least 4,000 feet and fished for about two hours. It was really hardcore. Awesome. I'm going to post the pictures in the alpine lake section of the forum once I get them developed.
Mike Carey9/3/2010 6:15:00 AM