Saturday, November 7, 2015

I'm Thankful for the Ice Age Floods...

Sitting in a float tube in the middle of a lake, I realized that a large fraction of the nearby places we fish are a direct result of glacial Lake Missoula and its humongous floods - Nunya, Little Nunya, Lenore, Rocky Ford, Dusty, Homestead - all carved out by the Ice Age Floods that swept across Eastern Washington in the not-too-distant past. So in this month of thanksgiving, I am thankful for those floods, and of course, for Him whose creations provided the landscape to be molded by those floods and the fish to fill the streams and lakes left by them (there Tom, I even got the floods into the blog!). Which brings us to our outing today into another flood-carved area, the Drumheller Channels and the seep lakes.
The flood-carved channels and seep lakes
Joining again with our favorite chironomid fishing expert, Kirk Morris, we met Tom at the parking lot for the short hike to Quail Lake, a small, fly-fishing only lake hidden in the basalt cliffs and flood carved channels, like the 50 or so other lakes that dot this unique area. A short hike of less than ten minutes or so brought us to the fog-shrouded lake, and we quickly launched our tubes and made our way through the muddy shallows to deeper water.

Fog on Quail Lake
Trolling buggers on a sinking line, Rick and Kirk found a couple fish like the fat rainbow below and Tom had some short strikes, but no hookups. Nice fish that fought really well, but not a lot of them.
Rick's fat, feisty rainbow from Quail Lake
Kirk and a nice Quail rainbow
With a couple fish to hand in the far end of the lake, Kirk of course decided it was time to bring out the chironomids, and he started fishing under the bobber as the fog cleared and the sun warmed us. After some epic whiffs, he hooked and landed a nice one on a strike that barely moved his indicator.
Kirk and his chironomids
Hooked right where it is supposed to be...
Tom brought out the chironomids and also found a fat, feisty rainbow.
Although the fish were good-sized and healthy, they were too few and far between for our liking. And we had another lake or two we wanted to explore, So off we headed to North Windmill, a slightly larger lake with another short hike in. While stopping for a quick break at the facilities at Windmill Lake, fish were seen jumping just out from a nearby basalt wall, and by the time I got out of the outhouse, Tom was already there fishing. Kirk and I made our way over, and we found abundant, but small fish (7" to 10") that would take a stripped bugger on almost every cast, or with less frequency, a dead drifted chironomid. The day was passing into afternoon, and Kirk really wanted to check out North Windmill. The hike brought us to the outlet end of lake, where dramatic cliffs ringed the lake and separated it from the larger Windmill Lake by just a few tens of yards. We made our way down the steep slope to the lake and began kicking around trolling buggers again. In a change from the nearby Windmill, we found no action and saw no fish rising.

Tom and Kirk on North Windmill
Looking  up North Windmill
At the outlet, a small creek flowed through a cleft in the cliffs and dropped down a small waterfall into Windmill Lake. We pulled out and walked down to try Windmill at this point, and again found some willing, but smallish fish. Tom and Kirk returned back to North Windmill where Kirk hooked and fought one decent fish, but that was the only action there. I fished Windmill a little more without additional success, then decided to hike back by a different route to where we had first started at Windmill so I could enjoy the flood-carved scenery.
Pelican in a bay on Windmill on my walk back
Back at the Windmill parking area, Tom bid us farewell and headed back to Wenatchee. Kirk and I tried off the basalt wall again, with less success, but noted fish jumping all throughout the narrow lake. Into the tubes we went, slowly kicking down, then back up the narrow channel, stripping buggers and leeches, and finding lots of fish. Still not much size, most 8" to 12", I landed one that was maybe 13" or 14", and Kirk hooked a monster that turned out to be a little guy tail-snagged so he fought like a big guy. It was a perfect evening, a little drizzle, no wind, lots of fish, kicking, casting, stripping, and catching side-by-side while we talked. I had forgotten to change out of my sunglasses, so dusk came early and I could barely see for the last 45 minutes or so. Then it really did get dark. For the last 15 minutes kicking back to the car, I missed a half-dozen or more fish, and when I reeled in at the takeout, I found out why. My second fly was gone, and my bugger was tied up in knots and dragging backwards through the water. Lesson learned. Don't fish in the dark with sunglasses and no headlamp.
And the fish were still hitting it...
It was full dark and raining when we pulled out, but we had fish hitting all the way to the end. So we didn't find our dream lake full of monster trout just waiting to suck in any fly tossed their way. But we found a few nice fish, lots of little ones, saw some beautiful country, and shared some great company. All while fishing in the path left by the Ice Age floods. What's not to be thankful for?

1 comment:

DrRobFish said...

Is there something wrong with the fly? They both look good to me.