Tiny Baetis mayflies are perhaps the most commonly encountered and imitated by anglers on all American trout streams due to their great abundance, widespread distribution, and trout-friendly emergence habits.
After my previous adventure chasing Golden Trout in the Cascades left me needing days of rest to recover, I was a bit wary about dragging my wife Lena—who enjoys the outdoors to a slightly less nutty extent—along to the kinds of places these fish live. But we were on vacation together and the prospect of catching more of these trout was too tempting to pass up, so I found the "easiest" route into the kind of country we enjoy.
The location shall remain semi-secret. It's all public knowledge on the relevant government agencies' websites, and a determined sleuth might figure it out from the photos, but I'll trust that most readers don't have the time. I can't help sharing pictures of a place so beautiful, but I won't name it outright.
The route began with a long climb up a "road" which is really more of a playground for ATVs. My current troutmobile is a Grand Cherokee Trailhawk designed for such places, so we inched our way up the mountain, being occasionally passed by ATVs. One driver jokingly asked if we're filming a Jeep commercial. I wanted to jokingly answer "yes," but that didn't seem prudent until I got it back down the mountain in one piece.
The road ascended past a series of increasingly beautiful mountain lakes, most of which had some kind of trout rising, but I didn't stop to fish because my mind was aimed at a higher prize.
The higher we drove, the more the ground was blanketed in fields of purple and yellow alpine wildflowers.
We finally arrived at some obstacles I wasn't comfortable driving through and set off to hike the rest of the way up the road, which winds along the fishy-looking outlet stream from one of the high lakes. The temptation to string up a rod was resisted by the slimmest of margins.
Soon, the scenery opened up to a stunning alpine lake.
We worked our way around the big lake and reached the next piece of stream, which connects it to a higher lake above.
Just as we arrived at the outlet of that higher lake and started looking around for a campsite for the night, Lena caught her foot in a gap between the tussocks and twisted an ankle. That selected the campsite for us, but it couldn't have happened in a much better spot. As finished I pitching camp and prepared hot tea alongside the stream, fish started rising all over the lake outlet and upper end of the outlet stream.
One of my first casts produced this cutthroat, my first of its subspecies:
It was easy to catch more, with this one being the nicest:
Our perfect campsite made it easy for Lena to join in the fun, and she caught this lunker after a fight that consisted of flinging it overhead into the grass as soon as it struck: