Hiking, fishing make a winning combination — with alpine lakes as the prize

Alpine lakes provide good results in part because of a lack of fishing pressure.
Alpine lakes provide good results in part because of a lack of fishing pressure. Special to the Idaho Statesman

I’ll be honest — hiking for the sake of hiking is only OK for me. Yes, it’s nice to be out in the sun and get some exercise. But a plain-old hike usually leaves me wanting more.

Fortunately, there’s an easy fix — just put some water at the end of the trail. If there was a world-class bass lake at the top of Mount Everest, you can bet your hiking boots I’d make the climb.

In all seriousness, hiking and fishing make great companion hobbies. Hiking into a favorite lake or stream provides extra motivation along the trail. It also puts some distance between the fish and the countless anglers who aren’t willing to make the trek. And, less fishing pressure usually means rich rewards for those willing to walk the walk.

As a teenager in eastern Idaho, I discovered a small stream deep in the mountain wilderness. It was a great cutthroat trout fishery, and every summer my friends and I would venture farther into the wild in search of new fishing holes. We had some unbelievable days on that little stream, and there were times when it was fair to wonder how long it had been since anyone else had stood where we were standing. That’s one of the coolest feelings an outdoorsman can experience.

These days, I do a lot of boat fishing, but I still enjoy a good on-foot trip every chance I get. The high-mountain lakes above McCall and Cascade are personal favorites. It takes real work to get into some of those hidden gems, but the trout fishing is almost always worth it.

I’ve also taken up ice fishing, which provides a whole different kind of hike. I don’t have a snowmobile, so getting around the lake requires hoofing through lots of snow and slush. I have to admit, there’s something extra cool about hiking across a lake, rather than around one.

If you’d like to get in on some hiking/fishing combo adventures, no fancy boots or backpacks are required. Here are a few easy tips to help you on your trek:

▪  Pack light. If you’re going on a day trip, carry as little as possible. Water, snacks, a first-aid kit and your fishing gear are pretty much all you need, because you’ll want a hand free to carry dinner back to your car or campground.

▪  Downsize your tackle: There’s no reason to bring your entire tackle box. Instead, take a small box of the flies, spinners and lures you know you’ll be using. Most alpine lakes are trout-only fisheries, which simplifies matters. A compact, telescoping fishing rod also comes in handy for hiking trips.

▪  Enjoy a summer float: I guess this one doesn’t entirely jibe with the “pack light” mantra, but trust me, it’s worth it. Next time you hike into a lake, try bringing a float tube. It’s the coolest, most relaxing way to recover from a sweaty summer hike and it expands your fishing options exponentially.

I hope you enjoy some great hiking/fishing trips this year. And when the going gets tough, just remember — there are hungry fish waiting for you at the trail’s end.

Tight lines!

Jordan Rodriguez has been fishing Idaho waters since he was a teen. Share your fish stories, adventures, tips and tricks at outdoors