Follow these tips to find fishing success in Idaho’s alpine lakes and springs

We all know fishing and camping make a great combo. For many outdoors enthusiasts, throwing some rods and tackle in the truck is a no-brainer for a weekend getaway to C.J. Strike or Lake Cascade.

But if you’re looking for a new kind of adventure this summer, try setting your sights a little higher.

Alpine lakes and streams offer an awesome brand of camping and fishing, and we Idahoans have access to some of the largest and most pristine mountain wilderness areas anywhere in the country. If you are looking for an alpine adventure, there are literally hundreds of small lakes to choose from in the mountains near Cascade, McCall and Stanley. As you load your backpack and lace up your hiking boots, here are a few things to keep in mind:

Going deep

As a general rule, the farther off the beaten path you venture, the better the fishing will be. With that said, make sure to stay within your abilities. Travel with a group, bring printed maps (don’t rely on smartphones) and make sure you let friends or relatives know where you’re headed and when you’ll be back. Roughing it lakeside is a great way to get away from it all, but you can stay at an established campground and make day hikes to explore different lakes.

Timing is everything

Alpine camping has a limited season. July and August are the go-to months, and they provide the bonus of huckleberry picking if you can find a patch. When you plan your trip, keep in mind that high elevations can mean snow on the ground deep into the summer. In a normal year, waiting until Fourth of July weekend ensures clear paths to most alpine lakes and campgrounds.

Staying warm

When the thermostat hits triple digits in town, it’s easy to forget how chilly it is in the mountains at night. While many summer campouts require only shorts and a tank top, make sure you bring blankets and sweaters on your alpine getaway. The last time I camped in the mountains near Brundage, we experienced daytime highs in the 80s and overnight lows in the 40s.

Float your boat

Tackle doesn’t need to be complicated in the mountains. High-country trout have a short growing season and see relatively few anglers, so they will readily take most dry flies, streamers, nymphs, spinners, spoons and bait. When the grasshoppers arrive, a hopper pattern or live insect is almost guaranteed to get slurped. But there is one piece of equipment that does make a huge difference: a float tube or inflatable raft. It might be a pain to pack in, but the freedom to explore an entire lake and avoid tricky shoreline obstacles is well worth the effort.

Bring the butter

It takes a lot of time and effort to get to an alpine lake. When you have success, reward yourself by roasting a freshly caught alpine trout over the campfire. Butter and some zesty seasonings are all you need to enjoy the best camping meal of your life!

Happy camping this summer, and tight lines!

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