Mountain lakes hold intrigue. They're often protected by long drives down dusty, washboard-surfaced dirt roads that recall memories of bouncing on your dad's knee as a child. They're also protected by long hikes carrying heavy packs that bite into your shoulders, making you wonder why you didn't spend the weekend at home enjoying the air conditioning. But it's that euphoric feeling of giddiness felt once the mountain lake materializes out of forest and trail that lightens the pack, soothes the shoulders, and sends you scurrying to ready your fishing gear.
Fortunately, Idaho has plenty of sub-alpine mountain lakes to explore.
Unfortunately, not all of those sub-alpine mountain lakes that should hold fish do hold fish.
White Cloud Mountains
I ventured east into Idaho's White Cloud range this past weekend to visit a new mountain lake that I had scrutinized regarding location, elevation, topography, and fish stocking history in hopes of finding some large cutthroat trout cruising the lake's perimeter. Upon hiking to the lake, good quantities of scuds, cased caddisfly larva, and large dragonfly nymphs were found cruising the shallows with nary a trout to be wary of. While it's possible all of the trout in the lake were holding deep, it's unlikely. No rises or cruising trout were spotted over the course of two days, even in optimum mountain lake viewing conditions (no wind in the evening or morning).
What the lake lacked in fish in made up for in scenery. Several inlet streams seeped out of barren rock, forming mossy beds that provided a lush base for a bonanza of wildflowers. A pair of loons patrolled the lake while several spotted sandpipers strutted and bobbed about the shoreline. While the trip netted no trout, it did provide a beautiful backdrop to spend a weekend.