Many things come to mind when one hears the term "deadhead" like Cherry Garcia ice cream or an acid fried old hippie. No offense to hippies though. I think in general they are great folks. But no one thinks of an isolated little alpine lake that has no trail to it when they hear "deadhead". Looking at Deadhead Lake on map no one would have a clue if there might be fish in it. Only one way to find out.
I have been going on backcountry fishing trips with my friends Dean and Jason for several seasons but I missed the last three years because of life stuff. Jason's friend Mark was also on the trip. This year the plan was Waptus Lake in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness of the Wenatchee National Forest here in Washington.
We made it to Waptus on Saturday July 27 after a late morning start. Jason and Mark started fishing right away on Waptus with spinning gear and were not catching. At that point I had given up on fishing this trip. So I grabbed the map and scanned for possible places were there might be some adventure. 2 miles away and 2500 vertical higher than our camp was Deadhead Lake. It looked like something I could get to and back in a few hours before dark. I took my fly rod just in case.
|Fording the Waptus River|
Was I in for a rude awakening. The trail portion was 1.5 miles of pure uphill nut-busting fun and then there was the cross country bushwhack with route finding through thick brush and cliff bands.
|The Spade Lake Trail|
|A little scree thrown in for off-trail fun|
When I got to Deadhead Lake all the pain of hiking in melted away. The place was amazing! Truly beautiful and I had the whole place to myself. This would have been a campsite in heaven and I felt kind of sad that the others in my party were missing out on the experience. I have been to many isolated high mountian lakes before but Deadhead struck a chord with me. So I looked out into the water. I saw a trout. I strung up my rod and found that same fish right where it was when I first saw it. I let the semi-flashy little bead-headed leech sink down to the fish. White lips pursed and gills flared. Fish on. It was a blissful moment.
|The first fish I caught |
Cutthroats are so beautiful to me. Trout are pretty fish in general. This was not a puny fish by any means either. I would estimate it at about 10 inches. So I walked along the shore blind casting to rocks and stumps. The gin clear water revealed all structures but I didn't see any more fish.
Until I got to a spot behind 2 short evergreens where I saw another trout cruising slowly by. I cast out the leech. It sank to eye level right in front of the fish. No movement by the trout at all as if the fly wasn't there. So I gave it a couple of strips. The fish whirled around on the fly. I slowed the strip and the fish turned away. Then I srtipped quickly and steadily. The fish the chased the fly almost to the surface before it ate. Another moment of alpine bliss.
|The last fish I caught.|
After catching the last fish I saw no more. Time seemed suspended in this magical place but I soon realized I had to sahwack my way back to the trail. It was an hour in paradise that I hope to find again.
On the way back to Waptus camp I took a different route and followed Deadhead Creek down to where it came closest to the Spade Lake Trail. So much beauty involved with this little stream.
|Deadhead Creek up high.|
|Falls on Deadhead Creek.|
I had a swim after returning to Waptus camp. The cold water sealed in my Deadhead memories. After a good night's sleep I woke to a still morning. No trout rising on Waptus though. I would have loved to stay another day but the trip out also had some offerings.
|A farewell giver.|
I have always loved the mountains and always will. This trip was an enjoyable distraction to my carp obsession which I am eager to promptly resume. Thank you Deadhead!