Chairback Ponds in Maine's Moosehead Lakes
As the glaciers of the last ice age receded, they left behind the hundreds of lakes and streams that characterize the Moosehead Lake Region. The area is best known among anglers for the granddaddy Moosehead Lake, but many lesser known ponds provide hiking opportunities for access to wild brook trout. The surrounding deciduous forests are comprised of beach, yellow birch and sugar maple in varying states of regrowth - logging activity still continues in many areas. Higher elevations bring spruce and fir forests. East and West Chairback Ponds fall on either side of the Appalachian Trail. As the crow flies, the two are about a mile apart. East Chairback Pond is deep, gin-clear and provides challenging fishing on beautiful water. According to the region's fisheries' head, the pond has been negatively affected by acid rain. The fish are still there, but the fish count has diminished a bit. West Chairback isn't as clear or deep but it does have more fish. These two ponds are known for larger brookies of up to 16". The hike in is quite short - 30 minutes or so - and would accommodate the hoofing in of a float tube (highly recommended). Happily, both the Chairbacks are flyfishing only. If you don't need a fire, you can set up camp anywhere. For some faster-paced fishing for smaller brookies in the 7-10" range, try Horseshoe or Mountain Brook ponds near by. Grab a topo map before heading out. It will give you a sense of the terrain and endless possibilities of this region. Greensville, Brownville, and Milo are the closest towns. From Brownville, head out on the Khatadin road towards the Khatadin Ironworks crossing. Bring attractor patterns, midges, and a few Maple Syrups - a local dragonfly nymph pattern - and you'll be sure to enjoy Maine's North Woods.
Colorado High Lakes, Indian Peaks Wilderness
I used to drool over the photos my old design partner would show of his fishing jaunts in the Indian Peaks Wilderness. Fish this area and feed your soul on gorgeous cirque basins, a patchwork quilt of lakes, serpentine meadow creeks, and nine peaks with majestic tribal names that roll off the tongueÉOgallala, Arapahoe, Shoshoni. Just an hour outside of Boulder, this jewel of an area does hear plenty of footfalls. Luckily, most of the pitter-patter belongs to rock monkeys who tend to skip over our trout friends for the mountaineering and climbing opportunities that lay beyond. There are nearly 50 lakes, 30 of which are fishable. The waters host 8"-10" brook trout and larger cutthroats. Come armed with fleets of attractor patterns including Royal Wulffs, Coachmans, and Trudes, Elk Hair Caddis, and Adams. Midges patterns, both dries and nymphs, are also a staple. If you hit the lakes during ice-out, fish the lip of the ice. Cutts will often cruise the edges of the ice shelves, sipping hatching midges as they go. Some parts of the Indian Peaks Wilderness are managed for day hiking only, while camping with a permit is allowed in other areas. Get the camping permit - you won't want to leave these intimate, glacial blue lakes which are connected by streams of indescribable beauty. If you are lucky, the wildflowers will be in bloom. Obtain camping permits from the USFS District Office at 2995 Baseline Road, Boulder, Colorado 80303; phone 303-111-6600.
Wyoming's North and South Buffalo Forks
Ah, beautiful Wyoming where the buffalo roam and folks still two-step with serious regularity. About 45 miles northeast of Jackson sits the Turpin Meadows campground and the trailhead which leads towards three delicate forks of the Snake River: North and South Buffalo Forks and Soda Fork. The forks flow through the pine forests of the Teton National Forest. The 20-or-so-mile loop follows or crosses all three rivers. The streams offer a variety of terrain, from rushing bouldery riffles to gentle meadow bends. Use attractor patterns like Adams, Stimulators and Wulffs to catch the resident cutts and brookies. Since the trail goes through National Forest land, you can camp anywhere that is appropriate. Though the Ranger Office reported that there are few griz's in the area, do be aware that this is grizzly country. If camping overnight, be prepared to hang food or store it in bear-proof containers. I'd pack some bear spray as well. Get maps from the town info center (307-739-3602). Contact the Buffalo Ranger District in the Bridger-Teton National Forest for bear reports or further information: P.O. Box 1888, Jackson, WY 83001; 307-739-5500.
Madison River's Bear Trap Canyon, Montana
Bear Trap is one of four units that comprise the Lee Metcalf Wilderness - the BLM's (Bureau of Land Management) first designated wilderness in Montana. The Madison River weaves and tumbles through Bear Trap's rugged, scree-strewn canyon. Though the canyon's well-loved trails do get busy at times, they are sure to be less hectic than the downstream stretch. Plus, if you hike in far enough (three miles or more), you'll leave behind the worst of the crowds (remember the lazy-fisher theory). The rainbows and browns that inhabit the canyon can grow quite large. Bring large Prince Nymphs, Kaufmann's Stones, Wooly Buggers, caddis, and attractor patterns. A few salmon fly dries would also be wise, should you hit the epic salmon fly hatch. Enter the canyon from the northern or downstream end. Both banks of the river have trails. Though you can camp anywhere suitable, river left has more campsites than the opposite bank. You can camp up to three days without needing a permit. The river right trail is off of Highway 84, on Bear Trap Road (gravel), which is just before Silver Bridge. The other trail can be accessed from the Warm Springs boat launch parking lot, also off of Highway 84. Bear Trap was traditionally a rich hunting ground for both Indians and settlers; the flat area near the mouth of Bear Trap Creek used to be a hunting camp. Rumor has it that about 20 years ago, a young man hiked in during the snow season and broke his leg. His father was to join him a day or two later so he waited for him. His father didn't show up. In much pain, he finally burned down the cabin to call attention to himself. No one noticed. It was three days before someone found him. And that my friends, is why there is no longer a cabin at Bear Trap Creek. Be aware of the prolific poison ivy that chokes the banks as well as the rattling vipers. Even when it's hot, I wear my waders and boots along the trail just to be sure that I don't run against the ivy or expose my skinny ankles to a rattler's fangs.
Washington's Elwah River
A few miles west of Washington's Port Angeles, the mighty Elwah collects its waters from the majestic Olympic Mountain Range and flows northward into the straits of Juan de Fuca. A hike along this river's moss-clad forests will surely be inspirational. Enjoy views of Mt. Carey while you angle for rainbows and the occasional bull trout. Early June should bring glacial melt and accompanying high, dirty water. Expect lower waters and clearing by mid-month. Be aware, you are in bear country. Just recently (5/2000), the seven-mile stretch of trail between Lillian River and Elkhorn Camp was closed to camping because of feisty bruin activity. If you do choose to camp, take precautions and keep a clean camp, cook far away from sleeping grounds and hang food high up in a tree. The Elwah Dam and Glines Canyon Dam intersect the river and the trailhead starts above the last dam. To get there, take Highway 101 west towards Port Angeles. Turn left - before you actually reach the Elwah - onto Elway River Road. Follow the signs to the Whiskey Bend Trail Head. Whiskey Bend Trail follows the east side of the river, accommodating everything from a 1/2-mile line-wetter to a 25-mile fishing odyssey. Bring Kaufmann's Stones, purple-over-white Zonkers and some sculpin patterns. For details on bears, call the park's Wilderness Information Center, 360-452-0300. Gear for all these Destinations: