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Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Bikes for Brookies

Mountain biking on the fly


Passing a small pond in a meadow
As I've written about before, I like to spend a good portion of my summers in the high country chasing Brookies, Grayling, Cutt's and those sorts of reclusive ugly trout. For a few years now, there has been a series of small remote mountain lakes, down some pretty gnarly roads, we've been exploring here and there. Some of the roads are 4X4 friendly, some are ATV-esque and others are more hiking oriented. So this time around, rather than worrying about an ATV or an even longer hike, we threw the bikes in the truck and decided to use pedal power to get to some fish.

I'm, by no means, any sort of biking guru. I ride my mountain bike for exercise and as a means of transportation to my office each day. But I get enough questions from people who ask about ideas on good hikes or even bike rides into fishing locations that I figured it's something to discuss here. There's no harm at all combining a little old fashioned butt-kicking exercise at high altitude with some fishing. Or as I say, "a hike isn't a hike unless there are fish at the end". And it goes without saying to make sure wherever you go that you're not breaking any travel restrictions and to stay on established trails and roads where possible.

So the ride into these lakes is winding and up down approach through some beautiful country at over 11,000 feet. There are a lot of snakey rutty paths over a lot of rocks, loose gravel and such as this isn't your groomed mountain biking trail system just outside the city limits. I would say, however, that we probably made better time on the bikes than we would have in the truck, which has to pick and choose the least-boulder/rut filled path to take.

Brook trout taken on a damsel adult imitation
As far as gear goes, I have a Fish Pond backpack I've used for 7 or 8 years. It has a handy rod holder and plenty of space for my other gear, food and even a hydration pack system built in. That said, a 3 or 4 piece rod is really a necessity so you can easily attach it to or throw it into the pack you have. And although I know people often prefer smaller rods for smaller fish, it's best to have a more versatile 4 or 5 weight rod that can battle any wind and toss hoppers with ease. Unless you want to pack in a couple of rods, that's typically going to be the more universal option.
As far as bikes go, I'd probably recommend a full suspension bike or maybe a 29'er for this type of travel, but I got by with my old hard-tail and ended up with only a bit of soreness from all the jarring business. Make sure to carry a small repair kit and be prepared for something to break down. I have some squirrelly brakes and my tires have been known to somehow collide with sharp rocks every now and again, so you never know.

In the end, the reward was a pristine lake with extremely colorful Brook trout and some nice sized Grayling -- not to mention the fact that we had the lake to ourselves the entire day. Catching a load of beautiful fish on dry flies all day makes the strenuous part of the trip worth it.

As usual, the worst part of the day is making the trek back to the trailhead and having to pack up and go home. Maybe next time, I'll pack in a tent and stay longer.
Grayling from a high mountain lake

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