If you are searching for that hidden gem that is not visited by a lot of anglers, plan a hike to fish an alpine lake. Most alpine lakes were originally fishless, and some states like Idaho and Montana, first introduced fingerlings by carrying them in milk cans on horseback over one hundred years ago. Later, state management programs began to use airplanes and helicopters to drop them into the lakes as they flew overhead.

Alpine Lakes

Depending on who you talk to, an alpine lake or high lake is a lake or body of water that is at an altitude of 3,500 feet or higher. Fishing these lakes demands a more intentional fisherman that wants to be surrounded by the beauty and the serenity of the mountains. And in return, the lakes provide an experience that is unique, personal, and unforgettable to the fisherman. There are no easy shortcuts to arrive at one of these lakes. These lakes can be challenging to get to, but you do not have to be an experienced fisherman or hiker to go. This article will go over some of the basics that you will need to know and prepare for your alpine lake experience.

Why Extra Preparation is Important

There are a few things to keep in mind if you are hiking to an alpine lake. The first thing to understand is that your physical condition will be more critical because there is less oxygen at higher elevations. The higher you go, the harder it will be to breathe. This will have a more significant impact if you are not acclimated to the altitude.

And the second thing is always to be mindful of changes in the weather. Weather can change very quickly at high altitudes. It may be nice and warm at the trailhead, but you can find yourself stuck in a storm during your hike. Even in the summer months, it can snow at these altitudes.

How to Prepare for Fishing Alpine Lakes

As mentioned before, Alpine Lakes imply that you are hiking at high elevation. These lakes can be found anywhere from 3,500 feet to 11,00 feet or higher. Most of Colorado’s 2,000 alpine lakes are located between 9,000 and 12,000 feet and are accessible a few miles from the trailheads. So what do you need to carry for your alpine fishing hike? Most of your day hiking essentials will remain the same, but here is a list of tips and recommendations for your adventure.

  1. One of the most important things is to drink plenty of water. Making sure that you are well hydrated before the hike is as important as drinking enough water while hiking.
  2. Even if you are going on a day hike, it’s recommended to bring a water filter, so you don’t have to worry about conserving water.
  3. Bring sunscreen or sun-protective clothing. Even if it is a cloudy day, you can still get burnt from the suns rays. The higher you are in elevation, the more ultraviolet you’ll be exposed to, so don’t take chances and take the proper steps to avoid getting burnt.
  4. Carry adequate rain gear. It may start out as a sunny day, but the weather can always change quickly up in the mountains.
  5. Bring an extra layer of clothing in case the temperature drops while you are hiking.
  6. Hopefully, you won’t need it, but having a compass handy along with a map of the area can be a lifesaver.
  7. Waterproof matches or lighters are always a good idea, especially if you plan on camping overnight. Who knows, even if you don’t camp overnight, you might get hungry and want to cook up some fresh trout.
  8. Let someone know about your plans, where you are going, when you expect to leave and return.

What Fishing Gear is Recommended

Now for the most important topic. You are not only hiking to alpine lakes to enjoy nature but to catch some trout. There are many ways to fish for trout in the isolated lakes. You can use a spin or fly rod. Whichever is your favorite, keep in mind that you want to choose a rod and reel combo that will help you maximize your casting distance. The alpine lakes are not small streams or rivers; some stretch a mile long. You will also be more exposed to the wind, so you want something that can cut through it.

If you want to fly fish, a four-piece fly rod model is recommended. These are great for traveling, and you can tie the case to your backpack to ensure that it doesn’t get caught on a tree or accidentally bumped. If you go with a spin rod, choose a shorter length that breaks down in two pieces.

What You Need to Know before Going

The type of insects you will find will be significantly different from lower elevation streams and rivers, so make sure to bring an assortment of flies with you. Each alpine lake will be different based on the elevation you are at, the types of insects found, and if the fish populations are managed.

If fish populations are overpopulated, you may find smaller fish because there is less food and more competition. However, at the same time, you might find very aggressive fish attacking your line.

When you arrive at the lake, look for structure or inlet streams that feed into the lake. These small streams bring in food for the fish, and the fish will be waiting to ambush their prey.

Final Thoughts

Fishing in the backcountry gives you a chance to explore some fantastic areas. These lakes may be a little more challenging to get to, but they are well worth the trek. You don’t have to be an experienced hiker to hike to one, but proper planning along with appropriate gear is essential.