While continuing to reduce our historical footprint (meaning getting rid of crap from our past that is no longer needed or relevant), Wendy stumbled across some pictures from a backpacking trip we took with brother Brian and nephew Evan in the summer of 2002.
This trip was inspired by a day hike that Brian and I took a year earlier to these same lakes. We were actually fishing farther north on Bishop Creek, and decided to drive south to check out a spot that our Dad had taken us to decades before. All we remembered was what a great fishing spot the Cottonwood Lakes had been in our youth, and we were so close (only maybe 75 miles or so each way) that we couldn’t resist taking a peek. We left Bishop Creek before dawn, turned off Hwy. 395 at Lone Pine, wound our way up to the trailhead, and headed off on foot. It’s only 4 1/2 miles to the lakes, but all the hiking is done above 8,500 feet, so it took us a bit. And to get back to the truck before dark, we only had a couple hours of fishing. But it was totally worth it. Monster Golden Trout.
So, we planned a longer trip for the next summer. Brian and Evan arranged a pack train to haul in the comfy camping gear (yes, we had a full kitchen, air mattresses, and even a hot shower setup!). Wendy and I hiked in with small packs. The pack train met us almost exactly as we arrived at Lake 3, where we intended to set up camp at the top of the lake just on the eastern side. Here’s the campsite.
And, here’s the kitchen! That’s Evan in the shot.
The Cottonwood Lakes sit just on the eastern side of the Sierras, at the foot of Army Pass. The lakes themselves are well above the tree line, at about 11,500′ in altitude. Here’s our view to the west from the campsite.
While there are 5 lakes, in order to preserve the headwater source of the eastern slope Golden Trout, they only open in a rotation that changes every year. This year, Lakes 4 and 5 were open, and Lake 4 was getting all the action. So we invested some time in the long hike around Lake 5 to get at the beach on the far eastern end, where we could hope to actually land some Goldens. Here’s the lake.
And, here’s Wendy fishing from the beautiful, pristine beach.
We must have had the magic formula, because we seemed to have no trouble at all regularly hooking Goldens up to 14″. Most folks feel pretty good about a 9 or 10 inch Golden Trout picked from a cold Sierra stream, and might even tell you there isn’t any such thing as a Golden bigger than 10 or 11 inches. But here’s some unadulterated proof against that argument. Needless to say, we ate well!
As a footnote, we had a hurricane force storm the second night we were there. The Pack Master claims “there ain’t NEVER been a storm up here in July, ever”, but we were pretty sure the tent-flattening 75 mph winds and driving rain and hail were real. All in all, though, it was still worth it. If you all don’t think so, I’ll repost that picture of our feast and the beautiful blue water we saw from the beach on Lake 5!