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Trek for Trout

his year, thanks to the regular planting of trout at Kilarc Reservoir near Whitmore, Sharon and I have eaten fish dinners at least once a week for a month. I think the freshly stocked rainbows are good table fare as long as they’re kept fresh and cold after they’re caught.

However, I do think trout from mountain lakes, where they were planted as fingerlings and allowed to grow naturally, are even better. For that reason, and to see if I can still hike and enjoy it, I headed off to Lake Eiler in the Thousand Lakes Wilderness last Friday.

Late last summer, you may recall, a lightning caused wildfire burned around Eiler and headed north almost to the town of Burney. I went to Eiler via mule last September with Wendy Johnston and Art Stackhouse just to see how things were, so I knew what to expect this time around even before getting there. The scenery wasn’t pristine any longer, but the trout, all rainbows, would still be colorful and, hopefully, hungry.

Author, John Higley sits on a log at Lake Eiler watching for fish rising and preparing his tacklle. Photo by Sharon Higleytackle.
Made it at last. I sit on a log at Lake Eiler watching for fish rising and preparing my tackle.

To catch a few, I brought along a variety of things that usually work including PowerBait, meal worms, spinners, spoons and even wet flies, which could be fished slowly behind a clear plastic bubble with my lightweight spinning rod. My flies of choice are basic black and brown patterns such as Flying Black Ants and Hare’s Ear nymphs or black and yellow striped patterns that represent the ever present yellow jackets.

I started the hike from the Tamarack Trailhead at 7:30 a.m. when the temperature was around 55 degrees. It was quite refreshing when compared to the heat in the valley. True, I worked up a sweat walking, and it got warm by the time I reached Eiler, but at no time was I uncomfortable while fishing or, for that matter, on the hike out. Oh, did I tell you I thought the trail was almost flat when I was in my 40s and now it’s uphill both ways! Just kidding, but if you’re a codger like me I think you’ll understand.

Because of the drought, I’d say Eiler is September low right now.

John Higley standing on the bank of Lake Eiler which has low water, photo by Sharon Higley
Eiler is low due to evaporation but there’s still plenty of water to fish and plenty of fish in the water.

That means it’s about four feet down due to evaporation. It may be wishful thinking, but I doubt if it will get much lower before being recharged by rain this fall. Regardless, the lake is still in good shape and the fishing, if not red hot, is steady. In two hours I caught and released several lip hooked pan size trout and kept four similar sized fish that were the main course of dinner the following evening.

John Higley holds up trout from lake Eiler, in background, photo by Sharon Higley
The trout weren’t huge but they were willing, spunky, plentiful and perfect frying size.

Just in case you’re wondering, I wrapped the cleaned fish in damp paper towels and put them in a plastic bag for the trek out. Upon reaching my truck at the trailhead, I put them on ice immediately for the drive home. Once there, they were tucked in a bowl of ice and allowed to sit in the refrigerator until Saturday evening when they were dredged in salted corn meal and pan fried in vegetable oil. They were served with sweet corn muffins, mixed veggies and milk.

Pan fried trout on a plate with a side of peas and carrots and a glass of milk, photo by Sharon Higley
It’s hard to beat freshly caught, pan fried trout as the main course for dinner.

My ulterior motive for hiking was to get some exercise in uneven terrain and see how my legs and heart rate held up to the challenging uphill stretches. Not bad, actually. I’m not much for regimented exercise programs, so I’m hoping manual labor and occasional hikes for trout will keep me in some sort of shape for deer season, which is on the horizon.

First things first, however. It’s time to plan another trek for trout.

Will let you know what I come up with as soon as I know.

Author and writer John Higley is a resident of Palo Cedro. His articles have appeared in outdoor magazines hundreds of times and his columns appear regularly at Higley has written four books the latest of which “Successful Turkey Hunting” was published in May, 2014 by Skyhorse Publishing in New York. This hard cover, full color book is being sold at Barnes and Noble Book Stores and on Amazon. Autographed copies are available direct from John Higley, P.O. Box 120, Palo Cedro, CA 96073. Cost is $28.95 postage paid.


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