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Fishing with Phideaux

Phil 'Flip' Akers, Backcountry Travelogues

eet Phideaux, a 110-pound neurotic chocolate Lab. His name is pronounced “Fido” but it is spelled “Phideaux” because he is a Cajun dog. Anyway, last summer Phideaux took his human (that’s me) on a trout hunt up into a small, less-traveled wilderness area located midway between the town of Burney and Lassen Volcanic National Park.

Thousand Lakes Volcano -- in the southernmost Cascade Mountain range -- offers something for every user group. Sweeping mountain summits with stunning scenery, alpine meadows, good fishing lakes and hunting grounds, all of these backcountry qualities beckon empirical backpackers and equestrians.
Phideaux, Chocolate Labrador Retriever, Phil 'Flip' Akers, Backcountry Travelogues
Phideaux

Truth be told, Phideaux doesn’t really fish that much, but he sure does like to swim -- and bare down on some cat dung if given the opportunity.

Although created within the past million years, this volcano has been dormant long enough for a glacier to eat away its northeastern slopes, leaving a ring of peaks around to represent the old crater. One of these peaks is 8677-foot Crater Peak, the highest point in all of Lassen National Forest. Standing on the summit of Crater Peak, the glacial activity is evident that eroded the volcano and created many small lakes, tarns, and ponds scattered along the path of destruction. But this wilderness area does not have 1000 Lakes as its name would suggest -- more like seven.

Phil 'Flip' Akers, Backcountry Travelogues, Thousand Lakes Wilderness, Crater Peak, Fishing with Phideaux
Crater Peak -- highest point in Lassen

Gazing at all the surrounding peaks, nostalgic thoughts of Mt. Tehama standing sentinel over all of 1000 Lakes, Lassen Volcanic National Park and Caribou Wilderness combined is truly unbelievable. Most all the peaks viewable to the south are remnants of old Mt. Tehama. That once was one mother of a volcano!

Phil 'Flip' Akers, Backcountry Travelogues, Thousand Lakes Wilderness, Mt. Tehama, Fishing with Phideaux
Remnants of Mt. Tehama visible in the distance.
Phil 'Flip' Akers, Backcountry Travelogues, Thousand Lakes Wilderness, Crater Peak, Fishing with Phideaux
Snow often blankets the edges of these lakes.
Phil 'Flip' Akers, Backcountry Travelogues, Thousand Lakes Wilderness, Crater Peak, Fishing with Phideaux
Watch your step! One slip on this slope could mean a cold bath.

I set up my camp in the crater of this ancient volcano, high above tree line, high above water, but most importantly, high above the mosquitoes that were pretty obnoxious at the lower elevations nearer the water. My vehicle was the only one parked at the Magee trailhead and no one else was encountered on this 2-day mini-adventure which included a July 4 holiday. Leaving Magee, the “trail” is unmaintained and far from being well trod. The trail is in good shape in the early forested section but once you break above tree line it is hardly discernible, and the steep grade is very businesslike! If you plan to access 1000 Lakes via the Magee trailhead bring plenty of water as there is absolutely none available for miles of uphill marching. And the trailhead is remote; prepare for copious dirt road travel. There are no fancy wilderness boundary signs such as those seen at the other trailheads and in other designated wilderness areas.

Phil 'Flip' Akers, Backcountry Travelogues, Thousand Lakes Wilderness, Crater Peak, Fishing with Phideaux
The only sign we encountered was lying mangled on the ground.
Phil 'Flip' Akers, Backcountry Travelogues, Thousand Lakes Wilderness, Crater Peak, Fishing with Phideaux
Trail is extremely overgrown with weather-bullied shrub manzanita.
Phil 'Flip' Akers, Backcountry Travelogues, Thousand Lakes Wilderness, Crater Peak, Fishing with Phideaux
Camp literally set up in the crater of the old volcano.
Phil 'Flip' Akers, Backcountry Travelogues, Thousand Lakes Wilderness, Hat Creek Rim, Crater Peak, Fishing with Phideaux
Views east to Hat Creek Rim and beyond.
Phil 'Flip' Akers, Backcountry Travelogues, Thousand Lakes Wilderness, Crater Peak, Fishing with Phideaux
Views northeast show where the glacial activity eroded away this old volcano. Below are Burney, Cassel, Fall River Mills, Pit River and beyond.
Phil 'Flip' Akers, Backcountry Travelogues, Thousand Lakes Wilderness, Crater Peak, Fishing with Phideaux
Views south into Lassen National Park with Lassen Peak left center. Brokeoff Mountain is visible on the upper right.

There are much easier ways to visit 1000 Lakes than the eccentric route I chose. Both Tamarack and Cypress (Eiler Gulch) trailheads provide much easier access to good fishing and the heart of the wilderness, but they are also much lower elevation, less exciting, and more popular. There is yet another trailhead, Bunchgrass which accesses an area with shallow lakes and seemingly endless miles of the same scenery. But if you are hunting, well, Bunchgrass is a story for another time.

Phil 'Flip' Akers, Backcountry Travelogues, Rainbow Trout, Fishing with Phideaux, Thousand Lakes Wilderness, Crater Peak,
Resident “Put-&-Grow” Rainbow

Fishing is very good here with most of the major lakes offering nice trout. You will find the typical put-and-grow variety, anxious to swallow weighted bombers retrieved at a fast-paced strip. Magee and Everett Lakes, the highest elevation lakes in the wilderness area and the nearest sizeable lakes to my camp, are both gorgeous and exceedingly deep –- which cannot be said for every lake here. Some nearby small streams, however, are rarely ever fished mainly because of poor access and smaller size class. Only a small percentage of backcountry travelers and anglers venture off trail. But with a little cross-country trekking and bushwhacking you often find that the stream residents albeit smaller, are more naturalized with brilliant colors. We discovered one particular stream that was teeming with these trout, aggressively attacking parachute adams, elk-hair caddis, PMD…literally anything dry and floating was game on. I actually prefer these stunted fish on backpacking trips because my fry pan is only 10 inches….perfect! And thinning the herd actually helps the fishery in these instances of overpopulation and lean food source.

Phil 'Flip' Akers, Backcountry Travelogues, Rainbow Trout, Fishing with Phideaux, Thousand Lakes Wilderness, Crater Peak,
Resident Wild Rainbow, perfect for the fry pan.

If you enjoy lots of forest, lots of solitude, and lots of fishing, this place is for you. No wilderness permits are required here but they do request you sign the trailhead registry. Thanks for reading and we’ll see you all somewhere down the trail.

Phil “Flip” Akers is a diverse angler and outdoor adventurer. For over 20 years he has backpacked, packed llamas and fly fished the Sierra Nevada and Cascade mountain ranges, venturing into the farthest reaches of our wilderness areas pursuing quality trout and solitude. He enjoys sharing his experiences including tips, techniques, outdoor cooking recipes, and storytelling. He is certified in wilderness first response and rescue including swiftwater rescue, technical rope and technical animal rescue.


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