My new hobby this summer is fishing. Now, I don’t mean fly fishing on the Gallatin and Madison a la Brad Pitt, although that may be where it’s headed. What I like is running around in high mountains, so that’s where my fishing hobby takes me: to our glorious, scenic, government-stocked alpine lakes! It’s perfect. All the excitement of hiking, climbing and camping in our wonderful Montana peaks, plus catching big, delicious trout! It’s hard to ask for more.
My friend Ben and I planned on fishing Diamond Lake, in the Spanish Peaks north of Big Sky. Diamond is a big lake, and after looking at the stocking schedule Ben thought there would be some monster Cutthroats in it. The trouble is that there is no trail to it. The usual approach up the drainage from Spanish Creek is a tough bushwack. Our thought was to drop in on it from above, via Beacon Point. It looked steep, but it was alpine tundra so the going should be easier than the other approach. Plus, it would give us a much more scenic hike up Bear Basin and by Gallatin Peak, with better camping and more lakes.
We started in on Friday afternoon, camping on the trail in Bear Basin. The next day we climbed up out of the Basin, with the company of mountain goats. The trail drops down the other side a short ways into the South Fork of Spanish Creek before cutting over right past Summit Lake into the North Fork of Hell Roaring Creek. Summit Lake was one of the more spectacular high mountain lakes I’ve ever seen. It’s way up on a pass and wreathed by big peaks like the Blaze and Gallatin. A lake on a pass?? Amazing.
We set up our second camp at Thompson Lake, right at the foot of Gallatin Peak, which towered above us. In the back of my mind I hoped to bag Gallatin Peak on this trip, but the Northwest face is pretty imposing and I decided just to fish. Another peak for another day. (Nice TR here of my buddy Steve skiing Gallatin Peak.) Fortunately, the fishing was awesome so my regrets at not getting up Gallatin were quickly allayed.
Every 5th cast it seemed we were hooking fish. They must have been hungry. Starving. A few even tried to take my strike indicator! Within a half hour Ben and I had both landed 15″+ Cuttys. The biggest might have been about 17″. This being my first summer doing much fishing, I’d never caught fish this big before so it was very exciting. It’s a lot more fun to play and land a 15″ fish than a 5″ one! We kept three big ones, and had to start releasing the rest for fear we couldn’t eat more than three of these monsters. Ben was using full fly gear, and I was using flies on my Eagle Claw backpackers spinning rod.
That night we enjoyed whiskey and more fire-cooked trout than, frankly, I ever care to eat in one sitting again. A man does not need to eat that much fish, ever. But it was delicious!
The next morning we felt satisfied enough with the previous day’s fishing to just scout Diamond Lake from Beacon Point, without plans to actually climb down and fish it. The hike to and view from Beacon were very nice, but I was glad left our fishing gear. The drop down to Diamond was pretty sheer. I liked being under no obligation to find a way down it.
We finished our weekend with a little more fishing at Thompson Lake, and then the hike back out to the car. Yet another great weekend in the mountains of Montana! The best map of this area is the somewhat elusive Spanish Peaks map, but another good one is the Beartooth Publishing “Bozeman - Big Sky - West Yellowstone” map available from Amazon and also directly from Beartooth. Oh, and the USGS has free topos online now too! store.usgs.gov