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In 1998 we had an fantastic time fly fishing and catching cutthroat trout in the long basin that holds the five Chamberlain Lakes. It was our best fishing of that trip.
The cutthroat of Chamberlain Basin
their breed, they'll not be disgracing
they're strong and they're stout
they'll fight you all out
they're really extraordinarily amazing!
After leaving Chamberlain Basin nestled up against the soaring southwest flank of Castle Peak, we wanted to spend one last night in the Wilderness. Our planned overnight spot changed after we chatted with a wilderness ranger on the trail. He told us about Kimmer Lake and legendary cutthroat trout. There was no trail to KImmer Lake. It takes work to get there. The ranger pointed out a blue dot on our 7.5 minute topo. "This is it," he said. "It is not named on the map. We call it Kimmer."
After hearing a story like this we made the effort. You bet we did. We climbed into the high basin holding Kimmer Lake and made camp. Was the story true? Circling the lake, studying it, that afternoon and evening, I saw only one trout, cruising deep. It was as big as my thigh. The Big Guy and Fastshot had similar experiences. We fished hard. Not a single take. To catch one of these trout would take as much work as it took to reach this wonderful place. I was up early the next morning. With my coffee mug and fly rod, I moved slowly and watched. A large caddis fly landed on the surface. Although a trout did not rise to take it, it gave me hope. You have to be an optimist to fly fish. I tied on a caddis dry of matching size. It took a long cast to match where the caddis was. Thank god for a still morning. I waited. I waited. Nothing rose except the need to off load some of that morning coffee and silence my complaining bladder. I resisted as long as I could then laid my fly rod down and dashed a short distance away while struggling to get my pants open. That sigh of deep relief hit the same time the surface of the lake exploded. My fly was gone and my fly was open. I suddenly realized I had one free hand and hobbled fast over to my fly rod - you have to have determination to fly fish - but the trout and my 5x tippet were gone.
We worked on limericks about Kimmer Lake on our hike out to the Fourth of July Road trailhead. The Lady hiked with pencil and paper ready. The Lady, our scribe wrote them down. These we both remember as Cousin Keith's work:
In Kimmer Lake the Leviathan swim
trout with shoulders you'd see in a gym
they look so mysterious
and deadly serious
I doubt they'd take my fly on a whim
A variation on the limerick form -
In Kimmer Lake the Leviathan travel
barely visible just above the gravel
I'd like to hook one to see what would happen
I'll bet my leader would soon be snappin'
But if by luck the line should hold
and I would land a trout so bold
I'd gaze in awe
at its mighty maw
then turn him back to his watery fold
As you can imagine, I have dreamed about Kimmer Lake. Today we would return.
The morning was perfect.
We gobbled up breakfast, put our gear together and were on our way. Two and half miles in we turned off trail reading both the topo and terrain for a way that would go. The landscape is a wonderful mix of forest, meadows, lake, and soaring mountainside.
Kimmer Lake was much larger than we both remembered. But we had arrived.
As before, large caddis flies were about.
Not a fish was seen. This was good as it told us the lake had not been replanted recently. As before there were no small trout. If there were trout here, they were few and maybe even legendary in size. I had hope.
The Lady studied the map as I put my rod together and contemplated strategy.
I started in fly fishing..........................I tried everything - nymphs, scuds, different depths, emergers, dry flies. I was determined. I knew there was one magic cutthroat, the Leviathan, in this lake. I had hope. I just needed to figure it out, get the right combination, perfect presentation, get the planets to align. Just one cutthroat caught and released at Kimmer would make the trip.
Several hours later, it was time for a break. We explored the outlet and its impressive drop out of the hanging glacial valley.
The afternoon upslope wind had really picked up.
The break was over. I went back to fly fishing. I have a tactic I like to use in the wind at an alpine lake. I have brought up more than one respectable trout using this method. I tied on a large caddis pattern. I let the wind carry it out over the water as I held my fly rod high and let out line. When the gust of wind broke the fly slammed down on the surface. I held my rod at just the right level letting the caddis fly jump up and down on the surface again and again. "Come on Leviathan, take it! You know you want it!" I shouted into the wind. "Come and get it big boy!"
No trout rose to the fly.
It was time to head out. My fishing time at Kimmer Lake was over. That monster trout is still in there. I know it. We will be back.
I suggested to the Lady that we consult the map and plot a cross country route out of this basin. The map showed a potential route. We climbed high out of the cirque and looked back down on Kimmer Lake; one last look.
The vistas were grand as we hit the high point.
Far to the north was one of our favorite summits, David O. Lee Peak.
D. O. Lee, what a great mountain! One of the classic White Cloud peaks. We have stood on its summit twice. Here's a photo from our last trip up back in 2009.
The Lady led the way. She was in heaven. "I love this!" she said over and over.
She still noticed every wildflower. "These are the brightest red paintbrush I think we've seen," she said. "Take a picture!"
We climbed up onto the last high bench.
The vista now opened out to the west to the crest of the Sawtooth Range.
The Lady spotted a point below us to stand on top of.
There were a couple of rugged spot along our cross country route. All of it was enjoyable.
We climbed down and intersected the hiking trail and now it was just a couple of miles back to camp.
We poured water over each other for our afternoon showers and put together a nice salad for supper. It was again time to wander about the area.
Idaho has to be the hot spot for Whorled Penstemon.
More deer showed up for the evening get together, including this one, "Silly".
The last light of the sun was on the ridge above............................
.........................and signaled our last night in the White Clouds and brought to mind another of our limericks.
The White Clouds are really quite awesome
the wildflowers and vistas all blossom
the beauty up high
is kissed by the sky
how lucky we are just to touch them
We called our camper "the deer blind" this night. The whole cast of characters surrounded our truck. We lay on our bellies on the bed and watched out the screen windows as we fell asleep. "Mom"," Skiddery", "The Nubs" (two large spike bucks), "Big Fella" (a buck with a magnificent 4 x 3 rack), and "Silly" were content to share their space with the voices and laughter coming from inside the white box. The Lady had named them all. She also named this spot, "Lucky Camp".
The truck was ready the next morning. We headed back out Fourth of July Road and on to our next adventure.
We would find a place to base camp for several days of exploring the Sawtooth Range.
Our adventure continues in Part Three. Please Click Here