Cast & Carve
We are dedicated frothers when it comes to backcountry snowboarding and high alpine fishing. Each year when the springtime comes around we load up our multi-day packs with all things necessary to spend a week in the high mountains in search of couloirs to carve and golden trout to cast to.
This year’s crew consisted of Jimmy and I, joined by Billy Anderson, Andrew Miller, Greg Weaver and Joey Maiz. After an alpine start reminiscent of a big winter objective we found ourselves taking our first break as we watched the orange glow of the first light creeping down the granite walls of a nearby peak. While the team’s objectives were to carve and cast, I held my own list of unspoken objectives. To bring this experience to its fullest potential I would give equal attention to the lush meadows, blooming wildflowers, meandering streams, jagged skylines, cotton candy sunsets, mid-day naps, and plentiful snacks.
Scoring good conditions was a bit of a gamble for us this year, as we were dealing with the deepest springtime snowpack seen in the past decade. Arriving too early in the season meant the lake would be covered in ice and unfishable. Too late meant the snow in the couloirs would be heinously sun-cupped and unrideable. With no guarantee that the trip would be a success, we decided to roll the dice and continue our trek into base camp at 11,500 feet.
Golden Trout, the official state fish of California, are a special species in many ways. They are not native to these high alpine watersheds, yet thrive in this environment. Originally packed in by mules via coffee tins, these salmonids made quick home of these crystal clear waters. Their winters are spent under the ice, in a cold and dark environment, patiently waiting for the spring thaw. As the surface ice melts, these fish take on a cryptic appearance as they flaunt vibrant hues of yellow, orange, and red as they prepare for their spring spawn. Warming water temps and a lack of predators give these fish confidence come out and feed.
As we finished our snacks and swatted mosquitos off our skin, we continued our caravan on towards the destination. Clouds became thicker and temperatures dropped, common characteristics for this time of year. Much like snowboarding, you learn to make do with the conditions you’re given.
As we arrived at camp we were surprised to see that the lake remained mostly frozen with only a few holes deemed fishable. We would have to fish shoulder to shoulder, with not more than a few feet between each angler’s flies. It wasn’t ideal, but we made it work. It reminded me of snowboarding a tight couloir with a large group of friends.
We let mother nature dictate how we would spend our time on this trip. If the sun was out we would go snowboarding. If it was raining we would retreat to our bivys for naps and snacks. If it was somewhere in between we would go fishing. It was simple living and I didn’t mind that.
When the time was right, we made our way up the main objective, a couloir topping out near 13,000 feet. It was hard to decipher if it was May or July in that couloir that day. The sun was warm, the snow was soft, and the trout were waiting. Jimmy took the lead and one at a time we descended a perfect sierra hallway, fully frothing and making turns all the way to the lake below where our fly rods lay waiting for us. It was the perfect execution of a carve and cast, where one passion perfectly transitioned to the next.
That night, as the sun fell below the horizon, the colors in the sky reminded me of the trout I had the pleasure of casting to.
- Jimmy Goodman
Dave Faustini reflecting on the day.