Words by Dave Faustini / Photos by Andrew Miller / Video by Greg Weaver
Fishing and snowboarding are synonymous with life for many who reside in this corridor known as the Eastside. Jimmy Goodman and I are no exception here. 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.
After a 4:30am dark start to beat the heat and mosquitoes the crew hit the High Country just after sunrise greeted by lots of snow, half frozen lakes and deep blue skies.
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.
After a record breaking snowfall in the spring the high alpine took its time to properly thaw out. So much so we had to push our trip back to the end of July but it was worth the wait.
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.
A truly unique specimen. The elusive Golden Trout.
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.
First poke around the lake with plenty of lines options to ride in the background. It was crazy to see how much snow was still around at the end of July.
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.
Jimmy Goodman throwing a couple casts on his way to go carve.
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.
After a quick morning session on the lake the crew timed the snow perfectly reaching the top of their line as the corn snow reached perfection.
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.
Smooth fast corn snow. Can’t ask for much more mid Summer. Dave Faustini finding the flow.
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.
The crew enjoying some evening entertainment. “No matter the season or activity anytime spent unplugged with friends in the mountains will always be one of the most rewarding things in my life” - Jimmy Goodman.