High Alpine Lakes

High alpine lakes are one of my favorite places to fly fish during early summer through the fall. These lakes can have good action during this entire span of time.  

I really like to be one of the first anglers on a smaller lake, right after the winter ice has melted and just come off the lake.  At this transition time, the fish are usually very eager to eat after winter’s lack of hatches.

Chironomid and emerger patterns can be effective, as well as scud patterns, while the water begins to warm and the bugs start to multiply. Mid to late fall can also have some fast action.  During the fall season, brooke trout, splake and tiger trout feature incredible displays of color, as their bodies seem to prepare for another winter.

Cutthroat are the gems of high alpine lake emerald green waters.

It’s a magical thing to hike into  remote lake with a float tube, especially when you discover you’ve got the lake all to yourself. A float tube allows you to access the entire lake, including the far reaches and unreadable edges, to really explore and find where the fish are sitting. 

I make sure to have a good selection of scuds, chronomids and smaller dry fly patterns, as these are usually the best bet for catching lake trout.  Most of the time, the fish aren’t picky in these remote places, so any fly that halfway resembles what they’re targeting will get the job done.  In all, I think it’s hard to beat a full day of fishing a small alpine lake.  The effort it takes to get there is totally worth it.

A healthy selection of scud patterns is a must for high country lakes.
Scuds, scuds, and more scuds.
You never know when a sudden hatch is going to pop off on these high alpine lakes. A good selection of emergers and dries is a must when the water starts to boil.
Sudden little rain squalls are very common on these lakes.
Weather changes can be very sudden at these locations, including small waterspouts like this one.
The weather can be brutal on a high country lake, but luckily it’s usually short lived.
A float tube or pontoon is a great way to get to the best spots and cover a lot of water on these lakes.
Large, healthy cutthroat trout are a special treat in these high lakes.
Splake head back home.
Colored up Tiger trout.
Splake can grow to healthy proportions in these lakes, and they sport some vibrant colors in the fall.
Many of these high alpine Utah lakes hold healthy populations of colorful brook trout.
It’s not uncommon to find yourself the lone angler on high alpine lakes like this one.
Starry nights around the campfire in the high country are some of my favorite places.

Contributed By

Justin Hamblin

Justin grew up fishing the small lakes and streams of northern Utah with his dad, and he attributes his love of fishing and photography to that same man. Justin graduated from Utah State University with degrees in Art and Business as well as lettering four years on the football team as the kicker/punter. He is married to his sweetheart and has four children who share his passion for photography, fishing, food and all things outdoors. Justin enjoys taking pictures while fishing as much as fishing itself,  and he is often more proud of the images he captures than the fish he catches. Justin has been part of the R.L. Winston Rod Company’s Pro Photographers team since 2014 and has been an ambassador for RepYourWater Since 2019.  


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