Trails To Glory

Trails To Glory

Central Cascade Mountains - Lakes, Washington

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  • Photography by: Brian O'Keefe

Seven hundred lakes beckon anglers from the Washington Cascades Alpine Lakes Wilderness. Some of the best, like UpperWildcat Lake, can be accessed off of I-90 at Snoqualmie Pass, which is located just an hour east of Seattle. All it takes to find squadrons of cooperative trout are strong lungs, a sense of adventure and a willingness to put some miles on your boots.

To reach these fish, park at Alpental Ski Area and take the well-worn trail to Snow Lake. Circle right to the Gem Lake trail. Continue past Gem on a faint trail to Lower Wildcat, then follow the sketchy trail up the creek to Upper Wildcat. Total distance is 6.8 miles, and now it’s just you and the most brilliantly colored cutthroat that have ever taken a fly. Many seasoned anglers and hikers call Upper Wildcat the most beautiful lake they’ve ever seen, and you may say the same when you first spot it. Fishing may seem like an afterthought considering the view, but hey, you’re there. So why not fish?

Fly choice is simple, as you’ll only need a couple: Size 12 and 14 olive- or orange-bodied Elkhair Caddis, and Adams will do the trick. Use nippers to trim the hackle if necessary to match any naturals on the water. These alpine trout cruise among the fallen trees in the shallows and along the rocky shoreline, always alert to anything that smacks of food. Whether you choose to make this trip a pretty grueling day hike or an overnight (there’s a good campsite near the lake’s outlet), Upper Wildcat is worth the effort. For an added treat, take this hike in September when the huckleberries are ripe. When you emerge from the wilderness, no one will really care if your lips and tongue are stained blue and that you’re blabbering about some of the best fishing and the prettiest mountain scenery you’ve ever enjoyed.


After The Grind

On the way home, take a detour to the coal-mining town of Roslyn, where you can get some of the Roslyn Brewing Company’s finest at the Roslyn Café or at Roslyn Village Pizza. Let your appetite be your guide.