TWISP — When we struggled with smokey air last summer, it was hard to believe there was a silver lining in our sooty skies caused by forest fires in Canada and Eastern Washington.
But I discovered a benefit of sorts during a fishing trip this spring to Black Pine Lake, a high mountain lake near Twisp.
The fish there were bigger than I expected. And there were more of them.
Black Pine, a 13.5-acre lake, is a gem located in the Okanagan National Forest. Surrounded by snow-capped peaks, it’s an easy drive to the 4,000-foot location that includes campsites and other facilities such as a boat launch and a dock for swimming.
Half of the eight-mile Forest Service road is asphalt, the other half is well-maintained gravel. Along the way, you can see where loggers have felled some trees to create firebreaks in the forest.
I’ve long wanted to fish Black Pine, but I was in no rush because I’d heard it was filled with a bunch of stunted brook trout. But I got more interested a few years back when I heard the lake had been cleaned out of the eastern interlopers and restocked with the more natural Westslope cutthroat trout.
I love cutthroat because they’re usually not too finicky about what they eat, take a fly aggressively and are nearly as beautiful as brook trout when they’re in their spawning colors.
I got a look at Black Pine 2.0 during a barn-storming trip to the Methow Valley with friends Chuck Morrison from Marysville and Doug Keough of Snohomish that included stops to a variety of lakes. High lakes that are easy to get to usually attract a lot of anglers and produce a lot of small fish, but Black Pine was closed for much of last summer and fall because of the fire danger.
While there was fire nearby last year, the lake and it’s camping areas survived. And so did most of the fish. With few anglers, they just ate bugs and got bigger.
They’re not giants, but the May trip produced some beautiful fish. Most were from 13 to 15 inches, but a few were closer to 17 inches, which is pretty nice for a high mountain lake. Many were in spawning colors. I don’t believe the lake has any creeks that can be used for spawning, but a number of fish were lined up trying to spawn in the gravel around the boat launch.
Black Pine is quite small, but it’s shoreline is covered with brush. While you can fish from the dock, you’re much better off bringing a float tube or a small pram so you can easily fish the entire lake.
Black Pine is mostly a deep bowl. It’s shoreline is lined with cattails and reeds, but quickly plummets into deep water. The far end of the lake has some shallower areas for fish to feed and some sunken logs to provide cover for the fish.
We were fly fishing, and we had success with basic patterns like black leeches and a woolley bugger pattern called a thin mint.
There were fish along the shoreline, but we also had success casting along the drop-offs and retrieving our flies in the deep water. The water was crystal clear, and I think the fish could easily see the flies and would travel some distance for them.
There are no special rules for the lake, so anglers can use bait or their favorite lures if they don’t like flies. Small spoons or spinners are often effective lures for cutthroat.