This is a place I haven’t visited since the death of a dear friend who I grew up with. He and two others were gunned down senselessly at a Halloween party six years ago. At the time I had a week off from work due to unseasonably warm weather and spent every day of it alone, fishing out of the way high country lakes and watching desperate trout rise to my flies as the daunting and arduous winter lurked behind the balding aspens and skies devoid of the summer birds. I remember coming to this lake the day before his memorial and seeing numerous fish inspect my offerings and reject them outright, a humbling end to a trying and painful week. I wasn’t there to catch fish or search for meaning, but the rejection of every interested fish was for some reason unsettling. I forgot about this place for a few years, buried somewhere in the numbness and shock that shrouded my family of friends and I during that time.
One of my oldest friends and his wife joined me in rediscovering this forgotten lake this weekend. We passed onto a scree slope beyond the permanently arched branches of the timber stands that are shaped by the relentless winds pressing over the crest of the range. These deformed statues mark the last waypoint to the unmarked and trail-less lake just over the next shoulder of granite. We crested the rise and saw the lake sprawled far below us, pale shapes shifting below and forming ripples as they gorged on a late season hatch. This place is a secret we keep and as far as I am concerned it doesn’t have a name. Being surrounded by some of the most dense summer tourism activity you can imagine it’s a miracle that it remains so pristine and unknown, as the lakes near it are all fished out by fall and are planted with tiny brookies to keep the vacationing sports entertained all summer. In the past I’ve seen fish here that fall under the toad category, but today we only found some pretty little guys and gals.
We spent the calm and strangely warm afternoon that mirrored my last day here reeling in the fish that previously shunned me during that emotional day a few years prior. I thought about the fortune we quietly shared in having a place like this. Something few knew about and fewer fished, something set free by ignorance and sloth, something mostly free of the horrors of humanity. Our fallen friend would have shared the same reverence if he were there with us. He shared the love of nature and all things wild that our group of friends were all seemingly born with and didn’t realize growing up running free through the Sierras. I remembered that we lost him almost 6 years ago to the day, and I felt a sense of closure as I let a beautiful cutthroat slip out of my hand, free to live at the mercy of nature and not by the will of man.