Since Martin (Amy's sister's husband) moved to Chelan he's wanted to learn how to fish. We've tried a couple of times, but things like work or kids or snow have always gotten in the way. Not this time. Heck, I was even driving over by myself just so we could hit the water. (Technically, I was driving over by myself because Amy and the kids went over earlier in the day and would be staying into the next week, but it's more dramatic if it sounds like it was a special 150 mile drive for this trip.)
I rolled into Chelan about 8:30 on Friday after a very weird drive that included little traffic, a freak thunderstorm, and no kids' movies playing in the truck. I even refreshed my memory of the music of the 80s once the radio signals faded from the air. The girls and kids were at the rodeo (yee ha!), but Martin was home working. Rather than get in the way of a bit of cowboy fascination I settled in.
At 7am the next morning (after Martin had already been to the hospital to do rounds) we hit Starbucks and then headed out of town toward Winthrop. Along the way we stopped in Methow to pick up my father and extra gear for Martin. (I have just enough for me and can fill in gaps in other's outfit, but Grandpa Jack has enough to equip an entire fleet of fishermen.)
From Winthrop we stumbled around town with lousy directions before figuring out where we were going. We even tried calling fellow fisherman familiar with the area we were going to, but got no good info that way. Soon we were bumping along Forest Service roads through areas that had been recently burned. Cresting Freezout Ridge we started getting a sense of the Tiffany Mountain and Lakes area. It was far lusher than I had expected with loads of green, loads of wet, and loads of bugs. At the Tiffany Springs campground we hurried into our packs, doused ourselves with bug juice and wasted little time heading down the trail.
We were each carrying an inflated bellyboat, waders, rod, and other assorted gear. The trail was all downhill to Tiffany Lake, but only about 1.3 miles long. Along the way we passed through more blackedned trees that contrasted with bright flowers popping up between them. Rumor has it there are goats, bears, and moose around Tiffany Lake, but we saw none.
At the lake we quickly got Martin onto the water with instructions to paddle around. Fish were already rising and we were all eager to get a fly on the water. (I, of course, had to take a few pictures first.) Before we could even get our waders on Martin had a fish hooked and nearly landed. Some would say it was incredible natural born talent. Some might say it was beginner's luck. Others might say the ice comes off the lake so late (it's at 6,200 feet) and comes back so early that the fish will take anything they can find in their short feeding window. Me? I'll say all those things, but without much conviction.
By the time the rest of us were in the water Martin had caught yet more fish and we were all soon paddling around having no issues getting hits and even occasionally hooking fish. (They were mostly brook trout with some cutthroats thrown in for good measure. The brookies were especially colorful.) None of the fish were particuarly large, but fun on the light rods we had brought.
The weather couldn't quite decide what to do. Once again there was a 30% chance of thunderstorms (just like on Kendall and Ruth, but this time it didn't look like we were going to catch a break. We fished for a few hours at Tiffany Lake, but when I realized I was sitting really low in the water it was time to get out. (My bellyboat appears to have an issue staying inflated.)
It should come as no surprise that I had planned routes beyond the 1.3 miles to Tiffany Lake. Little Tiffany Lake was about 1,000 feet higher and Tiffany Mountain was another 800 feet above that. I gave my father one of our radios (that never did work, blah!) and we got ready to head out. Just then Mike and Nancy, the two we had tried to call for directions, showed up. We promised a speedy scouting mission and were off.
There's a well-established trail from Tiffany Lake to Honeymoon Pass. The trail winds up a little creek full of flowers and burned trees. Sections are steep, but nothing too bad. At the pass we found a fisherman's trail (how apropos!) that headed up toward Little Tiffany along the ridge. The flowers got better, the views got better, the bugs got worse. A lot worse. We found ourselves in a little larch forest above Little Tiffany and had an easy descent to the lake through the open forest.
Little Tiffany is hugely different from Tiffany Lake in a bunch of ways. The lake sits in a tight little bowl with cliffs on two sides, a hill on the third, and nothing on the final side. When the water is higher the outlet runs through rocks and over the edge down toward Tiffany Lake. It's also much, much smaller. Some other fishermen we talked with said you didn't need a boat for Little Tiffany, but it'd be a lot more productive if you had one. We wound up being constrained by our casting ability to the areas along the shore. Even then, we caught a couple of fish. (Martin will no doubt point out that he caught more than I did. Hmph.)
While fishing we could see a couple negotiating the ridge above us and they eventually arrived at the lake to fish. They'd come in from Freezout Ridge for the afternoon and told us Tiffany Mountain was indeed just above us. After catching our fill (or at least a couple) we packed up and climbed back out of the lake basin, past a killer camp site, and then started up the hill toward the summit.
The trail got a bit sketchy and difficult to follow above Little Tiffany, but there was little in the way of a simple walk to the mellow summit... except the 800 feet of gain over about a mile. As we got closer to the top the clouds started to finally blow in. At the summit I found a summit register tucked into a pipe protruding from the rock. Strange indeed.
When the clouds blew apart we could see down the cliff face and decided that'd be a bad way to go. We followed our tracks back speeding up as first the rain, then the hail chased us down the mountain. We made great time down to Tiffany where my father was waiting for us. He said he'd only left the lake when the storm blew through. The hike out was no big deal after the rest of the day's adventures, though the bugs were back with a vengeance.
The total distance to Tiffany Mountain: 7.1 miles and about 2,000 feet of gain. Total fish caught: too many to count.