Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Fly fishing at 2500 meters

The soul of Swiss flyfishing lies in the mountains, and if there's anything Switzerland has a lot of, it's mountains. And where there are mountains, there are plenty of unspoiled, painfully blue alpine lakes. With around one thousand of these alpine lakes capable of holding trout, there are plenty of possibilities for the fly fisherman who's willing to work to catch some beautiful alpine jewels in salmonid form. Some are an easy half hour stroll from a parking lot, while others involve a cable car, an overnight in an alpine hut and 8 hours of death-defying scrambling over mud and talus overlooking thousand foot drops, wondering if you're ever going to see your newborn daughter again and thinking "I love fishing but this isn't worth it oh god why am I here", your friend laughing at you while frantically trying to hide the very noticeable glint of fear and uncertainty in his eyes.

The Muttsee, Glarus

In 2010, we fished the Muttsee in Glarus. After a cablecar ride and a 3 hour hike, we were casting to rising lake trout up to around 12 inches. We fished in solitude until dusk, then made our way to the nearby alpine hut, were we had a hearty family style dinner with a bunch of curious hikers who hadn't really seen many people flyfishing up here.

Grialetschsee, Graub√ľnden 

In 2011 we visited the Grialetchsee, in the mountains above Davos. There were tons of
small browns and char that were taking anything we would throw at them, so after a while we moved on to some other lakes for more eager, small fish, and then just spent day two hiking.

Fortunately, when hiking to these lakes, you don't need to bring all that much, thanks to the dense network of Swiss Alpine Club huts. Thanks to the SAC, you don't need to bring a tent, sleeping bag, camp stove, extra water, and food for meals. Generally costing around 50 bucks a night including a satisfying dinner as well as breakfast, they're a bargain, as long as you don't mind sleeping hostel style with a bunch of sweaty hikers.

A steaming pot of barley soup, and some generous beers with a view.

However, you do need to be prepared for anything when it comes to the weather. In 2010 and in 2011, in the height of summer, we encountered unexpected snowstorms. Not only can you get dangerously cold and wet, but the footing can become very precarious on some of the more exposed trails, some of which are extremely unsuitable for people without some alpine experience and who aren't comfortable with heights and exposure.

Those chains aren't just for decoration.

Middle of summer. No kidding.
That's not to say all these places are difficult to get to. One alpine fly fishing only lake I fish on a regular basis is nothing more than a five minute walk from the cable car station. It's stocked, so you can take fish (up to three) guilt-free, and it's pretty enough. Naturally, along with the ease of access comes the crowds. Not only are there a decent amount of fly fishermen, but you might also encounter school trips, dog walkers, and hikers.

As far as the fishing itself goes, I took a 6 weight both times, along with an assortment of dries, streamers, and nymphs. (Flies don't weigh that much, go hog wild.) It can get windy, so I left my favorite 4 weight at home. I've seen and caught char, lakers, grayling, and brown trout in various alpine lakes. I haven't caught any huge ones yet, but that's never bothered me before.
One of two lakers we kept for dinner.

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