On July 6th in 2015, my good buddy Chase Schott and I were putting our packs together for the long haul to lightning lake to catch Golden Trout.
Everything we would need in our packs all weighing near 80 pounds, we had dehydrated food, water filters, sleeping bags and a the fly fishing gear we would need. We made the drive to Billings, Montana on the 6th and stayed at a friends house, we were up by 6am and on the road to the trail head.
Right when we got into the mountains I began to get worried, the terrain was rugged and straight up and down, worse than the front. We began our hike to the lake around 9am, the first five miles we would gain about 1500 vertical feet, which was no problem. The last two grueling miles we would gain 2500 vertical feet, no trail, climbing over dead fall, without any guidance other then our GPS. The first five miles went by quick with no idea about what was to come in the next two miles, we took a rest and filled up our water for the hard part. We started up the mountain, climbing over dead fall and every other obstacle you could imagine, every step the 80 pounds on my back got heavier and heavier, there was some parts that were so steep if you stood up straight you would fall backwards. We were literally climbing up the mountain at some points! We finally got above the lake at 10,000 feet, it put my mind at ease knowing we finally reached our destination.
We got to our spot, set up camp, made some food and went to bed right as it started to pour down rain. The next morning we woke up and we were more then astonished by the view, we were truly in Gods country. The lake was like a perfect mirror of the cliffs and shale walls surrounding the lake, it was an unreal sight that I will remember forever.
We had a few fish rise and saw some big bruisers cruising the banks so we threw everything we had at them, scuds, nymphs, streamers, and even some dry flies but they didn't want to take anything we were offering. Finally, that afternoon we caught a few beautiful Golden Trout around 16/18 inches.
Later that morning before lunch we would stop by Little Lightning Lake. Little Lightning is where the juvenile Trout stay until they are big enough to swim up the 100 yard creek to the big lake. Every other cast we would catch fish on little lightning using dry flies and streamers.
The next morning we woke up and caught a few more fish on Little Lightning Lake, packed up camp, and headed back down to the trail. It only took us a fraction of the time to get back to the trail versus going up, but when we hit the trail it poured down rain which made the last 5 miles pretty unpleasant!
The trip to Lightning Lake was unreal, the good company, breathtaking scenery, and beautiful fish, I would never want to go through that hike again but I know I'll be back next year. If you're not sure you could do it then I would not try it, it was the hardest thing I have ever done! But if you like hard work and truly secluding yourself from society then this is the place to go, the beauty of this place is second to none in my books.
Lightning Lake is truly Gods country. - Ryan Millhollin
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