Trout Fishing and the Wildlife of Priest Lake

Priest Lake

Contributed by Pro Staff Writer and Photographer J. Darland.

“The highlight had nothing to do with the catch”

The plan was to head up to Trout Lake for some fly fishing. I was under the assumption that this lake would stand up to its name and have plenty of trout. I was also hoping the lake would provide peace and quiet for an afternoon of solo fishing.

After arriving, I noticed that this lake was far from my assumption. There were lake houses scattered all around, construction taking place, and repairs were being made to the dam. All of this noise would have not bothered me many years ago. My idea of an afternoon of fishing has changed over the years and is now ideally full of quiet, peaceful solitude.

I quickly arrived to the conclusion that Trout Lake wasn’t the prime location for my afternoon trip. I immediately pulled up the map on my GPS and noticed that there was a smaller lake just down the dirt road, about a mile. I headed down the road to Priest Lake.

Walking down towards Priest Lake was like walking into a Cabela’s commercial. The fall colors were visible and vibrant on all sides of the surrounding mountains. The blue skies glistened above the mountains. A gentle breeze could be felt. Flocks of ducks were landing on the lake. I noticed an otter swimming near the shoreline. It was the perfect start to my afternoon. My adrenaline began to rise with the curiosity of what the first cast would provide.

Priest Lake

I arrived at the bank and set my gear down. I stopped and just observed my surroundings. The otter was feeding on the opposite side of the lake. As I watched, the ducks continue to fly in and land. I noticed more ducks at the far end of the lake feeding on the shoreline. At that point, I decided I was going to embrace every element of my surroundings. Yes, the catching of some mean trout was a priority but it’s not every day that you have so many aspects of nature putting on a live show right in front of you.

I slipped on my waders, made my way into the lake, and began casting out. My focus dialed onto my indicator. I was eagerly waiting for that dry fly to be snatched by that Rainbow. My focus kept being broken by the splashing of the ducks. I took a second to watch them. Some were bathing while others were feeding. This carried on for hours, which was fine by me as it helped set the ambience of the afternoon.

I caught my first trout and released it. I began to ask myself about which I was enjoying more. Was I enjoying the catching of the trout or observing all of the other wildlife go about their day as if I was invisible.

I continued to fish for the remainder of the afternoon but my attention was continuously being diverted in the spectacle around me. You may now be questioning if I was actually fishing or just standing in the lake watching the wildlife. Did I want to hone in on the preferred fly of this lake’s trout? Yes. Did I want to catch as many as possible? Absolutely. There were so many other questions flooding my mind.

With all of that being said, I had more curiosity and questions which I wanted to have answered. What species of ducks were these? What is the proper name for the otter I saw swimming near the far shore? What are the otters actually eating? What were the names of all the abundant plants in and surrounding this beautiful lake? There were so many questions to be answered.

I asked myself at the end of my day: “Did you get your dose of solitude that you were seeking?”

The answer to that question is, “Yes.” I now have a list of previously unnoticed wildlife, their feeding habits, and some plant life which I can research. On a side note, trout were still caught in the midst of all of that excitement.

The satisfaction of enjoying that lake and its surroundings and releasing each fish I caught is something that I take pride in. I left the lake as I found it and that is quite a pleasure to be honest.

Engulf yourself in your surroundings the next time you are out in the wild. Most importantly, don’t be afraid to share that experience with those around you.

Find your wilderness, and thrive in it.

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