The Pioneer Mountains are blessed with beautiful peaks and alpines lakes full of trout and/or grayling. Lake Agnes is full of grayling, no trout. It is fairly easy to get to if you do not mind a 1.8 mile hike that ascends 1000′.
Bring water, take your times, and enjoy the views this wonderful hike affords.
The lake has a wondefully sandy beach at the trail terminus. When I arrived, there was a group of early teenagers there with chaperones enjoying themselves in the water fishing and swimming. I’ve been told you are never alone at Lake Agnes.
I looked down the lake, which appeared fairly easy to walk along the edge, and spotted a small cove that seemed protected from the prevailing wind.
The shore was lined with rocks mixed with sand, while the lake bottom was all sand. Heavenly for wading.
I tied on a gray CDC Caddis, waded out to knee depth, cast to what appeared to be a bit of a drop-off and bang, first fish. A nice grayling.
I must have netted at least 8 graying in the couple hours I was there – but missed far more. Like a lot more. Using a hopper or a large goddard caddis was hard for some fish to bite onto.
To me, fishing for grayling is a lot like fishing for brook trout. They are not super pickey and are agressive feeder. But grayling are just so cool to look at! The dorsal fin, the irredecence as they swim to the net, and their snappy fight make catching grayling a blast. The grayling in Lake Agnes are not big, 10-15″, butwell worth the hike.
Grayling Swimming Away
While on the lake, I observed a Baetis hatch (#16), traveling sedges (#12), and green drakes. Before the bugs started to come off, little caddis and midges danced on the water’s surface.
The grayling are not fussy, which makes them super fun to fish for. If unsure of what to use, start with the ABCs – Adams, Baetis (BWO), and Caddis.
If You Go
The hike to Lake Agnes is steep but not long. However, you should keep you pack light. Here are some items I’d consider a must have:
- Water and Snacks
- Bear Spray
- Wading Sandals
- Fly Rod
- Dry Fly Box
- Nymph selection
- Tippet 5x flourocarbon
I hiked up in my rugged hiking sneakers (is that a real term?) for ankle support and strung my wading sandals through the belt of my hiking pack. I wore shorts so I was ready to wade. I kept my pack as light as I could.
Rocky Shore Where We Fished
Underwater Video of Grayling
Lake Agnes is easy to get to. Once you leave the frontage road, it is a good gravel road that has it’s rocky spots. The trail is 1.8 miles and gains 1000′ of elevation.
From Melrose, Montana, head south on the frontage road and turn right at Brownes Bridge. Follow and bear left at the fork. Now you will be on Brownes Gulch Road. Go a ways and then take a right on Rock Creek Road. Follow this to Brownes Lake and the Lake Agnes trailhead.
From I-15, take exit 85. Head west and towards the mountains where you will pick up Rock Creek Road. Follow to Brownes Lake and the Lake Agnes trailhead.
From Brownes Lake
From Brownes Lake, the trail leads from the pit toilets down a path and you will soon cross the outflow of Brownes Lake. I met some anglers on the trail who told me they caught a bunch of fish on BWOs there earlier in the day.
The path is wide and very easy. This changes. You start to pick up elevation and the trail gets steep. And then steeper still. At one point, I wished I was on horseback. But then, when it seems never ending and you are wondering exactly how high is 1000′ is, you pop out onto an ATV road. Cross it and continue upward. While it is steep, it is not as steep as before and the going is a little easier.
Take the ATV path or the trail; whichever has no blow-downs. You crest the hill and then its all downhill to the lake.
Flies That Worked For Us
It’s always wise to check in with the local experts. Here’s what we used during our trip on July 10, 2019.
- CDC Caddis (gray and olive)
- Goddard Caddis (#10)
- Fat Albert Caddis
- Foam Hopper
- Hatching Pupa
Nearby Fly Fishing Waters
In summer, there are lots of alpine lakes in the Pioneer range where you can hike to and camp on the shore or just make it a day trip. All within striking distance of the Big Hole River.
- Big Hole River
- Brownes Lake
- Rainbow Lake
- Waukena Lake
- Pintler Lake
For This Adventure
For this adventure, we stayed at the Sportsman Motel and RV Park. For extended stays, we really appreciate the WiFi, ameneties, and laundry. We’ve also had friends stay in the rooms and join us for adventures. We use this spot as base camp for the Big Hole River, Poindexter Slough, and area alpine lakes. Being next door to the Hitching Post bar and restaurant is an added perk for us. :)
You could dry camp at Brownes Lake. It’s easy to reach by car. There is a launch and a pit toilet. Or you could hike up to Lake Agnes and camp on the lakeshore in a primitive spot.
Brownes Lake has good trout fishing. And it is easier than climbing to Lake Agnes. It is easily accessible by any vehicle. Ground clearance is a good thing but even a small passenger can can slowly make it up to Brownes Lake.
View from Trail to Lake Agnes
Brownes Lake Outflow
Go with knowledge! We keep guidebooks in the camper and the state atlas in all of our rigs. If you’re serious about fishing, here’s our recommended reading for this water.
*The link takes you to Amazon where you can read more about the titles and purchase the guidebooks if you choose. We do receive a small portion of the sale for providing the link which helps to support this site. We appreciate your support!