The 2.8-mile hike to The Loch [10,180 ft.] in Rocky Mountain National Park is easily worth the effort. Especially when you”re catching and releasing colorful hybrid cutthroat trout in crystal-clear mountain water. We recommend parking at the Bear Lake Parking area if you can arrive before 6AM. After that time, the lot will be full, and you should use the shuttle system. Before 6AM, park at the east end of the Bear Lake lot and use the horse trail shortcut down to the trailhead at Glacier Gorge. This means a little uphill at the end of the day but the downhill at the beginning makes for a good warmup. Of course, the current reservation system will also influence your starting time.
The trail climbs past Alberta Falls one half mile up the trail. Its’s a great photo opportunity and a place to catch your breath. Beyond the falls, “The Junction” is the next notable landmark. Trails from here lead to The Loch [including Lake of Glass and Sky Pond], to Mills Lake [including Black Lake, and to Lake Haiyaha [Including Dream Lake, Emerald Lake, Nymph Lake, and Bear Lake. The Loch lies .8 trail miles above this intersection.
Arriving at The Loch the trail continues along the north side of the lake with access to open areas of shoreline. Take advantage of rocky points and openings in the forested shoreline to put a fly on the water. Our favorite tactic here is to present a terrestrial fly pattern like an ant or beetle to cruising fish along the shoreline. The larger cutthroat trout here are quite territorial and will patrol a particular section of the shore. Your fly, presented in their territory, is usually accepted.
To access a less trampled area in the fall when Icy Brook is lower, cross near the inlet on any of the downed trees that form bridges. The area across the stream is a bog all summer but downstream towards the lake you’ll find meadows that make a good spot to cast with room for a back-cast. The shallows here call for stealthy casting and smaller flies than the spots across the lake. Put your fly about 10 feet ahead of a feeding fish once you see what direction they are heading.
Icy Brook itself holds cutthroats in the deeper runs and pools. Stand back from the bank when fishing this shallow, clear stream. The trout here are extremely wary and spook easily from shadows or movement. Back on the trail, it heads up Icy Brook alongside a significant waterfall where you’ll be scrambling, not hiking. Above the falls, the trail continues through dense willows to reach Lake of Glass and on to Sky Pond [10,900 ft.]. Icy Brook originates at Sky Pond which has brook trout and flows through Lake of Glass where cutthroats dominate before continuing through The Loch.
On a typical hike to the Loch we catch and release over 20 fish from 6” to 15” in length. They accept a variety of flies, but ant and beetle patterns are their favorites. Light 6X fluorocarbon tippet is helpful in these shallow, clear waters. Fly sizes in the 18-20 range are the most popular.
These are hybrid trout so a limit of two fish per adult angler may be kept. But…trying to get a trout down the trail on a hot afternoon in a warm backpack usually results in an inedible fish. We encourage release fishing in RMNP because these trout are wild populations and are never restocked. These beautiful hybrid cutthroat trout somehow survive and reproduce in this high-altitude environment, where their small population will be endangered by excessive harvest. Put them back for visiting anglers in the future to enjoy. Please practice catch and release with barbless flies in all RMNP waters