Sept 3, 2014 Yosemite Char
Another year was going to come and go and I hadnít visited Vogalsang.
I was annoyed. No other fishing destination, save Bear Creek, has taunted me so or been so hard to commit to. Since first reading about the Golden Trout at Vogalsang (in Steve Beckís Yosemite Trout Guide) almost 2 decades ago, Iíve planned no fewer than 5 trips here and it has appeared on my list of waters to fish each year for the past decade. Maybe the thing thatís kept me away is that Iíve always planned it as a backpacking trip. This certainly makes the most sense; its 7 or 8 miles one way depending on your destination camp, with no fewer than 4 lakes and a creek to fish. A backpacking trip certainly makes sense but I think thatís what was holding me back. Once I gave up the idea that it had to be a backpacking trip, it made all the difference. A day trip changes everything.
Thereís a certain freedom that comes with a day trip and as Iíve gotten older Iíve come to appreciate this more. No worrying about permits, little worrying about weather, in and out as I please; Iíve really come to appreciate the flexibility that day tripping provides and running has opened up many new destinations.
The parking lot at the permit station above Tuolumne meadows was packed. Folks were already in line for their same day permits, still an hour or two from being made available. A trail crew huddled by the trash cans receiving their orders as I left. A short trail from the parking lot joins the John Muir Trail, crosses the Lyell Fork and then works its way up to Vogalsang along Rafferty Creek. Rafferty Creek was pretty dry and Iím glad I didnít rely on it for water. Iím sure there was some water in the creek but not enough that I could see or hear it beyond itís lower reaches. Itís a pretty middling climb as Sierra hikes go. Not overly tough but quite sandy which slows me down as I prefer not to run in sand. I made the trip in 2.5 hours.
The High Sierra Camp at Vogalsang was less crowded than I had expected. I expected to see people milling about like they were at a high country Starbucks but that wasnít the case. As I skirted the camp on the way to Fletcher Lake, I saw but a handful of people. Thatís not to say that it wasnít crowded. I ran into plenty of folks on the trail but no more so than the amount you might see on a hike through the Emigrant.
Fletcher was a nice lake and one of my destination lakes if I had time. From my previous research on the area Iíd always targeted Fletcher as a camping lake with Townsley and Vogalsang as the targeted fishing lakes. Of the two, I seemed to recall that Townsley was the better choice; I did a quick scout of Fletcher and headed to Townsley.
Hiking around Fletcher I could easily see fish cruising along its margins that seemed to top out at about 6 inches. I followed the inlet creek from Fletcher to Townsley. At first it looks a bit like a steep cascade but halfway up, the creek opens up into shelf like pocket water which holds fish and was easy to navigate.
Townsley is a good sized lake that reminded me a bit of a miniature 3 Island Lake along its southern shore. The bank along the northern shore had a shallow gradient with plenty room to cast to water that was shallow out to 20 feet. The southern shore was rocky, with deep shelves and boulders right off the bank. Iíd planned to fish the entire lake so I started by working the southern bank, counter clockwise.
It was a tad windy, not enough to interfere with casting but just enough to remind you to watch your drift. At Fletcher, it was easy enough to spot fish but at Townsley, not so much. Deep water off the bank gave away little and a gentle wind didnít help. After a few prospecting casts at various depths, I decided to fish it much the way I fished 3 Island Lake- presume the fish were there and present the flies in the deep water, close to structure. I cast out about 5 feet from the bank and simply let my beadhead softhackle sit there and drift deeper and deeper until a nice sized Golden swam slowly from the depths like a shark circling its prey and a grabbed the fly.
The fish were a bit spooky. In those areas where they were hiding among rocks in shallower water, I had to present the fly well out in front of me as I walked the shoreline. In the deeper water; however, I could essentially present the fly directly in front of me with no issues. Itís a patient way of fishing to be sure. In some cases I was able to present the fly to spotted fish but in most cases I was searching for the right environment and presenting the fly with the confidence that a fish would be waiting. It was effective and the fish were there, you simply had to have the patience and confidence to persist with the method.
At the point farthest from the outlet stream the steep rocky shoreline gives way to flat grasses and the subsurface lake topography follows suit. Here it was a combination of sight fishing and fishing the drop off. It was late, so I didnít fish this bank thoroughly. I did miss a fish that probably would have gone 14 inches, so this bank obviously deserves more attention. I did more walking of this side of the lake than actual fishing due to the lateness of the hour. Despite the one large fish that I missed, most of the fish along this bank seemed smaller than in the deeper water.I caught some decent goldens here and again, with 4 lakes to fish, the area does warrant an overnight trip or two . Maybe that will happen next year or perhaps the year after that, or the year after that. Or maybe, Iíll keep running in until Iíve fished them all. With a couple of hours of day light left, I hit the trail and returned back to my car.