May 23 1998 Owens at Pleasant Valley and Hot Creek
Time:7:45am- 1:00pm, 5:00pm-
Unfortunately, I’m writing this in hind sight. I’ll do my best to recount the trip as accurately as possible. Fishing Saturday the 23rd was slow. I fished Pleasant Valley near the bridge . I fish this part of the river every year about this time, so I’m fairly confidant of what to fish- size 18 hare’s ear or a size 16 ESP. Last year I picked up 7 fish in 1 hr and was expecting the same results this year. Unfortunately, the river had other plans. It was swollen and wading was impossible.
I had planned to wade mid river and fish both banks- I couldn’t. Instead I waded close to the bank , just below were I planned to fish. I hoped that a tuck cast directly upstream would be the ticket. It wasn’t. I couldn’t get a decent drift. I moved upstream on the bank. I then drifted my flies down to my favorite spot. Good drifts but no fish. Earlier I had seined the river and noticed some March Brown Nymphs.
I tie a hare’s ear type nymph with Red Fox Squirrel. The resulting nymph is darker and buggier than the GRHE- the perfect March Brown imitation. After some patient fishing, my spot revealed two nice sized rainbows. The first Rainbow trout I’d caught here in 5 yrs of fishing the Owens.
I fished down river for about a mile but couldn’t duplicate my earlier , limited success.
After an afternoon of antiquing, I broke out a borrowed Bamboo
rod and fished Hot Creek. The fishing at Hot Creek was better and I was able to
quickly catch 2 fish on a size 12 Prince Nymph. Hot Creek was crowded, so I
mostly watched other people fish. There was a nice fellow from the mid west who
was successfully sight fishing with scuds. I watched him for a while. He was an
excellent nymph fisher and was only out done by a young couple guided by one of
the local guides.
Time: Mid Morning to Late Afternoon
I fished the Bamboo rod again. It’s nothing special, an 8 ft Japanese production rod that’s just fun to fish. Contrary to popular belief, not all Bamboo rods are worth “money”. Japanese production rods are notorious for being of especially bad quality. Fortunately, this rod is the exception and throws a DT 5wt line well. I’d decided I wanted to sight fish the upper section of Hot Creek with a fairly forgiving rod. Since Hot Creek tends to get windy, my 3wt was out and the production rod was in.
The plan today was to sight fish, a skill in which I am greatly lacking. I’d crawl around on my hands and knees and only cast to fish I could see.
On arriving creek side, I was surprised at how many people were fishing and how erect they were. The secret to fishing the upper creek, I’d been told, was to stay low. Taking the advice I’d been given to heart, I stayed away from the creeks edge and headed toward the private properly fence at the foot creek. As I reached the fence, I was surprised to see a fish dart away as I approached the edge from as far as 20ft. I’d really have to stay low and slow.
I reached the edge directly down stream from a large rainbow. He was actively feeding on midge pupa, just off the bank. I watched him as I “geared up”. Just as I finished tying on my yarn indicator and fly, the fish started taking Drys. I snickered to myself, cut of my rig and tied on a size 20 Griffiths Gnat. My first cast landed in the small bush just above the fish- on the water side. Not wanting to lose the fly or scare the fish, I crawled on my belly to the bush and slowly removed the fly. After I removed the fly, I couldn’t help but peer over the edge at my fish. (After all, I’d been watching him for more than a half hour and was resolute in my task.). I slowly moved just my head over the edge and I was treated to the one of the most amazing sights I’ve had fishing. A large rainbow holding literally inches from my face- confident and unsuspecting. I was tempted to sit there and watch my adversary, but I had a job to do. I returned to my previous position and made a few more casts. Some where errant but one was on target. My fish rose and sucked in my imitation. I struck a little too soon...or was it too late?... I felt resistance and then nothing. The large rainbow successfully threw my hook and retreated under the bank. He’d spend the rest of the morning feeding on nymphs, just under a small outcropping along the bank. I could just see his tail but I wouldn’t be able to see him take another fly. Nor would I be able to successfully drift a fly past his position without spooking other fish. Still there was a certain satisfaction with stalking a fish and having him take my fly. I was pleased.
I next targeted, a smaller (14”) brown that the rainbow had nudged out from under the outcropping. The brown couldn’t be bothered with the surface. He was feeding subsurface. I clipped my Grithiths Gnat and tied on a size 20 midge pupa. Again I made a few errant casts but I finally got my fly on target. Unfortunately, without an indicator, I couldn’t see the fly. The fish was moving back and forth but I couldn’t tell where my fly was, nor if the fish was moving for it. After a couple of successful drifts, I decided to strike the next time the fished moved wide in it’s feeding lane. I made the cast, the fish drifted back and turned slightly, I struck and was fast into a hot fish.
After releasing the feisty brown I spent the rest of the day tempting other fish. I watched as people would approach the bank and fish would scatter. I tried to convince people that the fish could see them but to no avail. I went fishless as person after person walked by me, just erect as could be. Finally, I decided to leave and try Mammoth Creek.
Mammoth Creek is a small bushy creek planted regularly by the
Department of Fish and Game. This was my first time fishing Mammoth. As I
explored the creek I noticed two things- firstly, there weren’t any fly fishers
and secondly, the creek was very brushy. Bait fishers abound.
Fishing was fair for most folks, including myself. I picked up two or three
small fish on a size 12 Prince Nymph. One bait fishing fellow picked up 3
rainbows about 12” in length.
Another kamikaze day trip to the Eastern Slope. I drove all night and reached Pleasant Valley in the early am. After a couple hours of sleep I awoke to find the Owens at a fishable and more important wadable level.
Well, barely wadable. I entered the river just down stream of my favorite spot. The river was moving pretty fast and detecting strikes was difficult. I managed to pick up a couple a few fish on a size 18 Hares Ears. Later I switched to a size 12 Down Wing Adams and managed to draw three strikes fishing brush along side the bank.
On the way home, I decided to fish Rock Creek. Rock Creek is a small stream between the Owens River and Hot Creek. The DFG regularly stocks Rock Creek as it does with most creeks in along HWY 395. I arrived about 1 PM and decided to fish for about an hour. Rock Creek is brushy, so I decided to fish my small (7ft) 3 wt. I tied on a size 12 Prince Nymph and on my second cast a small brown trout raced out from under a rock and attacked the fly.
After a few more casts, I moved down stream. The pattern
repeated. I picked up a few more fish each on the first or second cast and moved
Weather: Slightly Cloudy ,
Have you ever had a day where every fish you hooked was over 14 inches? Me neither, until today. Fishing at Hot Creek promised to be fair at best. This spring creek was high and muddy due local run off.
Before high tailing it out to the creek, I stopped by both the local fly shops for some flies and local knowledge. I won’t recount my experiences in detail sufficed to say, if you have a choice (and you may not late in the evening) choose The Trout Fly over The Troutfitter. Flies in hand, I was on my way.
I arrived about 4pm with a plan to fish for a couple of hours and then meet Vita in town for dinner. Walking down to the river I saw one other fly fisher. Since it was Friday, this did not surprise me. What did surprise me was that the normal Memorial Day crowds didn’t arrive until SUNDAY! In fact Saturday evening I found myself as practically the only flyfisher on the river.
I made my way to where I like to start fishing the creek- a little bit of pocket water in the upper middle part of the creek. Armed with my new 8’6” Mystery Rod, I tied on a size 18PT and size 14 Gold Head Soft Hackle GRHE. The new rod’s a “mystery” b/c it’s a bamboo rod of unknown origin- could be a Granger, could be a South Bend or Cross. It’s most likely a mixture of both, produced by the Fred DeBell Co.. Hopefully, I’ll find out one day. Regardless, it throws a very slow 5wt line. It could probably throw a 3 wt but I have yet to try.
The rod worked fine but I found myself wishing I was fishing my 7’9” Tonka Queen. The wind was up, as where the weeds. I found myself lacking the control to stop from either dragging my flies or losing them to the weeds. After losing about 6 flies ( 3 sets of 2) I finally got a good drift and hooked a fish. A nice rainbow, probably about 16 inches or so. I released him and moved upstream.
If there’s one thing I notice about most folks who fish Hot Creek, it’s that all of them stand erect as telephone poles. Many of them wear white t-shirts and hats. These folks, to my surprise, still catch fish. I usually fish kneeling or crouching but as the weekend progressed, I found myself fishing more erect. Perhaps that is why fishing slowly deteriorated over time.
Kneeling, I made my way upstream. Alternating between hooking fish and losing flies I finally made my way to the “Super Prime Lie” of the creek. This lie is conspicuously at the base of the “fisherman’s” trail. It’s the first piece of water you come to. I had never pulled anything out of this particular spot, but I had seen someone pull an 18 inch fish out of this spot on the first cast last year (see previous reports). By this time I’d lost all the GB SH BRHE I’d tied. I tied on a Size 12 Yellow and Partridge and a size 20 PT.
The wind had made it difficult to fish indicatorless. Keeping my rod tip high in order to watch my line meant that the wind would catch it and drag my fly. I had pulled a small (1/3 inch) piece of florescent fly line over my leader and was using that to detect strikes. Keeping my rod low and mending when necessary, I drifted my line through the lie. On the 3rd drift the indicator dragged. I was either hung up or into a fish. It was a fish, a large fish. I struck, fought it for a while and lost it. This is a pattern that would repeat it self 5 times at this same hole. Each time I stuck a fish, I overcompensated for the soft rod and snapped the tippet.
I tied on again and hooked another large fish. This fish was easily the largest I’ve ever hooked. I saw it swim into the lie before I hooked it. It was HUGE, absolutely fat- long and fat. I hooked it on the first cast and gave out a shout. UNBELIEVABLE! He swam down stream shortly then returned to the lie and just sat there. I could see him clear as day. Undisturbed by the pressure of my light rod. It was at this point that I realized that this rod fished more like a 3wt than a 5wt. I’d hooked into a large fish last year with my 3wt and was powerless to stop it from screaming down stream. I felt the same way now. The rod didn’t seem to have the back bone to move the fish. Admittedly, the problem was not the rod but my lack of skill.
I’m not used to catching such large fish. I rushed things and lost yet another fish. I was positive that had I fished my Tonka Queen, the fish would have been mine. Regardless, I tied on yet again. This time a PT and Corixa. The Corixa is a British pattern that I picked up in Amsterdam last year. It’s a waterboatman pattern. I was familiar with the pattern when I bought it but the salesman told to “take one of these, they work everywhere”. So I did. I had never used it before and with 10 min. left before I had to leave for dinner, I decided to give it a try. One the first cast, I had a strike. The very strong pull of another large fish. I was determined not to lose this one, which is exactly what I did. Only this time I still had flies. I lobbed the flies into the pocket again. Wham! Another fish. This lie was absolutely incredible. This time I landed, the runt of the group- a skinny 15 inch rainbow.
As I left for dinner, I informed a flyfisher that I had spoken with earlier of my good fortune and the flies to use. He fished the Super Lie as I made my way out of the canyon. I never looked back.
This morning the plan was to fish the Lower Owens at Pleasant Valley. Plans change. Due to Friday’s success, I was eager to fish Hot Creek. This was a mistake. The purpose of this annual trip has always been to fish the Lower Owens. Usually, we drive to and camp at the Owens. Hot Creek is just a one day trip. The Owens is one of my favorite rivers and for the past few years has been high with run off during Memorial Day. This usually doesn’t prevent me from fishing and having fun. Unfortunately, I got bit by the big fish bug and didn’t make it to the Owens until early afternoon.
The fishing Friday hadn’t been great, I averaged 10 fish for 3hrs fishing. I’d normally consider this fair but since I lost so many flies and spent most of my time tying knots, lets say the fishing was good. Well, fishing on Saturday was poor. The water seemed murkier and higher than the night before.
Vita was with me. Dutiful wife that she is, she doubts my fish catching ability. I always seem to catch the big fish, or a lot of fish when I’m alone or with my work buddies- Greg and Don. The later two must be good luck, Vita must be bad luck. ? I hit the “Super Lie” straight away. I fished it long and hard and ended up hooking one medium sized Brown Trout. I fished for a little over 2hrs before heading to the Owens. I landed 3 fish and probably lost about 12 flies. Including the Corixa.
We arrived at the Owens close to 1pm. Both of us were hungry. I promised to fish only an hour, after which we’d drive into Bishop for some grub. The water on the Owens was high and the afternoon winds where starting to pick up. Each year I’ve fished the Owens, I’m surprised by how much the river changes. In previous years the changes where due to beavers, who cut away at any solid stream vegetation. Last year the changes were due to high water. This year, tulle. The Tulle seem to be overrunning the banks. This turns the stream side banks marshy and make fishing access tough.
Another change for this year were the crowds. The regulations on the put and take part of the stream had changed this year. This change seemed to draw a boisterous crowd.
I fished, from the bank, an area where I was confident of picking up fish. It’s firmly in the “wild trout” section of the stream. Despite the high water, I was able to pick up two nice brown trout. I returned to the parking area and was able to pick up an additional fish at the foot bridge. The foot bridge is the boundary between the put and take and wild trout areas. I was able to land a nice trout on the second cast, as my put and take brethren looked on in awe. (I love when that happens ?). Little did they know that the fish had been foul hooked just above the eye.
After lunch Vita and I visited the various fly shops and antique stores in town. This is always a high point of the trip. The antiques stores always have a large selection of bamboo fly rods to pick through. Most are junk. Last year I had almost purchased a Tonka Queen at one shop. I didn’t purchase the rod and was eager to see if it had survived the year. It had, and with good reason. The rod was in poor condition and over priced. I chuckled as I put the rod together and gave it a wiggle. It was the first Tonka Queen that I had ever seen and I was glad that I had waited and eventually purchased the 2 TQs that I now own.
Twice thus far, I had purchased flies during this trip. I never buy flies, it’s WAY too expensive. Unfortunately, I had little time to tie the many flies I knew I’d lose at Hot Creek. In addition, my stressful May left me rather apathetic in regards to how I supplied these sacrificial flies. To my surprise, one of the fly shops in Bishop actually carried some British Flies. They had a fine selection of wet flies and soft hackles and ….Gold Bead Corixa! They were cheap too. 6 for just over 6 bucks! Look out Hot Creek, here I come!
The evening at Hot Creek was uneventful. I dutifully fished the Super Lie upon arriving back on the stream. Later, at about 6:30 PM, the same time as the previous night, I returned to the fish the Super Lie. I was positive the big fish would move back in and with my new Corixa patterns would be mine for the taking…..Of course, Vita was sitting less than 10 feet from me and all I caught was a 12 inch brown. (I wonder if this bad luck is a proximity thing?……)
Sunday was supposed to be a hiking day. We’d planned to hike down Rock Creek, picnic and fish up. We never made it. We hung around Mammoth until mid afternoon, when we drove to the upper portion of Hot Creek. I thought I’d get a little sight fishing in. I was wrong. The water was murky and the sun was in a poor position for site fishing. Vita placed the picnic blanket along side the river and read as I precede to get skunked.
An hour and a half later on the lower river, I was able to hook into several nice fish. The river was very crowded and the fishing much slower than it had been Friday and Saturday.
I agonized over what to do Monday. By driving up Friday during the day, we had given ourselves one more day than we normally have. I was beginning to feel terribly unfulfilled not having really fished my beloved Owens. Unfortunately, the Owens was an hour in the wrong direction. At first we decided on Green Creek. Then I realized that, for the first time in 4yrs, Tioga Pass was open. We’d not need to drive as far north as Green Creek. We settled on Rock Creek.
I was quite excited about fishing Rock Creek. It’s a small brushy stream with both planted rainbows and “native” pan sized brown trout. Fishing Rock Creek is always exciting. Tight lies and feisty fish. I fish it with my Retro Rod, a 7ft 3wt.
Vita had never been to Rock Creek and I was eager to show it to her. She could probably care less about the stream really. I just like to take her to places where I enjoy spending time. I hope that some of my excitement rubs off and brings us closer.
Fishing at Rock Creek is usually an easy affair (once you get a drift without hanging up.) A size 12 Silver Bead Prince Nymph is all you need. Unfortunately, I had no such animal. I had some size 14 Gold Bead Prince Nymphs and a size 12 Silver Bead Improved Prince Nymph. Neither fly worked, nor did any other fly I tried that day. I even matched the hatch, the first time I’d ever done that at Rock Creek. Huge Golden stones and size 16 mayflies and caddis. Nothing. I’d tell Vita “this is a great hole, it always produces fish” and ….nothing. Skunked once again.
Weather: Clear, Windy
Warning: The following ramble is incoherent at times but it is filled with tid bits of fishing off the beaten path. Continue at the risk of your own boredom.
May 26- Hot Creek
I was excited at the prospect of flyfishing the Eastern Sierras this weekend because it would give me the opportunity to do some scouting for this summer's high country trips. I’ve been reading up on this part of the state and plan to make several attempts this year to catch Golden Trout and Lahonton Cutthroats. This trip would be one of them.
We arrived in Mammoth Friday afternoon and after checking into our hotel, I made a bee line to Hot Creek. I anticipated that fishing would be much the same as last year. No crowds (at least until Saturday morning) and good fishing. Surprisingly, this was not the case. On our drive up, Vita and I had noticed that more people seemed to take Friday off than had last year, this translated into a full parking lot at Hot Creek.
I made my way down the canyon and noted about 8 anglers fishing both sides of the creek. Unconcerned, I made my way to the lower section of the creek. The lower section of the creek was empty with the exception of a lone angler making his way downstream. This didn’t surprise me because in resent years, word has gotten around that the upper section of the river has more fish. I don’t know if this is true and in a stream with 11,414 fish per mile (more than any other in the state) I don’t think it matters. Regardless, it’s where most of the anglers tend to congregate.
Admittedly, it had been at least 2 if not 3 years since I had made the trek up the short steep hill that separates the two. I’ve simply been lazy in the past but with the upper section crowded, I decided to head south. I set up beside my lone neighbor and planned to fish in the opposite direction, upstream.
I set forth to christen a Sage LL 5wt that I had recently finished building. This evening was really more about evaluating the new rod than catching fish. During the building process I battled with myself over the placement of the stripping guide. Based on the advice of a friend, professional rod builder Scott B, I finalize the position of the stripping guide after all the other guides are finished. By testing the stripping guide in different positions, you can reduce line slap and increase shooting distance.
My boggle was this. If I used the manufactures guide position, the line slapped the rod while shooting line, felt heavier (presumably because the load was felt throughout more of the blank) and did not feed or double haul well. These attributes were sacrificed for better control, line feel and (surprisingly) better casting distance. (It seemed I could cast better simply because I could aerialize more line and maintain control of it.) If I moved the guide two inches toward the tip, I eliminated rod slap, the rod felt lighter and feed and shot line easier. Ironically, the improved shooting didn’t translate into more distance.
Ideally, I wanted a rod that felt light, didn’t slap, shot line well and offered good control. Ultimately, I figured control was the most important and went with the manufacturers specs. Theoretically, on this trip I would determine if I made the right choice or not. Unfortunately, the jury is still out on this one. My decision will have to wait until I hit Hat Creek, next week.
I set my line up with a Bird’s Nest and Krystal Flash on a hook. I set my cork (yes, cork) indicator up about 3 ft and shot a cast up and tight to the bank. I did this out of obligation. In spring creeks like this, fish typically hug the banks. Unfortunately, these bank hugging fish never take my flies, so I was quick to cast to a small slick mid-stream. After a while, I saw my indicator quiver and a small brown jumped off my line. I didn’t land him but that was ok, I knew my flies would work.
I made my way upstream and noticed that some anglers had positioned themselves above me. This didn’t bother me as I figured they where working their way upstream. There are so many fish in this river, that I didn’t particularly mind fishing behind someone. The fish had yet to be hammered this weekend so I figured that If I gave them time, they’d calm down.
Then, as I made my way up to a particularly good look lie, the angler above me moved down into it. This wouldn’t have bothered me had it not been a deliberate move, but it was! “What are these guys thinking” I grumbled to myself, “fishing down steam on Hot Creek”. Not that it really mattered, I just felt it was bad form on their part when I was pretty obviously working up.
I hop-scotched into the lie my neighbor was working and quickly hooked and lost a fish. Figuring that was it for that lie I moved on. Eventually, I reached the upper section of the river and surprise! No anglers! I guess they’d all moved down or further up stream. Lucky me.
Just before 7pm I picked up two fish from behind a boulder in the middle of the river. I still used the BN/KF combination that I had been working. At 7pm I reached with riffle just below the fisherman’s trail. There had been a caddis hatch in progress while I was fishing the lower section. The upper section of the river was filled with caddis when I first arrived but the fish didn’t seem to be keying on them.
On the upper portion once again, I approached the riffle and noticed that there were now not as many caddis as earlier. Perhaps that is why the other anglers moved on, I don’t know. I do know that at 7pm the fish turned on!
Maybe the fish mistook my flies for the remnants of the caddis hatch and were still hungry. Maybe it was getting dark and the fish were getting careless. Whatever the reason, as I made my way upstream from the riffle, I hooked into a least 10 fish between 7pm and 8pm. One of which would have easily taped out to 17 or 18 inches had I landed him. Twice he flopped above the water, his body too heavy to properly jump and throw my hook. I made the mistake of letting him run down stream; running beside him, I thought I could edge him closer to shore. Unfortunately, I ran out of river bank, before he ran out of river.
May 27th- Golden Trout
Saturday was exploration day.
I’d heard that there was a Golden Trout lake that you could drive to just out side of Mammoth. The problem was that it was guarded by a “jeep trail” only passable by “high clearance vehicles”. I was determined to discover if this road was truly a jeep trail or just a ploy to prevent sedan laden fisherman like myself from fishing such a lake. Less than half a mile up the trail, my Corolla was greeted by pointy football sized rocks. My wife cringing at my side, I decided to retreat whence I came.
On flat land once again, ears ringing, I pointed the car south to Lone Pine.
Above Lone Pine lies the eastern portion of the Golden Trout wilderness. The Department of Fish and Game use some of the lakes in this area as a hatchery, from which they seed the Sierras with Golden Trout. The diligent angler can find these lakes scattered across the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range. Select trails will bring you to lakes and streams teaming with Golden Trout.
This was a scouting trip. The idea was to get an idea of the actual distances and terrain that I been reading about. Neither Vita nor myself are very strong hikers, we would hike in about an hour and fish whatever lake or stream we come across at that point. Silently, I’d hope that we’d travel far enough in, at least 2 miles in the first hour, to make the 3.5 mile trek up to the lake I had targeted which reportedly had 14 inch golden trout in them. Since I have never caught a Golden over 6 inches, the thought of catching a 12 inch plus Golden really had me going.
In truth, we traveled barely a mile but that still put us at a stream with gobs of 4 - 7 inch Goldens. The fishing was fun and challenging. The stream was small, clear and much lower than you’d expect this time of year. The fish could easily see you if you approached wrong and would quickly dart away. Poor presentations were meet with indifference as was poor fly selection. Over the course of the first hour I experimented with several different dry flies. A size 10 Royal Wulff was meet with a good hard look and a half hearted strike. It was really too big for these fish. Anything else but a caddis cripple, similar to an E/C Caddis, would elicit zero response.
A size 16 caddis cripple with a good drift always drew a strike. The fish would follow the fly and just as it floated out of reach, suck it in. There were many instances where a fish wasn't fast enough and would miss. A casual cast back up stream and into the proper feeding lane would, on the second or third attempt, garner a solid hook up.
One of the better spots to fish was right at the fallen log on the trail. Pretty typical of this sort of stream, there was a wide pool that became shallow and slowed toward the tail. The larger fish hung out just at the edge of the tail.
The first cast to these types of pools has to be such that the fly lands high enough in the pool to attract attention but not so high as to line the fish with your flyline. My solution was to place the cast so that just my leader was in the water. Unfortunately, with my short 7’ leader, I didn’t always get the drift that I wanted. My next cast would then be made with me close enough to high stick my dry and thus better control drag. This always worked if I was fortunate enough to approach undetected. It was sight fishing at it’s finest and I was able to target a specific fish, catch it and move on to the next.
The fishing was good and just before we left, I decided to turn the rod over to Vita. After all these years fishing and teaching people to fish, I had never once taken Vita fly fishing! I took her bait fishing once but she didn’t care for it. I don’t care for it either and for some reason I thought her distaste translated to all fishing. She’d been watching me and snapping pictures for hours and for some reason I turned and handed her the rod. She hesitated at first and then mumbled something to the effect that this would be a perfect place to try.
I handed the rod to Vita and instructed her to float the fly downstream to a fallen log. She drifted the Caddis downstream and pulled it back just before a fish struck. “Don’t worry about the fly”, I said. “Let it drift back to the log. She let the fly drift toward the log once more. “Keep it going”, just then, a 4 inch Golden snatched the fly. Vita cheered with excitement and told me to release the fish as soon as possible as she did not want to hurt it.
I released the fish and then realized I should have taken a photo. Her first fish on a fly and a golden to boot. There’s something special about that. We proceeded to try to get her into another fish. I pointed her upstream toward a pool which held bigger fish and had her cast upstream. Unfortunately, I’ve never taught Vita how to cast. Getting the line to do anything but fall forward in a clump was a challenge. She did hook one fish but made a midstream release (must run in the family).
I was frustrated, you’d think all these years of watching me, being exposed to all my fishing videos and fish talk, the act of casting would come naturally to her. She should have learned by osmosis but she didn’t. I chuckled to myself, realizing that had it been anyone else I wouldn’t have gotten nearly as worked up as I was getting. I would have progressively taught them how to cast and then put them on the water. In short, I wouldn’t have simply handed her the rod and said, “do your thing”.
I decided to have her dap the fly instead. This she was able to do with some success. The sun was gong down and we had to leave. I promised to show her how to fish properly and get her a license. She won’t become an avid fly fisher but she enjoyed sight fishing. A true dry fly fisher it seems.
Back at the parking lot we meet a ranger who informed us that this area of fishing was not open until July 1st. Opps! This surprised me because I had checked the regs and all seemed ok. The regs state that the Golden Trout Area (Tulare Co.) is open for the standard fishing season. Unfortunately, we were in Inyo County and the regs where listed under the main lake and creek drainage in this area.
There was a sign that said fishing in the lakes and tributaries to the lakes was closed but the regulation book adds that the tributaries to a particular creek are closed as well. Since all of the water in this area drains to that creek, everything was closed. I hadn’t planned on fishing those lakes or that creek, so I didn’t look for them in the reg book. The ranger agreed that the regs where confusing and suggested I write Fish and Game about it. This I will do.
(By now you’ve noticed that I have NOT given you the name of these Golden Trout waters. When it comes to Golden Trout, I think half the fun is in the discovery. I’ve given enough clues in this narrative that if you’re really interested, all you need do is pick up a topo map. I found this water and more Golden Trout waters by doing a little research. It took less then a week and a little research goes a long way.)
May 28th- Owens River, Hilton Creek, McGee Creek, McCloed Lake, Hot Creek
Sunday was a strange day. No doubt about it- weird.
We’d plan to drive back down to Bishop. I’d drop Vita off at the craft fair and fish the Owens for an hour. Then we'd come up to Mammoth and hike up to McCloed Lake for a picnic.
I’d never seen so many road toasters (RVs) at the Owens before. It looked as if there was a convention going on, the place was absolutely packed. I pulled up beside one and said hi. The folks where none too friendly though, so I ignored them and geared up. The river was high and I decided to fish from the bank. When I reached my chosen fishing hole, I was disappointed that I chose not to wear waders because the river definitely looked wadable. It was high but it looked as if someone had dumped a bunch of extra gravel in the river and simply widened it. Weird.
I threw on a Gold Bead Soft Hackle Hairs Ear and the Birds Nest that worked so well on Hat Creek. This time of year the PMD nymphs are active and either of these two flies should have picked up fish. They didn’t. I spotted a fish just a rod length up stream so I decided to go for him. No interest.
The Owens has a lot of caddis, both green and amber, so I decided to swap the Fox Bird’s Nest for a Green Bird’s Nest of the same size. Both can represent caddis but perhaps color might make a difference. It did. A fish slammed and then proceed to make off with my fly. I tied on another (I only had three) and another fish slammed the fly. I was determined not to lose this fly, so I horsed the fish to shore and quickly landed the large jawed brown.
The fly fishing cognoscenti say that of the hatch matching characteristics, color is the least important. It was interesting to see how in this case, color was very important. Same fly, same size, different color.
It was starting to get late so I made my way up to the bridge, where I parked my car. A couple of casts under the bridge usually brings a fish so….I made a couple of casts. Noticing a fish working the surface down stream a bit, I cut off my nymphs and tied on a caddis cripple. The caddis cripple is always a great searching pattern for California waters. I made a few roll casts and finally got the fly to float into the feeding lane of the fish. The fish made a few strikes at my fly then lost interest.
Felling rather unfulfilled, I crossed the bridge, walked around my car to an eddy on the far side of the river. I was literally feet from my car. I peered into the water hoping to see some fish. After a long hard gaze, I managed to spot one working the seam of the main current. I made a couple of casts with my dry but the fish could care less. I clipped the dry and tied the Green Bird’s Nest back on. I made a well placed cast and watched my red amnesia leader butt as my fly drifted down stream.
The line paused. I was rewarded with a hot fish from the river and a cold stare from my road toaster neighbor. The fellow had been watching me from his lounge chair and acted as if he was trying to stare me down. Weird.
Feeling somewhat fulfilled, I hopped in the car. On the way back to Mammoth, I decided I wanted to do some more exploring. Fish and Game Stocks just about every creek, lake and pond off I395 between Bridgeport and Bishop. I’d heard that both Hilton and McGee Creeks were fishing well and I wanted to check them out.
We pulled of the road just as I395 meets Crowley Lake. After a few wrong turns through some very nice country side, I pulled out the map. We’d gone left when we should have gone right. No problem I thought, although this would bring us through a residential community. We crossed the creek and turned left on the access road.
To the left of the road the creek ran underneath a canopy of trees; between the trees and the road was a horse corral. Nothing too unusual about this. 200 meters up the access road though, someone decided to dump a house. It was smack dab in the middle of the road.. There were children playing and it wasn’t really clear whether the road continued to the right or the left. It was weird. Not liking to infringe on other peoples property, we turned around and headed to McGee Creek.
McGee Creek was weird as well. At the base of McGee Creek was a small campground, small road toasters mostly and pretty packed. Fortunately, there was a road that followed the creek up into the mountains. We followed the road up the mountain. It was a mostly pleasant drive. From the road we could clearly see different parts of the stream, which was in a word- raging! The mountainside was fairly steep and creek took it’s cue from that. About half way up the road, you come to another camp site.
This site had a bunch of trailers arranged in almost a military fashion. The fact that one of them had a LARGE confederate flag hoisted in the air with the Star & Stripes (Old Glory) smaller and lower made Vita nervous and me raise an eyebrow. Weird. I’m not usually one for this Confederate Flag = White Supremacy bit, but when you’re in the middle of nowhere, and the flag is twice as high and large as the flag of your country, you have to wonder. Regardless, we decided not to stop for tea and continued up the road.
We passed some horse stables and finally reached the end of the road. The creek was raging all the way. The road ended at a trail head with a parking lot, obligatory latrine and map. The map showed that the trail followed the creek up to a group of lakes. Fortunately, a group of flyfishers was making their way back down the trail when we arrived. They’d attempted to hike up to one of the lakes. They thought it was a mile, in reality it was 7. They were in one of those disgruntled moods that fly fisher get in when things don’t go exactly their way. “Fishing’s supposed to be good in the creek” I quipped. “Yeah, if you can find a flat spot” One of the fishers shot back as they stepped into their SUV. That said it all.
Back in Mammoth, Vita and I headed up to the Mammoth Lakes. Our
plan was still to picnic at McCloed lake after all.
McLeod lake is a small lake above Horseshoe Lake which holds Lahonton Cutthroat trout. The regs there are zero limit, single barbless hook. The trail to McLeod starts at the Horseshoe Lake and just when this day couldn't get any weirder, it did.. The road to Horseshoe Lake was closed and the Mammoth Police were turning back cars. It seems that the soil around the lake has a carbon dioxide content 90 times normal or some such thing. This has resulted in the death of trees surrounding the lake and can also lead to human illness and death if.
I asked the cop if that meant we couldn’t go to McLeod? “No you can go, you just can’t drive your car.” The sign says run for your life, but the cop says go ahead. No problem, we’ll walk the extra half mile.
Vita grudgingly got out of the car. She was neither turned on by the sign warning us to keep out nor the thought of hiking an extra half mile. We made our way down the snow filled street to the lake. Warning signs and tape surrounded the lake. They explained that to stay safe you should stay out of low lying areas because CO2, which is heavier than air, will sink.
The signs also suggested that you stay in well ventilated areas. Now, at 9,000ft in the middle of the mountains I’d guess that just about anywhere is well ventilated, but maybe not. We decided to stay in the wind. My theory was that even in the low lying areas, it was so windy that the CO2 would be magically swept away. The sign also warned that if you felt short of breath or dizzy, to leave the area at once. This sign was obviously not written for Bay Area low landers, such as ourselves, who get dizzy walking across the street at such altitude.
We followed the signs to the trailhead and as Vita’s luck would have it, it was covered with snow. She gave me one of those looks which told me she did not favor snow hiking. Not a problem. We had a lake. I had a rod. We trucked over to where the ice was just receding on Horseshoe Lake.
I’ve always heard about how good fishing was on lakes at ice-out. Simply toss your fly out on the ice, pull it back over the edge and wham, fish on! This technique is used with big ugly streamer type flies over lakes with good populations of fish. I on the other hand was armed with big ugly dry flies (Royal Wulffs) and over a lake who’s fish population was questionable. After all, the CO2 must dissolve pretty regularly into the lake water and if it could kill trees (which breath CO2) it seemed to me it could easily kill fish. Horseshoe Lake was the one place in Mammoth where we hadn’t seen any squirrels, chipmunks or other critters.
The fish chose not to reveal themselves and after a half hour or so we headed out for dinner. As we left, some spin fishers came and plopped themselves out in front of the open water. They seemed as clueless as us.
After dinner, I returned to Hot Creek. The first thing that I noticed was that the river was much dirtier than it had been on Friday. At first I didn’t think much of it. The river gets progressively worse each day and in the past I’d always figured it was due to run off. Even a spring creek must get some run off in such a mountain filled region. Then I noticed grass floating downstream and looked up. Two anglers were wading up stream.
They were far enough up stream to seemingly not have a direct affect upon my fishing but they were. Each time they moved, tufts of aquatic weeds and grass floated downstream. Now I understood why the river conditions deteriorated. This annoyed me. Most anglers at Hot Creek don’t wade. There is a sign that asks you not to. I myself only wade to land a fish. I also wade, very shallowly, the small gravel area at the midstream riffle. This area has no vegetation and wading here isn’t a choice. Despite this, my nymphing tactics from Friday where paying off. The fish where smaller but they were still there.
After and hour of nymphing and 5 fish, I decided to fish a dry fly. I went fishless on the dry but still had fun.
In disbelief. I looked downstream at someone who appeared to be spin fishing (Hot Creek is fly fishing only.) I couldn’t believe my eyes. I’m not a snob and I love to spin fish but I’ve noticed an increase in non-regulation fishing at the rivers where I like to fish. It bothers me, people just don’t care about the regulations or the fish they are supposed to protect. Fish are a limited resource which everyone can enjoy so long as they are not exploited. I’m particularly troubled by the blatant poaching and non reg fishing at the Lower Stanislaus and Owens River below Pleasant Valley Reservoir.
I always give someone the benefit of the doubt before I walk
over and rain on their parade. This fellow was still too far away for me to see
clearly. Maybe was fishing a streamer and simply using his reel to strip his fly
in….Nope, he’s got a spinning reel. Maybe he simply didn’t know the regs I
thought. I’d been a victim of confusing regulations myself this weekend. Perhaps
there simply wasn’t a sign where he came on the to river. I was standing about
15 feet from a regulation sign and he was coming my way. I watched to see if he
would read it as he walked by. He didn’t. I took off after him.
May 29th- Scouting the June Lakes Loop
Monday continued the scouting theme. Vita and I took the scenic route out of Mammoth, looking for new lands to hike and fish. We also drove the scenic June Lakes Loop. The drive was hilly and pleasant, with lakes and streams around just about every turn. Rush Creek on the far side of the loop looked inviting, especially those section between lakes.
Our trip home via Tioga Pass was delayed when a forest fire broke out just above Lee Vining. I’d overheard a fire fighter saying the cause was a careless camper or hiker, which is too bad. Some people don’t realize the damage a poorly disposed cigarette or poorly extinguished camp fire can do. We pulled off 395 and watched the fire race across the hill side for a while. We then pulled off at Mono Lake, a favorite place of Vita’s to take in the history offered by the visitors center. Until as recently as the 70’s, there were still Native Pieta Indians summering on the west side of the lake and wintering on the east. The history of the Lake makes and interesting story and the lake is finally rebounding after years of abuse.
Our trip ended the same way as it started, with a trip over Sonara Pass.