May 29th- Hot Creek Ranch  2016

May 30th- Big Spawning Trout

June 1st- Little Lakes Valley

 June 3rd- Big Spawning Trout

Time: Generally Late Mornings / Early Afternoons
Weather: Slightly cloudy
Water Temps:
Water Level: High, with ice.
Water Conditions: Slightly off color
Moon Phase: New Moon on June 5. Last Quarter May 29th.
Insects Observed: Can't remember.
Hours fished:
Hours fishing? A lot. Hours fished? Few, didn't cast much.....
# of fish caught:  Handful at Hot Creek Ranch, No big Goldens, a handful of Brookies and too many rainbows to count.
Size of fish caught:  Largest ~13 inches (lost a couple in the 17 inch range......)
Method: Sight fishing with dries and weighted nymph. Count down method.
Set Up:  Medium Action Cane 8ft 4wt made by myself. Bamboo version of a Sage LL that I made, can't remember how long it is. It's a 5wt.
Flies:  Threw a ridiculous number of flies on day two. Mostly caught fish on my standards.

NB: I have to apologize in advance for readers of the Chronicles that don't follow Facebook and readers of  Facebook that are looking more for prep and fitness related stuff. This started out as a post for the Facebook page but turned out to be a chronicle of sorts about the entire weekend. I'm afraid it doesn't cover either the fishing or fitness angle very well, but it's probably the best I'm going to do for now......


Just a quick post before heading into my first backpacking trip of the season. I haven't written a Mammoth Lakes trip report yet because frankly there wasn't much to write about. So let's talk about the fitness progress and my prep for next week's trip.

Heading into Mammoth I'd had about 3 or 4 weeks of training since being sidelined most of the spring with a virus. Most of that training was geared toward building an aerobic base and developing some strength. I'd hoped that the two months of  forced lay off would have provided my body with some rest and recuperation and that I'd bounce back to "full power" pretty quickly. I'd also hoped to loose some of the 10 or 15 lbs I'd gained. That didn't happen and the effects of the virus continued to linger.

Going into Mammoth I was just starting to feel normal. My weight hadn't dropped, despite several weeks of "clean" eating and exercise. The hormones just weren't in sync I guess but knowing how my body reacts to altitude training, I'd planned to put in at least two hours of hiking every other day. I'd add weight training when we moved from Hot Creek Ranch to the Westin.

We arrived at Hot Creek Ranch the Friday before Memorial Day and after some late night fishing, Vita and I settled into the cabin. The next morning I made a slow, relaxed recon run out to the bluffs and along the outer rim of the canyon. Roger and I fished the Ranch that day without spectacular results. A few fish came to hand but nothing note worthy. Still, as always, it was great to be out.

Sunday was the first high country trek of the season and I was was feeling it. Slow and steady is how we took it and that would be the worst of it for the week. The acclimation process had started and 3 days later I'd be feeling pretty good. The fishing was less than I'd hoped. We hiked to a big golden trout lake and I'd had high expectations of catching large Goldens using the same patterns and techniques as last year. That wasn't the case. There were no cased Caddis in the lake as there had been last year and the fish were just moving into their spawn- more interested in grabbing each other's tails than grabbing a fly. I had 5 legitimate opportunities to land big fish that day and gave each and every one a long distance release.

I fished the Ranch a bit on Monday with similar uninspiring results as Saturday. A couple of fish to hand but not the large fish you hope for at Hot Creek Ranch.

Monday night we headed to the Westin for the rest of our stay.

Tuesday morning I awoke early and headed for their gym. It's a decent gym for a hotel, though not the best I've used. The gym at the JW Marriott in Indianapolis would hold that title. The gym at the Westin is serviceable with a bench, dumbbells up to 50 or 55lbs, several treadmills, ellipticals and bikes. The ellipticals here are my favorite Lifefitness models with the course display system that gives you something other than cable TV stations to watch while running. You can actually view trails from all over the world while you are running. Not as good as the real thing of course but great considering the alternative. I usually choose the New Zealand trails and the local Sierra trails.

I'd brought my kettlebell with me and ended up ad libbing the following workout:

  • Dumbell Press 3x10
  • Bent Over Dumbell Row 3x10 (Single Arm)
  • Bent Over Dumbell Raises 3x10
  • Kettlebell Swing 3x10
  • Kettlebell Clean and Press 3x10 (Each Arm)
  • 60 minutes MAF Elliptical

Seems pretty benign and basic but done at 8,000ft it's pretty intense. The soreness in my abs  the day after the kettlebell swings really pointed out how week my core had become from two months of sitting on the couch.

Wednesday was the next high country trek. I'd planned to hike into some of the high, off trail lakes of the Little Lake Valley but it became apparent to me that anything higher than 10,500 feet would likely be snowed in. I packed up my snow shoes and decided that a little less cross country travel was in order. Pulling out my map, I decided on Big Fish lake, which along with it's sister Little Fish lake, were two lakes in the valley I hadn't  yet fished.


The road to the mosquito flat trailhead was closed at the pack station but since this trip was about building fitness as much as fishing, it was a bonus. It was less than a 2hr trek into the lake. Most of the lakes above Marsh Lake still had plenty of ice on them and Big Fish lake was no exception. Actual hiking time into the lake was about an hour and 15 minutes with the last 15 minutes or so being cross country. My new snowshoes made short work of the short, steep and deep snow section between the lake and were I left the trail at Long Lake.

I really seemed to have a disdain for prospecting this trip and ONLY cast to sighted fish. I saw very few fish at Big Fish lake but did manage to land an 8 inches brook trout. The fish at Little Fish lake were even smaller and after a few 5 inches Brookies came to hand, I moved down to Box.


The fishing at Box was predictably fast and furious at the inlet. My experience over my last two visits here is that medium sized rainbows stack up here and are caught relatively easily by drifting a nymph into the current and watching your like. Too many fish came to hand to count, most in the 8 to 10 inches class.



The trek into the LLV is rather relaxed compared to other Sierra treks but by this time I was already feeling pretty comfortable with the attitude. Thursday was another day spent with my wife which meant a morning of the same weight training and Elliptical MAF training as Tuesday. As I've written in previous FB posts, MAF stands for Maximum Aerobic Function and is essentially low heart rate training. After the Kettlebell sets, I was pretty knackered so "ran" the elliptical at a lower average HR than usual. MAF is usually a 10 beat range, for me, it's between 140 and 150 beats per minute. ( MAF purists will know that this is high for my age, if you want to know why I use this number, just let me know.) I kept my HR low but my rpms high, running through forests in New Zealand, outside of Devil's Post Pile and through the Grand Canyon.

Friday was back to the big Golden Trout Lake. 2hrs of climbing with 1,900 feet elevation gain. I'd hoped that what Roger and I had caught on Sunday was the tail end of the spawn. If not, well, it would be a great training day. I made slightly better time up to the lake on Friday than on Sunday and felt much better doing it, while carrying a heavier pack. (I didn't have my snowshoes on Sunday.) Fishing however didn't improve, in fact the fish were more interested in spawning than they had been 5 days prior and I was less interested in hammering fish than I had been Friday.

Fish Sex. Tail biting must be pretty hot......

The previous Sunday, Roger and I spent the day switching between spots on the "the good bank". Making repeated casts to sighted fish. If I cast to a fish once that day, I must have cast to the same fish 30 times over the course of our stay there. That resulted in 5 solid hook ups, all day. Friday, I didn't have the patience for that, so after several casts to the same fish or same pods of fish. I moved on but not before meeting Ryan, who is a fan of this site (thanks Ryan!) and who was fishing with more patience and skill than me that day. He actually managed to land a fish or two.

I fished the entire bank, hoping to find something interested in a fly and managed one look to a some what active fish just before I left. Much like the male of our species, this fellow seemed to be interested in only two things, sex and food. He'd chase a tail for about 5 minutes and then rise to a bug on the surface. He repeated this until I missed the hook set on a dry fly and was gone. With that, I snowshoed my way up and out of the canyon and back to the car.

So here I am almost a full month since Mammoth and I'm feeling "not too bad". I'm definitely not as fit as I was for this trip last year, during the climb out of the big fish lake I overstressed one of my patella tendons with some steep snowshoeing. This has prevented me from doing a lot of the single leg strengthening that I had planned and it's frankly quite sore. That said, while I've babied my knees during strength training and every day life (no climbing the 16 flights of stairs to my desk every morning). I have managed 3 long runs over 18 miles over the last 3 weeks, the last almost 20 miles with 3,000 feet of climbing.

My weight has come down to about where it was last year. I missed two fishing trips this month, so my time at altitude isn't quite where I'd like it to be. It's difficult to compare run times over similar courses because I've been training MAF more but my time on my feet over the last 3 weeks has been about the same as it had this time last year. I'm hopeful for a good trip next week. Stay tuned!


Previous John Muir Wilderness Chronicle 

Next John Muir Wilderness Chronicle 

Chronicle Index