August 15th , 2008 Lee Vining Creek, Hot Creek
Time: Friday ~2:30pm - 7:30pm,
((This is a continuation of a 4 day trip to the Mammoth Lakes area that started by fishing Hot Creek and some local lakes.) The first installment is here: JMW 10)
Friday I got a late start and when I arrived at the trailhead for my destination lake, the storm clouds were already overhead. I fished Lee Vining Creek instead.
Lee Vining Creek is a great creek for honing one’s fishing sighting skills. The water is crystal clear and the planter rainbows appear as grey torpedoes below the surface. The wild brookies appear as flaming orange streaks during the spawning season, only the browns are truly tough to see.
Fishing was good and for the first time ever, I ran into another person fishing a bamboo rod. I was working my way out of the pocket water section of the canyon to the slicks and undercuts of the meadow when I noticed two people walking downstream. They stopped when they saw me and crossed the stream. The brush was high enough that I couldn’t see them and 5 min later I hear,
“Hi, don’t I know you from Oakland?”
“Yep”, I replied.
It was a fellow from the Oakland Casting Club. I’m terrible with names but Dan was kind enough to introduce himself and show me the rod he was fishing. He was a hobbyist rod maker, like me, and was fishing rod number 1- a copy of the Paul Young Perfectionist taper. I should have asked to cast the rod. I’ve heard good things about the Perfectionist but have yet to cast one. Unfortunately, I lost the opportunity. We parted ways and I continued to catch medium sized stocker ‘bows and pan sized browns and brookies.
Again in the evening it was back to Hot Creek.
August 16th Andy’s Lake
Time: Friday ~11:30pm - 3:00pm at
Andy’s Lake and 5:30 to 7:45 at Hot Creek.
(This is a continuation of a 4 day trip to the Mammoth Lakes area that started by fishing Hot Creek and some local lakes.)
Saturday it was time to do some serious high country fishing. I had planned to fish 3 lakes on this trip, the Cottonwood Lakes area, The Lake Which Shall Not be Named, and a new lake I’ll call “Andy’s Lake”. I was a little down on myself for not fishing the first two but I was definitely not going to make it three for three.
Andy’s Lake was close enough that I could leave mid morning and still have 3 or 4 hours to fish before the storms moved in. Many of the lakes I want to fish this year are at the end of jeep trails and unfortunately my Corolla, can only take the roughest of fire trails. I pass on large rocks and sand. The last mile before the trailhead the road ascends a steep, sandy two hundred feet. I had to ditch the car and walk the last mile to the trailhead.
After the initial steep grade, the fire road skirts a nice long meadow where I imagine wild horses once roamed. The trail to the lake turns ugly immediate. It’s a steep 800 feet gain in the first half mile and then it’s a somewhat pleasant rolling hike through aspens and Jeffrey pines. The latter half of the climb parallels a stream which might possibly hold golden trout. It would make a nice destination in and of itself. I made a few casts but didn’t have any takes.
The lake was at the base of a peak which climbs to over 12,000 feet. Its banks were extremely brushy and but for a small ring of rocks, which I’m sure are probably flooded during run off, one would have a tough time bank fishing this lake. I worked my way clockwise around the lake, looking for cruising fish. Much of the deep water was beyond casting range and the water was warm enough that the fish weren’t working the shallows. Despite the altitude (9,500 feet) this is a very fertile lake. I saw dragon flies, midges and drowned hornets or yellow termites.
I slowly walked along the rocks and on the far end of the lake, found some deeper water. I made a few blind casts to this water but this is never very satisfying for me so when I saw a fish rising off a point, out of casting range, I waded out to the end of the point and began casting. I couldn’t entice this fish so I continued around the lake until I came to the inlet. The water had been surprisingly warm until this point but the water coming out of the inlet was almost too cold to bear. If there were fish in this lake, this is where they were going to be.
Typically, the inlets and outlets are the best places to fish. The inlet was at the 3 o’clock position on the lake and I knew if I worked counter clockwise and fished it first, I probably would not get to know the rest of the lake. It took some time to explore the other portion of the lake but I’m glad I did.
I waded to the far side of the inlet and started casting away. It wasn’t long before I started casting in the direction of a rising fish. It was like fishing a bone fish flat. I was wading in shallow water to about mid calf to knee deep and several fish were working below the inlet, cruising along the edge of the shallow and deep water. Their cruising was erratic and they seemed to be working a double helix along the transition area.
They were finicky and spooky but larger golden trout often are. A cast to the fish would send them to cover. Take the cast, wait and twitch approach and the flies were simply ignored. I had to cast the flies into the cruising lane and wait, wait and wait some more for the fish to strike. It was hard to do and often the fish would reject or ignore the fly for no rhyme or reason other than it simply wasn’t right. Surprisingly, my first few strikes came in succession from several different fish. Each felt the prick of my Adams or cdc ant and I spent much of the afternoon trying to find other patterns to interest the fish. Caddis, Griffiths Gnat, Black Gnat, Klinkhammer, you name it; I tried it with no success. Finally, as the storms started to roll in, I garnered a little interest again in my Para Adams. “Just one fish and I’m outta here” I thought to myself.
The 13 inch golden swirled when it took the Adams and then proceeded to nearly spool me. It didn't have much girth fish but was hot none the less. I was taken aback by how strong this fish was and when I got my first glance at it, shortly before spooling run number 4, I figured I must have foul hooked it. The fish seemed too small to be so powerful. I finally reeled it in and could see my fly planted firmly in it jaw. Unfortunately, I was so eager to get a picture; I lost the fish as I fumbled with my camera. Its image will stay with me for some time. It was most the colorful golden trout I’d seen in some time.
I quickly composed myself and headed out.