Though we shifted from our original plan to head over Sonora pass to the eastern slope of the Sierra Nevadas, Chris and I had fun weekend of (mostly) catch and release fishing. We left about mid morning Friday, taking our time driving into the foothills and stopping for lunch along the way. A stop at the Mother Lode Fly Shop convinced us that it wouldn’t be too productive to spend the three hours driving over Sonora pass or even to venture into any of the local rivers as water levels were high enough to be dangerous, much less conducive to fishing. I got similar advice from Ken’s Sporting Goods in Bridgeport: Just avoid the rivers for now.
So after settling into the cabin about 2:30 p.m., we headed up to the canal for a look. We tossed a few lures and Chris got one strike. Then he hooked three small rainbows and landed in two, giving one to a nearby angler. (We are using barbless hooks exclusively, but if it looks like a fish may not survive because of an injury, we “donate” it to a fellow fisherman.) But Chris wanted to get down to Moccasin Creek, and about 35 minutes later we were there.
Moccasin is pretty much a “put and take” stream, supplied by a nearby hatchery.We typically avoid the top of the stream at the base of the Moccasin Creek Power Plant dam, and skipped to some pools downstream. Chris had ventured to the other side of the steam and we eventually lost sight of each other. Threading my way through overgrown blackberry bushes I found an attractive looking, dark green pool in front of a big boulder after a few casts and a single strike, I decided to toss the little Panther Martin lure (red body/gold blade) past the boulder with the idea of bringing it up behind any fish that might be in front of the boulder. To my surprise, I had a fish on almost as soon as the lure hit the water. I shifted my focus to the shallows behind the boulder and over the course of about an hour hooked eleven decent-size “stocker” rainbow trout and landed seven. Chris caught up with me, hooked one trout, but the bite slowed and we left shortly thereafter.
I stumbled out of bed at 5 a.m. Saturday to be told by Chris that he needed another hour of sleep. An hour later, he was not showing any signs of strong motivation, so I shelved our plans for early morning fishing, hoping that on this day we’d have the same experience in the afternoon as I did Friday. I arrived back at Moccasin Creek about 11:00 a.m. with plans to wade as far as we could downstream, maybe even to the inlet into Don Pedro Lake. Fishing as we went, we made our way downstream, but found little action. Chris had a few strikes, I had one. In the end, while we may have gotten close to the inlet, the banks of the stream became so overgrown with blackberries and the water grew so deep that we turned around. Heading upsteam is much more difficult and one of my knees shows the scars of such a battle.
About mid afternoon we came up on the same pool and shallows that were so good to me the previous afternoon. Another fisherman and his female companion had set up on the shore. Apparently, with bait, he had plucked five fish from the stream (the limit) over the course of most of the day. Chris and I approached the area from the opposite side and started casting lures. Near as I can figure, over about two hours Chris and I together hooked about 12 fish, landing about half of them. I was having fun throwing lures on the shore, then pulling them into the stream right where the water undercut the bank a bit. Numerous times I was caught off guard by a fish that took my lure almost as soon as I had reset my bail. After a while, lures seemed to fall from favor, so, despite our typical avoidance of bait, Chris and I set up for salmon eggs and PowerBait. We caught another three or four fish with bait.
As the day entered the twilight hours, we moved upstream to “the pipe” (where the water exits the dam) and met a local guy who had retired to the area and regaled us with fish tales. According to him – and he seems correct – the fish start biting just about the time most folks leave. He invited us to set up next to him and after a few minutes he had a fish on. Chris stuck up a conversation with this gentleman, who is originally from San Jose, and found out that he had a special trick for floating earthworms past a boulder deep in the pool. In the meantime, Chris hooked two more fish and gave him to our fellow fisherman, who decided three trout was enough. As he departed, he left the remainder of his earthworms with Chris and I. A bit later, a father and his young son started fishing a bit downstream from us. Employing our newly learned earthworm trick, Chris and I had double hook up and gave the two trout to the father and his son. (This father was there because his son loves to eat trout.) We finished out the evening, about when it was too dark to see and after we had exhausted our supply of earthworms, plucking a few trout out with PowerBait. It was a “troutfully” fun weekend!