fishing for words

(and tossing out random thoughts)

highs & lows: fishing Memorial Day 2007

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Though I straddle the fence when it comes to my choice of lure fishing — spin casting vs. recently adopted and as yet unsuccessful fly fishing — my memory of Memorial Day 2007 may forever be tarnished by the image of a guy using a fly rod, reel and line to cast a worm into small stream. My lack of success with fly fishing precludes me from calling this sacrilegious, but it sure made me cringe.

But on to the good stuff. This Memorial Day weekend Christopher and I headed out Saturday from the cabin at oh-dark-thirty, headed over the still snow-capped Sonora Pass. Our first stop was the West Walker River. And it was just a stop. The water was high and a bit colored and not too inviting to fishing. Christopher didn’t offer any suggestions as to the nest stop, so I headed south, to one of my favorite sections of the upper Lee Vining Creek.

I’m not anti-social by nature, but I love to be alone with myself or my son when I’m fishing. It’s a reason that I love this little area of Lee Vining Creek; over the last three summers we have pretty much have had this section to ourselves. Under the clearest of blue skies and the warmth of the early morning sun we stepped I peered into a slow moving and shallow section of the creek water to find my suspicions confirmed; if we did all the right things we would catch trout.

There’s a bend in this creek that creates two large and deep pools, almost ponds or small lakes. But this year the shortage of snow was abundantly clear as the water we were about to fish. The outlet of the main “lake” was low this year. This was not a good thing for two reasons. First, it doesn’t bode well for great fishing later in the season. Secondly, it allowed me to see the numerous trout cruising the shallows. As I stood still, they seemed to tease me by coming within a few feet of the shore before zooming back to deeper water.

I truly had hoped to cast some flies — I’m still looking for my first trout on my fly rod — but as is typical of many high Sierra streams, stunted pine trees crowd the shore and make casting difficult for a new fly fisher like me. Out came the ultralight and my favorite Panther Martin. And away skittered the trout. Even the shadow of my spinner was enough to whip these wild brookies into a frenzy. Eventually they calmed down — maybe they recognized me and realized I was no real threat — and I was pull the little PM through various groups of fish and spark a mild interest among what were probably the dumber trout.

Christopher, in the meantime, decided to chuck bait during much of this trip. From the opposite bank he was able to hook into a small brookie that was adept at practicing the self-release tactic. (Even with bait, he de-barbed his hooks.)

Though the beauty of this place often mitigates any fishing frustration, Christopher wanted to land a fish and so moved to my side of the creek and headed around a bend. This bend creates a deep pool that always suggests trout are present. This year, however, snow still covered the opposite shore, which is often in the shadow of a mountain.

I followed Christopher fifteen minutes later to be greeted with, “Dad, you should throw a lure in here!” So I did to find three or four fish chasing my lure nearly every cast. Christopher was the first to land a fish, the small brook. I was next, pulling a decent rainbow that hit less than five feet from shore. A little bit later I switched over to a gold Kastmaster, in my opinion THE great all-purpose lure for large bodies of high Sierra water. Like last year and the year before, this Kastmaster was taken almost the instant it hit the water. My reward was the rainbow below.

My first thought was that this might be a holdover, but it looks a bit too nice…maybe wild? [singlepic=214,250,,,right] After a while, we decided to what was what at Tioga Lake, finding it low by at least seven feet compared to last year during July and still partially covered by ice.

We also explored the creek further down Lee Vining Canyon, but couldn’t be enticed — due to a lack of fish or a surplus of other fisher folks — to spend too much time in one location.

Over the roughly four hours spent up and down Lee Vining Creek, I pulled in four rainbows and Christopher landed one brook and four rainbows. But more importantly, my batteries were fully recharged and the inspiration to fish the high country rekindled.

That afternoon we struck out for unfamiliar territory. And stuck out. We stopped for our first visit to the beautiful Twin Lakes area, specifically for a look at Robinson Creek. We saw a lot of bait fishing going on here, and encountered only one gentlemen with a beat up rainbow on his stringer. I’ve heard good things about this creek, but guess I’ll have to spend more than a few hours exploring it… Being tired and not wanting to drive over the pass in the dark, we called it a good day and headed to the cabin.

A bit sunburned and sore, Christopher and I got a little extra shuteye Sunday morning (5/27/2007) at our cabin in Twain Harte. But not wanting opportunity to pass us by, we headed out to some local water to pursue some stockers. We have a few local spots to pick from and ended up wet wading in nice canyon stream.

Christopher and I know the most productive pools on this “crick.” He headed upstream while I stuck near the middle of its length. I found the mother lode, with at least two dozen fish holding in two pools about four feet deep and separated by a washing machine-sized boulder. This is where I found the aforementioned worm-on-fly-rod guy and happily noted, with some guilt, the fact that he wasn’t catching anything.

I would note here that I again tried to use my fly rod, but with limited room and even less interest in what I had to offer, I shifted back to a spinner. I knew gold on gold had worked here in the past and figured at the every least I could anger one of these trout into a strike. I set up a bit downstream from the lower pool, casting up an retrieving slightly down and across the current. I got some interest, but no takers.

Across the water an older gentleman and a younger guy were drifting worms through the pools. From across the creek I asked what they had caught — expecting these to be planted rainbows — and was surprised to be they had plucked a smaller stringer’s worth of smaller “native browns” from the creek since sunrise. Soon they crossed the stream to my side and as they passed by I felt obligated to impart some of my limited wisdom. (Yeah, meeting them as I was crossing to commandeer their former position.) I pointed out the pinkish fins edged in white, the more squared off tail, a few reddish spots with blue haloes and the irregular worm-like markings on back on the pan-sized brook trout the younger man was carrying on his stringer. He was appreciative, telling me it was one of a few times he’s fished the Sierra foothills.

My good deed for the day was later rewarded, after Christopher rejoined me. After giving him some pointers on where he might want to drift worms, I concentrated on that lower pool that was consistently filled with about ten fish. Soon I focused less on the fish and more on my casts. I figured that the prefect placement of my Panther Martin would be six to twelve inches from the opposite shore, allowing the spinner to drift downstream on a moderately fast retrieve through the leading edge of the pool. This generated a lot of interest. About the time that the worm/fly rod guy and his cigarette smoking buddies packed it in, I was awakened by a dynamite strike. A fourteen-inch bookie close enough to eyeball me, and off he went again. This fish put on one of those good fights that deserves a catch and release philosophy.

Later, when Christopher and I had this stretch of the creek to ourselves, he landed a nice brook he had enticed to take a worm.

The rest of the weekend was composed of mostly rest and relaxation. Life is good.

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One thought on “highs & lows: fishing Memorial Day 2007

  1. That sounds like a fun time. I truly miss all of our camping trips and the loads of fish we caught. Looking at your photos of, in particular, the terrain, I was reminiscing about the small things I miss about natural California…

    Soooo, over the Memorial Day weekend, I pulled in two small mouth bass (7 inch and 9 inch) and an approximate 14 inch squaw fish (Northern Pikeminnow). Not quite the action you saw! That being said, I got to taste a barbequed 5 lb Rainbow (triploid) recently caught in the Columbia River and it was pink with a hint of salmon flavor. Yummy!

    Keep the stories coming!

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