As I and eight members of my fly fishing club can attest, fall is creeping into the Eastern Sierras. The mornings are crisp, the sky a cloudless blue, the crowds gone and the aspens beginning to shimmer yellow. Throw in a dose of good fishing, great camaraderie and conversation, and solid home-style meals aided by “adult beverages,” and you know a good time will be had by all.
So it was on this quick trip on the Friday, Saturday and Sunday beginning Sept. 19th. The three days went by mighty fast, but the fish were willing to play, and all of us ended up with some outstanding memories. Our group also instituted our own version of a Sierra Fall “Slam”. More on that later.
Soon after Jim, with whom I shared transportation, and I passed the Highway 108/395 junction, we warmed up for the outing with some drive-by fishing on the nearby Little Walker River. It was wonderful to be greeted by some willing wild rainbow and brook trout.
After most of our group met at Tom’s Place Resort later that afternoon, we unloaded and geared up. Then it was off to Hot Creek. Winds typical of the Eastern Sierra barreled through the small canyon but those who managed a good drift, using small Caddis and Stimulators with Zebra Midges, were rewarded with this creek’s beautiful fish. I, however, was not one of them.
The descent of darkness sent us scurrying back to our cabins. The evening was capped off with a spread of appetizers, homemade beer, wine and a rib-sticking, one-handed meal of runza.
With the dawning of Saturday our group broke into smaller two- and three-person squads that would cover each variety of the available waters: creeks and streams, rivers, and lakes. The waters covered included the Upper Owens River, Rock Creek, Mammoth Creek, Hot Creek, the Mammoth area’s Lake Mamie and Crowley Lake.
Two other club members and myself headed to Crowley Lake to stillwater nymph for that lake’s famed fish by boat. Though the lake was low, the wind was conspicuously and thankfully absent nearly all day. We began by working the West Flats area, accompanied by a handful of float tubers and boats. While we were there, only one tuber hooked, then lost, a fish. A move to the Leighton Springs area of the lake proved fortuitous as one of our group, who only started fly fishing this summer after taking the novice seminar last spring, hooked and landed a beautiful 20-inch cutthroat. The fishing wasn’t crazy, but we all had a number of takes and drive bys and at the end of the day, I could lay claim to four good rainbows, but will (jokingly) insist that I lost the biggest trout of the day after it dramatically jumped a few feet into the air and, as everyone stood slack-jawed in the boat, crashed into one of our cohort’s leader and broke off.
The plan for the late afternoon was to meet on the Upper Owens to fish into the twilight hours, when the winds typically subside. The threat of darkness cut the fishing short, but I managed a couple of rainbows. And while it wasn’t a secret that I was after a brown on this trip, I didn’t expect my third fish to be an Upper Owens whopper of a brown measuring six inches.
This fun day full of fishing, punctuated by a good amount of catching, ended on another high note, with a wonderful pasta dinner and the obligatory selection and toast of the best “fish story.” As the tales were told two standouts became quickly apparent. The 20-inch cutthroat was an obvious choice, particularly with the “catcher” being a new fly fisher. While not involving a fish, her husband’s yarn, to which I can testify, ended up being a co-winner. To sum it up, trout eat midge nymphs. So do long-eared grebes. If your indicator moves just after a grebe dives next to it, you shouldn’t set the hook. It was. And out his mishap arose the new Sierra Fall “Slam,” for collectively our group caught brown trout, cutthroat trout, rainbow trout, brook trout and, yes, the aforementioned grebe.
We parted ways on Sunday as some folks would head home through Yosemite while others would cross Sonora Pass. Before heading over Sonora Pass Jim and I flung flies into Hot Creek that morning, again amid numerous caddis hatches. Jim used a small orange Caddis to entice a number of takes and got a nice rainbow to the net.
After struggling with a nymph under larger stimulator, I too opted for a size 18 Caddis and after what seemed like 50-plus casts deceived, hooked and landed a healthy and brilliant 14-inch rainbow. When Jim moved downstream, so I slid into this spot, where a pod of fish was running deep, and cast a Stimulator with a size 22 “Crystal” Zebra dropper. Three casts later and I hooked then had in hand the brownie I was looking for; about 13 inches worth.
A great trip!