fishing for words

(and tossing out random thoughts)

last hurrah ’09

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[singlepic id=746 w=200 h=267 float=right]We’re back. The second annual End of Trout Season Trip is history. And we caught more browns, brookies and rainbows than could rightfully be expected.

It all started late and slow as less adept drivers transformed former automobiles into too many ready-to-be-recycled bits strewn along Hwy 680. We picked up speed through Livermore, grabbed a sandwich dinner in Dublin, then came to a stop in Manteca. Younger son Christopher needed his first look at a Bass Pro Shops store and a few pieces of gear. Eyes suitably glazed over, it was a quick 70 miles to the cabin and an early bed time.

There’s a benefit to regularly falling getting out of bed during the five o’clock hour. It’s that much easier to hit road early when fishing. On the road in the dark, with Christopher asleep and few episodes of “Ask About Fly Fishing” queued up on the iPhone, the 93 miles to the upper East Walker River quickly slipped away.

Mother Nature was nice enough to cooperate, and the weather was exactly as if I had ordered it up…cool, crisp and high-desert clear. I don’t think it was much above 40° and never rose much above 50° on the EW. The nicest surprise is that this would be the first time I would been alone on the East Walker, if for just the first hour.

[singlepic id=745 w=200 h=150 float=left]Once we were bugged up and on the river, the rest of life drifted away. Cast, mend, watch. Repeat. That went on for a total of, oh, maybe ten minutes before the confidence inspiring first strike. That’s the way it was to be all morning. Grand total: twelve browns in three hours. Not a one less than twelve inches long and some stretching to fourteen. Nice fish. All fat, sassy and seemingly ready for winter. There we’re bigger fish around to be sure. In a slower moving, slick surfaced stretch we caught sight of a wake that would do the Lock Ness Monster proud. Big fish to the net or not, it was a great start to the weekend.

Eating lunch on the go, it was south to Tioga Pass Road. We tried a familiar lower stretch of Lee Vining Creek, but most of those fish were holdover stockers that had earned an education over the summer and weren’t having any of what we were selling. So it was onwards and steeply upwards to the upper sections of Lee Vining Creek and other high-mountain creeks, where I know of a few wild populations of brook trout just right for the 3 wt. rod.

It had become a mandate that I visit these little trout. I did so during May, only to find a few fish, and those few fish unwilling to fall for any of my offerings. This time it was to be different.

[singlepic id=747 w=200 h=267 float=right]The air temperature was, at best, in the high thirties, and a stiff wind whipped down off the snow fields. I mentally marked the time: one thirty. ‘Cause I had just walked into what seemed to be one heck of a hatch. Or at least a feeding frenzy. Pods of brook trout, dazzling in their spawning colors, slashed at the surface. Others breached like freshwater whales in miniature. And I could do no wrong with a size 14 Royal Wulff, off which I hung a size 22 “Ghost Midge” of my own design. (Simply tie a tiger midge with gray thread instead of black, with a small flash tail if you’d like.)

I stopped counting at twenty. A number of ten-inch trophies made up for lack of length with brilliant colors. Yes, that’s a trophy fish at 9,990-something feet in the Sierra Nevada mountain range. There’s something amazing about fishing a small, crystal clear mountain creek, no deeper than 12 inches and landing fish after fish. I would have liked to have spent the entire afternoon there. But we had older son Sean to meet and some one hundred-plus miles to go.

Sunday dawned cold and clear again. Soon we were packed up and ready to return to reality home, but not without one last cast or twenty. On the road home there are a few small West Slope streams that feed into Don Pedro Lake; good places to delay our reentry into the world by a few hours. The morning started off slow and Sean wandered downstream. I should have seen the signs. No witnesses. No one to man the net.

It could have been predicted. It was a soft take. Subtle in fact. Muscle memory set the hook. Then all hell broke loose. Apparently a torpedo had attached itself to my line. It accelerated upstream. Three leaps later the fish made the mistake of almost grounding itself in shallow water. Then I could see its back – a big back – break the surface. A short second of indecision preceeded a downstream charge; a charge powerful enough to take me with it. In the end, fifteen minutes later, and 100 feet down stream, a slab of a fish was in the net. Barely. Twenty four inches of rainbow. The biggest trout I’ve landed in moving water. And no witnesses. Only the camera to trust to tell the story.

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The rest of the morning was filled with multiple double hook ups as Sean and fished favorite spots side by side. We landed a number of DFG-raised rainbows, with just enough casts required between strikes to keep it interesting. Sean was lucked enough to bring an eighteen incher to hand. I got another good fish of twenty two inches. I also had a repeat of last year. I’d heard years ago that in the fall some wild Don Pedro Lake browns occasionally find their way upstream thanks to spawning urges. This was proven to me to be fact last fall went I landed an eighteen-inch brownie. Got one again this year. Even if it was only ten inches, I’ll count it.

My last hurrah for Trout 2009.

The slideshow:

The gallery:
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