fishing for words

(and tossing out random thoughts)

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big lake, up high, big fish: part one

It’s still hard to decide if I just got it right or if it was the trout throwing me a bone.

Crazy fishing.

The morning of June 19th marked the start of my inaugural trip to volcano country in the northeastern corner of California. A driving time of 5 hours and 30 minutes would bring me to my destination at the east edge of Lassen National Park, roughly 93 miles south of the Oregon border and 40 miles from the Nevada state line.

Shakey's Special Pizza

Shakey's SpecialTM Pizza

Like many fly fishing trips, it began with food. When it came to my attention that Oroville was home to one of the few Shakey’s Pizza restaurants in my end of the Golden State, I appropriately adjusted my route. Pulling into Oroville, a town surviving on the generosity of travelers passing through, the old school design of the Skakey’s was a good sign. Not so good was the new school menu. That meant no Bunch of Lunch buffet (a $9.95 lunchtime experience) for me. The pizza, however, was a memory inducing event. Shakey’s pizza, at the older restaurants mind you, is one of the few foods that matches what I remember from childhood.

After dosing the body with slices of Shakey’s Special and Diet Coke, it was on to Chester, where I met up with Tom Maumoynier, owner of The Lake Almanor Fly Fishing Company. Tom’s passion about the area and the fly fishing it has to offer can be contagious. He’s so passionate about fly fishing, and his wife apparently very understanding, that Tom seems to spend many an evening “testing” various venues around Lake Almanor, and the lake itself. With advice from Tom, a close examination of an area map and a handful of flies, it was time to wet a line in Yellow Creek.

I checked into the modest but quite comfy Cedar Lodge, and headed down Hwy 89, along the western shore of Lake Almanor. A few miles later I pulled onto one of the nicest Forest Service roads I’ve had the pleasure to driven. Tom told me it was eight miles to the creek. Thankfully, signs to the Yellow Creek Campground kept me on the right path. Until I crested a hill to find the road branching in four directions.

I’d like to say I took the macho course of action (Eeny, meeny, miny, moe, catch a tiger by the toe…), but that hill was a blessing. Wimping out, I checked the cell phone for a signal and called Tom back at the shop. It was the middle road, he told me, clarifying that just about the time you think you missed a turn a few mile back, you’ll arrive at the campground. He was right.

Yellow Creek is a fantastic medium-sized creek, meandering through a meadow nestled within a gentle valley. It doesn’t offer much fishy water immediately downstream from the campground, at least not early in the season, when most of the moving water in the area is high. A 15-minute hike, however, brings nice looking riffles and pools into view.

I rigged up with Tom’s recommendation of a light green drake, which had worked well for him the previous evening, with a pheasant tail nymph dropper. Casting as I walked, the first take came a few minutes later and yielded a small, wild brown trout.

Yellow Creek Brown

Yellow Creek Brown

I believe that, like many things in life, confidence is a big factor in fly fishing. So, after 30 minutes of a lot of nothing, I switched to my “confidence flies”: a yellow-green bodied stimulator trailed by a bead-head A.P. Nymph.

A few minutes later, an 8-inch brown ate the nymph. Another nailed the stimulator on the surface. The total for the next 90 minutes was five browns and one rainbow to the net, twice as many missed strikes, and the farming of one of the “toads” I was warned about.

That toad, perhaps a fair 12 or 13 inches (big for a creek this size), didn’t hesitate when it took the nymph. Stunned that it had been fooled, it didn’t move for a minuscule but still discernable amount time. Then it exploded downstream, jumping three times before turning upstream and burying its nose in the weeds at my feet. Gaining the angle and applying gentle pressure, I turned the fish back into open water. I blinked, and with one final jump, he was off. Good times.

While I collected myself and gathered up my net, allowing my flies to swing in the current, I missed another strike. That’s a hint how fun the fishing can be on Yellow Creek.

The downside of tracking down more remote creeks and the wild fish in them is the drive out on unfamiliar dirt roads in the dark. Let’s just say that I was grateful to find pavement after a wrong turn that had me, for the first time, thinking I might have to spend the night sleeping in the car.

Instead, I got a restful night’s sleep at the motel. Good thing, too. I would soon find out that I needed it.

The plan Sunday was to head back towards Yellow Creek, but to stop short at Butt Creek, which I crossed the previous day. I had been warned that the unseasonably cold water and air temperatures were limiting insect hatches, and thus trout feeding, to the evenings. But I was there and I had the means to cast a few flies.

If one were to use my results as scientific measurement, there are no trout in Butt Creek. I did have beautiful weather, and after a few hours, enjoyed a streamside sandwich. Fly fishing, in beautiful country, is never a bad thing, regardless of the catch rate.

That afternoon I visited Susan Creek, a portion of which is maintained as a wild fishery. Yes, I only visited it. To say the water was too high would be an understatement.

As darkness descended, I was comfortably secure in my Kamping Kabin at Eagle Lake RV Park. Eagle Lake was less than 200 yards away.

Why I was there:

Eagle Lake

Eagle Lake. Looking southeast, with conditions looking good.


  • Surface Elevation: 5,098 ft./1,554 m.
  • Surface Area: 24,000 Acres/97.1 km2
  • Maximum Depth: 85 ft./26 m.
  • Location: Lassen County, Calif. (40°38′42″N / 120°44′38″W)
  • Second largest natural lake entirely in the state of California.
  • Home to the Eagle Lake Trout, which are uniquely adapted to the lake’s alkaline waters.


where we’ll be tomorrow

For those who haven’t traveled Tioga Road – where out two-wheeled fly fishing day trip will take us – here’s an interesting time-lapse video. (We’ll travel a tad bit slower.)
Google Street View: Tioga Pass Road from Austin Leirvik on Vimeo.


motorcycles, fly fishing, fun, and good eats

It’s on in 7 days and 4 hours.

That’s when we set out on the inaugural Konoske Boys Two-Wheel/Fly Fishing RoadTrip 2010.

After years of talking about it, miles of practice rides, a few hours of tinkering with gear, and a sudden opportunity to stay at the family cabin, it’s nearly go time. The route is planned. Soon the bikes will be sorted.

One day up to Twain Harte and one day back. From sea level to 9943 feet/3031 meters over 530 miles/853 kilometers. Squeezed into that total is a one-day, 250-mile/403-kilometer loop up and over and back over the Sierra Nevadas.

Kinks just past Sonora Pass.

The first leg of our one-day tour will take us over Sonora Pass (elevation 9624 ft./2933 m.). This is the only stretch that gives me pause: 15 miles with 9 blind or partially blind hairpin turns, often with steep uphill or downhill grades. The greater cause for concern is oncoming drivers cutting corners short. We’ll take it slow, to be sure. We’ll put our training to good use, following the adage “Look ahead, then look where you want to go.” We’ll be looking as far ahead as we can.

First stop: East Walker River. Reports put this tailwater fishery a bit high right now, but with any luck a dry/dropper combo will get us into some brown trout.

A quick ride south, past Bodie and Mono Lake, will put us in Lee Vining. A left turn and we’re gaining elevation again, up Hwy 120 toward Tioga Pass (elevation 9943 ft./3031 m.) and Yosemite National Park. Hopefully we’ll wet our lines again in a section of Lee Vining Creek. That’s if we don’t have to hike through too much snow to reach what we trust will be hungry brook trout.

After the Tioga Pass entrance station we’ll wheel past likely still-snowy Tuolumne Meadows, with a stop here and there, perhaps at Tenaya Lake (no fish there), and Olmsted Point, before winding up the engines, flicking into fifth gear and making tracks for Old Priest Grade.

A portion of Old Priest Grade.

A portion of Old Priest Grade.

Old Priest Grade is one heck of a road. Two miles long with an approximately 1,500 feet elevation gain and an average gradient of 14 percent. To compare, New Priest Grade (SR120) is three times as long with twice as many curves, and an average gradient of less than 10 percent. However, Old Priest Grade is a great shortcut with relatively new asphalt. It just commands a bit of respect. So we’ll take the shortcut. At least that’s the plan for now.

After Old Priest Grade, it’s an easy and fast road toward the cabin, with the promise of a dinner of our favorite burgers fueling anticipation.

As for this weekend, I’ll be selflessly gathering fodder for future fishing posts by dragging myself up to the Eagle Lake area for a few days of playing with big rainbows in the lake and making a few casts on nearby streams and rivers. Rotten business, I know, but I do it for you.

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more catching through technology

No one’s ever accused me of being a luddite. Nor am I a rabid early adopter of technology. This, however, is too promising to ignore.

Fish are followers; trout pod up.

While there’s something to be said about tradition in fly fishing, I’m game for anything that might lend a competitive edge. And if I can’t be the Pied Piper of Oncorhynchus, Salmo or Salvelinus, maybe, just maybe, technology can bring the fish to me.

Enter Robofish.

Researchers suggest that this technology could be used to steer schools of fish away from hydroelectric turbines. And, you know, that’s nice and all, but let’s think outside the tank for a minute… We now have the capability to use robots to control schools of fish.Read more on

…pods of trout steered in my direction thanks to the all new Orvis TLS Robotic Fish Escort. Coming soon to trout water near you.