Wednesday, July 7, 2010

High in the Sierras

Since moving back to the Goldenstate there's one destination in particular that I'd been itching to get to: the Sierra Nevada mountains and its cool, clear streams. But, with the incredible snow year that they had up there I kept postponing joy for fear of being taken prisoner by the angry rivers. By the time Independence Day came around it was decided to get up there somewhere. A posse was formed, the details were settled, and the fish hunt was about to begin....but first I had to drive through LA and then the San Joaq valley....the valley, for as bad a rap as it gets, was like paradise comparaed to the gnarly grip of the holiday weekend LA traffic

Somwehere north of Bakersfield.

We made it up the mountain and set up camp at almost 8000 feet. The weather was crisp, dry, and calm, a great weekend was ahead of us.

There were substantial drifts of snow in the shade at the beginning of the hike down to the rivers

We passed some beautiful meadows like this

And some very strange flowers that grew in unexpected places

We made it down the mountain into the river valley and proceeded to pick out a campsite and make undt river cooler for our frosty beverages

This is a deep run on the feeder stream we camped next to; it was running pretty high and crossing/wading was not easy or safe, but that didn't matter too much at this point, we were all pretty stoked

Poop, from unknown wild beast

This was a suhweet looking deep run on the main river that I scouted the first day but did not fish; I was sure it would produce some good fish.

There were all sorts of flowers and the forest was real open, it was nice not to have to do a lot of bushwhacking. It was also a lot easier to get our bearings when we were exploring.

The next day started fishing about 7 and had high hopes. The water being pretty high and fast I was fishing hares ear and lightning bug nymphs deep under an indicator, starting at the deep run pictured above. It was slow going, and I didn't land any fish for the first hour or so. As the temperatures warmed and I made my way upstream I shifted to a dry dropper setup and started producing small fish like the one above on the current seams. These fish fought SO HARD that I quickly abandoned the dropper for just a dry fly because they were thrashing incessantly, tangling themselves in the line to my dropper. It was a curious, as high as the water was I only caught one or two fish on nymphs; dries fished on the seems and eddies would prove to be the ticket.

Further upstream we started getting into bigger fish, the royal coachman was consistently bringing risers in almost every pool.
Right before catching this guy I went for a swim in a deep run. Slipping on some rocks right into the main flow I kept my cool and let the river take me for a bit of a ride and then swam/crawled to the opposite bank. As I drifted, I saw 16 plus inch beast of a trout that had been holding up at the bottom of the run lazily swim up to the top of the pool to likely take cover in the whitewater. As cold and wet as I was, it was pretty rad to see that large healthy trout were cruising the depths of the stream

The fish like this fella kept coming; it was one of the most enjoyable mornings I've had fly fishing. I was using my new 6'6" full flex rod, and each of these fish fought like bandits.

Mr. Trout

We headed back to camp to get some grub and shade then headed up the stream we had camped next to. There were lots of fish like the guy above, nothing too big, but fun and it was a beautiful stream.

Parts of the stream were wide and shallow with a solid granite bottom, scoured out here and there with steps every so often.

When I came to the above spot I thought it looked good, as there was a pretty significant bend and the seam looked promising. I proceeded to wade to the position above and found the fish, to my dismay, to be right in front of me about 15 feet away, holding in about 18 inches of water! There was a whole pod of fish, two of which were over 16 inches and FAT. I was not expecting to see fish like this on this creek, but there they were. I was pretty stealth and managed to only scare them once. I must have fished this spot for an hour, trying nearly everything in my fly box; midge pupae, hares ear, copper john, san juans, pheasant tail, dries like BWO, adams, etc.
After all that proved fruitless I moved up to the top of the run and fished it downstream with an assortment of streamers and nothing. It was frustrating, but it helped me remember that I have A LOT to learn.

The rocks at the confluence, pretty cool sight as the sun set.

The stream cutting through the granite, pretty spectacular

On our way back to camp after turning around near the falls we started seeing the biggest mayflies (green drakes I think) coming off. They were about size 14s! I've never seen mayflies come off like this in person, not this big. I got excited, thinking I could get into the bigger fish I had spotted earlier; we put on the olive adams dries, stealthily approaching the spot I had come to earlier. I had some really quality drifts, but nothing. The bugs were coming off, but if they were feeding on them, it wasn't on the surface. It made me realize, again, what neophyte I am: I have so many holes in my fly collection, both dries and nymphs, but especially emergers.

The posse back at camp making feesh tacos, telling stories, resting our feet and enjoying the freedom that comes with living in the USA

Another interesting flower, it was like spring up there

The hike back the next day was pretty strenuous. We managed to make a wrong turn on the trail and proceeded to make our own way through the open terrain, rather than backtracking. The 6 mile hike stretched out a little longer, and the 1280 or so feet we went up in the last 3 miles was tough, but the meadow up top kept me focused on last spot to fish before the trip was through

The stream was an amazing habitat, downed logs all over the place, undercut banks, deep, unusual pools; I caught a few fish this size but wouldn't be surprised if there are some bigger fish in the prime spots.

Almost Paradise Meadow, last stop on the trail. Hustled back to the car and it was back to civilization and a big cheeeeburger at a haunted inn.

Driving through Bakersfield, I saw a street sign that was calling Ol Merle to come back to his hometown.

It was time for me to go back home, to work, to reality, but I was already day dreaming about the streams I had been to, they were already calling me back. They still are.