Eastern Sierra Backpacking - July/August, 2010

Fishing opportunities in SoCal and up 395 to Mammoth
dryflyin
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Eastern Sierra Backpacking - July/August, 2010

Postby dryflyin » Tue Aug 10, 2010 8:00 pm

Again, copying a trip report I posted on another site in hopes of boosting this site up too.

As you may have read here, a couple of months ago I took my son's Boy Scout troop to an Eastern Sierra campground. I fished the local creek with a couple of the boys, while others elected to dayhike to some nearby lakes. I didn't get much fishing in myself, and the water was very high and fast, but we did manage to get everyone onto some legal sized fish so they could earn the fishing merit badges. The folks who climbed up to the lakes returned with stories of a fish a cast, as well as some beautiful brookies.

Ever since then, I've been planning my return. I thought I'd backpack to those high lakes, so I'd have plenty of time to fish. In addition to the fishing, I also wanted to hone my backpacking skills. I planned a 5 day trip, which would be the longest I've backpacked on my own. This would also be a solo trip, which would force me to develop my backcountry skills, and also allow me to explore where ever my whims took me.

I drove up Friday night and stayed in a local motel. This would give me a little time to acclimatize to the altitude, pickup my wilderness permit, and enjoy one last night in civilization. I ordered a steak for dinner, which was waay overcooked, but the Mammoth Double Nut Brown Ale made up for it.

As I finalized my pack load in the motel room after dinner, I realized I'd made a huge mistake. I'd forgotten my hiking boots!! They were sitting back at home. I had a choice - buy a new pair of boots from one of the local shops, or make the trip in my tennies. Both because I didn't relish blowing a bill on another pair of boots, and also because I didn't think it would be smart to break in those new boots on a serious backpacking trip, I elected to just wear my old tennis shoes. They were actually trail running shoes that I'd bought for everyday wear, not that that made them suitable for backpacking. They were also pretty old, with a little white showing where the sole had already worn through in one spot. Still, I hoped they would get me through, and I would just have to watch my foot placement very carefully.

Saturday morning, I drove to the trailhead, and geared up. The tickle I'd been feeling in the back of my throat was still there, and I hoped I wasn't coming down with a cold. You can see how the base area of these mountain trailheads is really more desert than alpine:

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It was hot at the trailhead, being below 8000 feet. I really struggled. My pack was way more than the recommended ratio - about half my body weight. Plus the altitude, the heat, maybe the cold, and I found I had to stop and rest every 50 feet. Other hikers blew past me, and I never caught anyone else. Still, I was looking forward to some hopefully incredible fishing:

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My goal was to reach the first lake along the trail and camp there the first night. The ranger who reviewed my itinerary suggested that I could also camp near a cabin they maintained about halfway. I reached that cabin about 2 in the afternoon, hot, tired, and hungry. I dropped my pack, and finished the powerbar I had been nibbling. A retired teacher that had passed me earlier was also resting up, so we struck up a conversation. This guy was more than 2 decades my senior, and from our conversation, I could tell he knew the area from many prior trips. Claude had backpacked 30+ days in the last year, so I hung on every word of his experience.

Rested, and eager to stay on schedule, we set out together. It turns out we had almost exactly the same pace, so we continued to chat on the trail. He was with a buddy, who had charged ahead of both of us. Their plan was for the young gun to get there first and make camp, but instead of staying where most people camped, Claude knew of a site away from some of the crowds. With Claude generally maintaining a slow and steady pace, and me rushing ahead, getting winded, and stopping to catch my breath, Claude and I reached his campsite around 7 o'clock. It was near the lake, with a gorgeous view:

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Claude and his buddy John finished making camp, broke out spinning rods, and proceeded to launch castmasters into the water. I did likewise, tying on first a Parachute Adams, and later a Griffith's gnat. Those guys put me to shame, outfishing me 5 - 1. I only managed a small rainbow, and one about 12 inches. They put about 5 fish on a stringer, and said they planned to fry them up for dinner. Since they had shared their site with me, and invited me to have dinner with them too, I contributed my larger rainbow. Sorry guys, I know you're mostly catch and release, and so am I, but I did want to return their hospitality. They weren't kidding about a fish fry - they had packed in oil, a frying pan, and Louisiana spices. After the long hot hike, dinner was very satisfying.

One other note - about an hour after turning in, I awoke with severe nausea and an almost violent urge to vomit. It took me an hour to beat back the nausea, and I almost lost it several times. Probably it was a combination of altitude sickness and a cold.

More later. I know you all read this mainly for the fish pron. It's coming...

dryflyin
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Day 2

Postby dryflyin » Tue Aug 10, 2010 8:01 pm

I woke up on Day 2 and knew I had a little bit of a cold. That helped me feel better about struggling so much on the hike in. Still, nothing too strenuous was in the plan for today. My new found companions were headed off to another lake, while my plans were to fish this lake and one other that was very close by.

After a leisurely breakfast, I tied on a parachute ant. Everything I've read about Sierra lakes said that ants are the goto fly. As I worked my way along the shore, I noticed a foot long brown in six inches or less of water. He was working the surface scum that the wind had pushed to this end of the lake, ranging from 1 - 5 feet from shore. I placed a small tree between him and me, and worked myself slowly to the shore. Unhooking the ant from the keeper, I didn't even let out any line and just dropped the fly a couple of feet ahead of the brown. The stealth paid off with this pale specimen:

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I found several other browns similarly patrolling the shore and continued dapping and taking them the same way. Further out, I could also see rings indicating other fish rising to something. Casting the ant out to them took this nice rainbow:

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I spent the morning slowly working my way along the shore to the lake's outlet:

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On the earlier trip, the boys had brought back brook trout, which I happen to find the prettiest and most colorful of the "trout." I had yet to see a brookie, but was picking up a nice mix of rainbows and browns:

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Around 1 or 2 o'clock the fishing shut down as the day got hot. The wind was now picking up, making casting a little more challenging as well. I decided to work the opposite shore, and set off around the lake. While there were some rises, and I could draw strikes, I couldn't get hooked up. After several misses, I decided I was drawing relatively small fish that couldn't inhale my largish #12 ant. With a combination of trees and cliffs to my back, even with the wind in my favor, getting much of a cast just wasn't an option along parts of this shore.

At one point, I stepped out onto a couple of rocks to get a bit more room. After a cast or two, some motion caught my eye. As I looked down, I froze. A big fish was charging full steam right at me. I stayed frozen as this 16 inch-ish brown trout charged right up to the shore after some 3-4 inch fish he was intent on having for lunch. I couldn't believe it - he went right between my feet, and was thrashing around trying to suck that baitfish down. I was too entranced with the spectacle to look at his prey, but as quick as he began, he flipped around, and disappeared back into the depths.

To heck with that ant imitator!! I tied on an olive wooly bugger, noting with some dismay that I'd lost a couple on my last trip, so this was my only olive one. And with the day getting hot, of course going subsurface was the answer. Cast after cast of that wooly bugger drew strikes, including my biggest fish of the trip:

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Also, with the switch to baitfish imitations, I began hooking brook trout. Trifecta - Three species in one day, all from the same water!!

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I eventually worked my way to the inlet, where a short cascade connected this lake to the next one. What the heck, I climbed up to the next lake's outlet, and caught a few more brookies as the sun set.

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As dark grew, the number of dimples out on the water increased, and I found it hard to tear myself away. The reflection of the surrounding slopes still in full sun while the lake was dark was wonderful to view as I finally hiked my way back to camp.

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dryflyin
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Day 3

Postby dryflyin » Tue Aug 10, 2010 8:02 pm

On Day 3 I awoke with a sore throat and upper respiratory tract. A cup of hot fresh drip coffee (Peets) felt really soothing. My plan for today was to move on to another nearby lake, but I had no firm plans. Since the prior evening I had fished the lake immediately above my current site, I thought I'd push on and give the one above that a try.

After packing up, I hit the trail, and was soon passing the nearest lake:

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and before I knew it, I was well above my intended target:

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No sooner than when I paused to consider whether I should backtrack, than who should wander along but John, one of my new friends. John's on his way to fish this lake, but encourages me to find their new campsite. Several people on the trail have recommended the fishing on that lake, so I need little convincing. It's another gorgeous lake when I get there:

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By now I've lost my olive wooly bugger so I tie on a blue and black one. I chose that color mostly because I have the most of that color, but it works well enough, and by evening, I've landed a number of very pretty brookies:

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I'm tired from the hike and quit fishing early to enjoy another spectacular alpine sunset:

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dryflyin
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Day 4

Postby dryflyin » Tue Aug 10, 2010 8:03 pm

Day 4 started with my new friends heading home. They planned to finish the hike out in 3 hours, which is impressive. Even though it's mostly downhill, it starts with a nasty scramble across a boulder field, and is about 7 miles to the trailhead.

My last full day would be spent fishing, mostly on the lake where we'd camped. If I got bored, I could dayhike to one of the other nearby lakes, or fish the streams between the lakes.

I started by fishing the inlet, and tied my ant pattern back on. This quickly yielded the only rainbows I would catch in this particular lake:

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There's a deep little gash in the tail of that fellow. I didn't see any birds of prey the whole trip, so I'm not sure what could have caused it.

Anyways, here's another pretty little guy taken on that shallow sand plateau where a creek feeds the lake:

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The rest of the day, I spent sight fishing the lakeshore and the outlet. You guys wanted fish pictures, so here are several more:

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I stuck with the ant pattern almost the entire day. Typically, I would eyeball a brookie cruising near shore, sneak down to the water, cast the ant ahead of the fish, hook him up, release him, and then move 20 feet to repeat.

As I mentioned in another thread, while I was fishing from an island near the outlet, someone stole my rod case!! I had brought it to protect my rod while I scrambled through a tough boulder field, and left it in plain sight while I fished. Only two other parties visited the area that day, and only one group went anywhere near my rod case. So here's a description of the thieves: Hispanic couple, male about 5' 7", 180 lbs., with a really big black cowboy hat; female about 5' 3", 150 lbs., medium to light brown hair. My rod case is a red Orvis tube that came with my 4 piece TLS 5 weight rod.

Dishonest scuzballs burn me up in general, so believe me, I've been imagining some really creative retribution should I ever bump into these two again. Think extended suffering. Wasting an hour making sure I hadn't just misremembered where I'd left the case was crappy way to end the day.

Actually, I ended the day lying on a boulder, staring up at the stars. I've camped at Yosemite, Kernville, and Cantil in the past year, but the star field here was by far the richest, most brilliant. I also saw one small meteor. Yet another reason I love the wilderness.

dryflyin
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Day 5 - The Hike Out

Postby dryflyin » Tue Aug 10, 2010 8:04 pm

On Day 5, I woke up ready to head home. I'd caught crazy numbers of fish, learned a few things about what works and doesn't work in my gear, and just generally had a nice slow, relaxing time.

Overnight, I'd heard some rustling and a distinct snort in camp. Aside from the assorted mice, I was pretty curious what had wandered in to search for scraps, but not so much that I bothered to get out of bed. I was pretty sure I'd left absolutely zero food about, so no need to shoo anyone away. In the morning, I'd forgotten about it until I wandered off to filter some water for the hike back. Up the hill from camp, hiding amongst the trees, I spied a deer - a buck with 3 - 4 points on each of his antlers. When I returned to my campsite, sure enough, I checked for tracks and there they were. Kewl...

I took a slightly different way out, and passed a couple more lakes:

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I took a little detour around one of the lakes, adding half a mile to the hike out. I guess it's a measure of how much I'd fished that I really only felt a slight interest in fishing either lake. I'll be back someday, and can give them a try then.

Predictably, by the end of the hike, I was wishing the walking would just end. It was hot, I was tired, and I finished the 2 liters of water I had a little short of the parking lot. All told, my GPS unit says I hiked 14.4 miles with the pack. My care in step placement had prevented any disastrous ankle injuries, but my shoes were shot. An upper had separated from the tread along a 2 inch gap, and what started as a small wear spot on the sole was now a good sized hole through to the padding.

I was covered with mosquito bites and scratches, bruised from my pack straps, and had lost 5 pounds. It would be days before I could walk without stiffness. My best meal of the trip was the burger I had in town after I exited the wilderness. Isn't it always. I remember thinking in vain that I should give each bite at least one or two chews, and then swallowing the next mouthful completely unchewed. If the waiter had any doubt if I had been camping, they were erased by the third time he refilled my Coke.

So that's my adventure. Lots and lots of fish, a renewed confidence in my camping skills, and even a couple of new buddies. I wonder where I'll go next...

sweetlou
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Re: Eastern Sierra Backpacking - July/August, 2010

Postby sweetlou » Sat Aug 21, 2010 5:47 pm

I love the pictures. I gues you really didn't want to post which lakes you were at, but I really wish you would. If sending me a private e-mail woild do the trick send it to Flowerag@aol.com. Thanks and good luck finding your rod case.

schonzy
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Re: Eastern Sierra Backpacking - July/August, 2010

Postby schonzy » Thu Feb 24, 2011 11:23 am

Really enjoyed your story and the great pics, in fact you've inspired me to buy all the back-packing essentials and get out off the beaten path. I created a post religious "Backpacking for Brookies," after discovering your little documentery. I have no idea where to go, but figure with some research I can figure something out. Time to get away from the crowds at Hot Creek and the E. Walker, and find my true serenity.

Jerry55
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Re: Eastern Sierra Backpacking - July/August, 2010

Postby Jerry55 » Sat Jul 20, 2013 3:18 am

Its really beutifull place to travel and have a picnic.I wish to be here for a long time.Thanx for sharing these beutifull pics. :o

jacob374
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Re: Eastern Sierra Backpacking - July/August, 2010

Postby jacob374 » Wed Oct 09, 2013 10:00 pm

you've inspired me to buy all the back-packing essentials and get out off the beaten path. I created a post religious "Backpacking for Brookies," after discovering your little documentery. I have no idea where to go, but figure with some research I can figure something out.
At one point, I stepped out onto a couple of rocks to get a bit more room. After a cast or two, some motion caught my eye. As I looked down, I froze. A big fish was charging full steam right at me.
I stayed frozen as this 16 inch-ish brown trout charged right up to the shore after some 3-4 inch fish he was intent on having for lunch. I couldn't believe it - he went right between my feet, and was thrashing around trying to suck that baitfish down.
I was too entranced with the spectacle to look at his prey, but as quick as he began, he flipped around, and disappeared back into the depths.

janemcready
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Re: Eastern Sierra Backpacking - July/August, 2010

Postby janemcready » Tue Apr 15, 2014 10:33 pm

Wow! I am really thrilled to read your travel experience and saw the pictures you have shared here. The pictures really fascinated me and decided to visit the Sierra lakes once with my family. This would be a great experience for all of them.


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