Non-fishing Report - John Muir Trail

Fishing opportunities in SoCal and up 395 to Mammoth
dryflyin
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Non-fishing Report - John Muir Trail

Postby dryflyin » Thu Sep 06, 2012 3:29 pm

This is more of a backpacking report, but I do manage to work in a bit of flyfishing. I know many of you are also into backpacking anyways. This trek's goal was to backpack from Mammoth Lakes to Toulumne Meadows and then down to Yosemite Valley.

We met up the evening before at Twin Lakes campground. Beautiful campground, with fish in the lake, but unfortunately, we were rendezvousing there in order to get an early start. Not much time to fish as we went over preparations, but here's a shot of sunrise on Twin Lakes:

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The morning of our first day, we set off from the Agnew Meadows trailhead, near Devils Postpile. Here's another gorgeous little lake near the trailhead:

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Me, looking relatively fresh and non-exhausted less than an hour into the trip:

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I was hoping to have a chance to fish Garnet Lake, but alas, we had many more miles to go. Isn't Garnet gorgeous?

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Our itinerary called for 10 - 11 miles per day, so there just wasn't time to fish. We did manage a quick lunch overlooking Garnet:

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Soon, we reached Thousand Island Lake:

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Day 1 ended camped on one of two lakes just short of Island Pass:

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This lake isn't named on my map. We had carried our packs 12 miles, and I was simply exhausted. I stumbled into camp, set-up, ate dinner, and hit the sack. I was too exhausted to fish. I saw very little surface activity on this lake, but I did see hundreds of tadpoles, so my guess is that there weren't many fish in the lake anyways.

I did manage to stay awake until sunset, which was quite spectacular. Earlier, a couple of raindrops fell, and while it wasn't enough to actually call it rain, the retreating clouds did make for a spectacular evening sky.

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Sunrise was tranquil, although I knew we had another long day ahead of us.

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We had at least another 11 mile day, this time climbing to 11,000 feet over Donohue Pass.

The view north from Donohue Pass:

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Somewhere down there is Toulumne Meadows.

Here I am at the outlet to a lake just over Donohue:

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Down there is the start of the Lyell Fork of the Toulumne River:

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We've lost the trail somewhere off to our left. Three of us decided it would be more fun to just climb down next to the waterfall:

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Two others in our party found and stayed on the path proper. They probably were wiser, but that climb down was one of the funnest and most exhilarating moments for me. Looking back up, though, I admit it was pretty steep to be leaping from rock to rock:

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The head of Lyell Canyon is a meadow like no terrain I've ever before encountered. Someone else commented that a scene from Lord of the Rings would look like this:

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Still stoked from our downclimb, walking through that meadow alongside the Lyell serpent, it was like we were in another world. Yes, it did occur to me to break out the flyrod, but again, there was no time. After we made camp, I'd find some time to fish this beautiful piece of water.

dryflyin
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Re: Non-fishing Report - John Muir Trail

Postby dryflyin » Thu Sep 06, 2012 3:30 pm

We finally got rained on around 4 PM when a thunderstorm rolled in. Although we were on schedule as far as distance was concerned, I didn't feel like setting up camp in the rain, so we hiked on. In the storm, somehow the two novices got ahead of the leader, and wandered away from us. By the time we caught them, we'd covered 13 miles. At least the storm had passed, so we could setup camp and cook dinner in the dry. But alas, it was close to 7 PM by the time we made camp, and there was just enough time to setup our tents and cook dinner. Once again, my fishing plans would have to wait.

It rained again later that night, but by 10 PM we were all in our tents. The rain didn't stop a bear from spending the night in our camp. In the morning, we found the bear had dug up someone's illegal dump.

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Their laziness cost us a night's sleep. Mel packed their trash out and filed a report with the rangers. On top of that, if the bear has learned to raid campsites for food, it's very likely the rangers will eventually have to kill it. Grrrr....


On a more positive note, with no hunters, there are plenty of fearless deer in Toulumne Meadows:

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At last, we reached Toulumne Meadows:

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Officially, we were there to re-supply at the store. But we'd been talking about their cheeseburgers since the start. Ahead of schedule, we reached the store while they were still serving breakfast. I ate breakfast (my second), waited an hour for lunch to be served, and then bought two cheeseburgers.

At this point, our two beginners dropped out. The same YARTS bus that would take us back from Yosemite Valley to Mammoth Lakes also stopped here in Toulumne Meadows. Without proper footwear, the descents with full packs had blistered their feet. On top of that, they'd probably overpacked and their loads were too heavy. We agreed to meet again on the bus ride back.

After departing civilization and the tourists admiring Toulumne Meadows, we started up Cathedral Pass. Here, Unicorn Peak rises behind me:

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Lower Cathedral Lake was easily the most crowded campsite, with maybe 10 parties comprised of about two dozen campers. On the other hand, some of our fellow campers proved to be most entertaining.

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Like all our previous campsites, we had a surprisingly bug free evening. I'm guessing it isn't always like this, but this year's lack of precipitation has pretty much eliminated the mosquitoes.

Here's the sun coming up on day 4, with a view of Unicorn Peak from Lower Cathedral Lake:

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Somewhere south of Cathedral Lakes, descending toward Long Meadow and Sunrise Camp:

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As I began descending, I looked for anything I might recognize from previous visits to Yosemite Valley:

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Finally, I think I see Half Dome. Note the fire damage in the foreground.

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While the drought has knocked back the mosquitoes, it also meant finding drinking water was a challenge. Sunrise Creek was completely dry in some places, running skinny but at least flowing in others, and little more than a swampy trickle in yet others. We had kept open an "option" to finish the trip out by climbing the cables on Half Dome on our last day, but really, it was a forgone conclusion that we'd do it unless we really blew our schedule. However, when we reached the trail junction for Half Dome, Sunrise Creek was completely dry. The nearest water was a mile and a half back up toward Long Meadow, or a mile and a half down to Little Yosemite's backpackers campground on the Merced River.

We opted to hike down to Little Yosemite. We were ahead of schedule and feeling good. Being the only fisherman in the group, I didn't say it, but the thought that there are fish in the Merced did go through my head. As soon as I'd setup camp, I assembled my rod, and finally got a chance to wet a line. I spent an hour, and caught a couple of rainbows. I had trouble identifying any insect activity, so I just went with a Royal Coachman and a Yellow Sallie dropper. I struggled mostly, but at last, that pound of fly gear was getting some use after carrying it for so many miles.

dryflyin
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Re: Non-fishing Report - John Muir Trail

Postby dryflyin » Thu Sep 06, 2012 3:31 pm

We set off in the morning at 5:30. The early rise would allow us to beat the crowds on Half Dome.

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For a time, we were the only party on the summit. What a glorious finish to 5 days of backpacking.

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And then we descended next to Nevada Falls on the Mist Trail:

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After the YARTS bus back to Mammoth Lakes, I grabbed some grub, and then checked into a local motel. In the morning, I had a few choices. I could drive straight home. Or I could take the shuttle down to fish the river back where we started the trip. Or I could fish some of the nearby Eastern Sierra waters that are more or less drive-to.

I chose a re known blue ribbon water, where big, educated trout turned their noses up at my BWO and 6x tippet.

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But as you can see, I still landed a few, and had a great time. It was a satisfying finish to a long haul. Someday, I'm going back to the Lyell too...

parshi
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Re: Non-fishing Report - John Muir Trail

Postby parshi » Mon Oct 22, 2012 4:21 am

Nice pics.. I really like the idea and place..

Curt
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Re: Non-fishing Report - John Muir Trail

Postby Curt » Wed Oct 31, 2012 8:34 pm

nice.

haven't been here for over a year... nice to see a new post.... esp one as epic as this one.


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