It's been another dry year -- snow surveys in April reported 50-60% of normal snowpack. I'd been out over Labor Day weekend, checked the latest satellite photos online and called up the ranger station. Time to head for the high country.
I knew the bugs would be bad, so I dosed my shirt, pants and hat with permethrin and packed the bug juice. Got a wee-hours start, drove across the central valley, and up into the foothills, where I collected my wilderness permit from the USFS overnight drop box, and then up into the mountains. The trailhead didn't look all that busy. I managed to get started hiking around 10am.
I'd been up this trail last year about this time, but headed for a different destination. This time I stopped in the meadow near the creek for lunch, and was immediately swarmed by mosquitoes. Yep, it's that time of year. The skeeters didn't seem to be landing on me though.
I continued downhill through the woods, and heard the rushing of a creek, which I briefly investigated.
Looked like small brookies. I'd brought a tenkara rod, but didn't feel like stopping -- I had a ways to go yet, and a steep climb ahead of me. Shortly I came to a crossing of the same creek. Tiny fish spooked as I crossed. Low snow year; I didn't bother packing wading shoes.
I spent the afternoon heading steadily uphill. Around 9500' I planned to take a cross-country shortcut to a lake, but got sidetracked by another creek, unexpectedly pretty and full of water.
I saw fish, and caught a few on my tenkara rod.
Golden trout, or more likely rainbow / golden hybrids, and a few brookies, too. I was surprised. It was now late afternoon, and I realized my cross-country plans would have to wait for tomorrow. I found a flat area in the forest above the creek around 9800', amid granite boulders where it looked like others had camped. It had been chilly for the past week, and got down into the thirties overnight, which kept the mosquitoes at bay. In early morning I awoke to hear a loud sound, like a bear ripping up a log, looking for grubs. Sure glad I brought the canister
I got moving around 7:30, and admired the creek again.
I stopped by a couple of nearby lakes. Nothing seemed to be happening there, so I moved on.
I looked at the map and decided to take another cross-country detour, and headed up through the woods and granite to another lake at around 10300'.
I saw a fish cruising the shallows. Now that's what I'm talking about
I got out my Orvis Superfine Glass 4wt and tossed out a hopper.
An adult damsel imitation worked, too. Funny, it isn't even July yet ...
I walked around the lake catching brookies. I was on my way back to my pack, and near the outlet I surprised a small black bear, which immediately took off running. I instantly regretted leaving my pack unattended, but fortunately the ursa had not discovered where I stashed it
This trip was about exploring a new area for me, so I headed up over the ridge and descended back to another trail, to a junction and up a couple hundred feet. If I'd kept going I'd cross over into Kings Canyon National Park, but not this time. Instead I descended to another scenic lake.
The water here was rippled by a breeze, perfect for tossing hoppers. I stopped for some lunch, and caught a few brookies on the SFG.
Time to mosey. I'd formed a plan, and headed up the granite slabs, then down to another lake at around 10400'.
The water here was startlingly clear. I would have to be a bit stealthy. I still had a few grizzly baitfish buggers I tied using little kern golden's recipe, and lobbed one out, counting to ten or twelve, then a slow retrieve. These were unusually effective at drawing out fish lying in wait.
I'm going to guess these were rainbow-golden hybrids. I guess we know what two species of fingerlings the airplanes have been dropping in this area
Finally I got going in mid-afternoon and started slogging uphill again. Around 4pm-ish I was up at my destination, and found a spot above the lake in the granite at about 10800'.
The brookies here were not particularly shy. I suspect nobody had been up here since last autumn. After making camp and fetching water I fished the SFG.
The fish were eager and numerous. The next time I visit I will definitely bring a frying pan.
The mosquitoes were bad here, too. It was surprisingly warm overnight, but just cool enough that the bugs disappeared before bedtime.
I got started next morning around 7:40 -- it was going to be a long hike back to the car. I had a few more lakes to visit, though. After about an hour I'd made my way down past the outlet stream, on broken granite and contouring into the forest, to a lake at around 10200'.
The fish here were active, jumping and splashing. Looked like another lake with lots of brookies. Pretty spot. A short descent on granite slabs to another small but pretty lake. Looked like brookies here, too.
I kept moving, and descended to just under 10000' to a larger lake, surrounded by granite. A stiff breeze rippled the surface of the water.
LKG's baitfish buggers again did the trick, though I tossed out a foam hopper or two just for variety.
Orvis SFG with Galvan Brookie reel
Checklist officially ticked, I decided to get moving. I had a ways to go. Down into a drainage, back up, stop for a break at another lake. Then the long descent.
I got back to the car shortly before 5pm, after a 17 mile day. So. Very. Tired. I will pack the skillet next time