Saturday, July 30, 2011

HTC 7: High Altitude Gold, The Little Kern Golden

It was ten hour drive to southern California. I rolled out of the air conditioned car to meet 103 degree heat. This was not going to be a fun day lol.

Thanks to Phil and Andan, the leaders of the Davis Flyfishers HTC trip, I was given information on where to find the three southern California HTC species without having to backpack many miles at high altitude. I didn't need another opportunity for someone to rescue me from altitude sickness.

After resting in a hotel (did I say it was 103 degrees?), I decided to scout out the water I would be fishing the next day. It is amazing how a road can look easy on a map and really hard to drive. I thought I was in Hawaii on the Road to Hana (a crazy, winding, one lane road on Maui). I found the trailhead and walked down, down, and down, dreading the hike back up. But, there was gold at the end of the trail.

The creek was small, about 4 feet wide, and about 6 inches deep. I found a pool, well, the trail went through the creek, and could not imagine that a fish could live there. However, I saw a trout rise near the edge of the pool by the trail!! I tossed in my bug, waited a couple of seconds, and bam, caught the beautiful fish in the picture above. I fished a little while longer to several rises, but missed them and my attempts at setting the hook sent my bug into the trees above. When I finally broke my fly off in a tree I figured these beautiful fish needed to be left alone.

The hike back to the trail was a reminder of my altitude sickness. I had to stop several times, but couldn't catch my breath because of having to swat the cloud of mosquitoes around me. No pain, No gain. However, it was worth it to view such beautiful fish in their headwaters.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Found Fishing Buddies: And they Rescued Me

There was a second part to the Lahontan Cutthroat trip. As I said in earlier postings -- I need a fishing buddy because I keep forgetting this. This time it was my hat, at 8700 feet, that partially contributed to a second part of the story.

The picture above is of my new fishing buddies. From left to right are Andan Bailey, Phil Reedy, Sam Chamberlin, and Leslie Vivian. They were from the Davis Flyfishers club and were on a HTC trip for Sam and Leslie to catch their first Lahontan Cutthroats. They passed me on the trail early in the morning as I was going in Great, Slow, with lots of stops for water and food.

I made it up the 800 foot elevation gain and to a long meadow feeling fine. Feeling great and proud, I put my rod together and tried to catch, photograph, and release a Lahontan Cutthroat. With no success I ran into the Davis 4 in the meadow. They welcomed me into their group and decided that I had to catch the next Lahontan. It was interesting, me being a high school chem/bio teacher who studied biology in college, to run into Phil, a community college chemistry teacher, Andan, a high school physics / chemistry teacher, Sam, a retired salesman from the railroad industry, and Leslie, a landscape designer with a passion for flowers (and I took 4 plant taxonomy classes in college!).

The group lead me up the meadow to a more accessible section of the creek. They surrounded the water like an army (hidden) and helped me catch my first, and only Lahontan Cutthroat, with lots of directions that allowed for a successful trip (they could see the fish using their polaroid lenses while all I saw was "shiny water" lol).

I sat down on the grass and rested from my hike in and experience. My backpack with water was 100 feet away. I decided that I needed some water and stood up. Then WHAM -- I got dizzy and fell to the ground. I was in total exhaustion mode, from a combination of dehydration, exhaustion, and most likely altitude sickness. I did not have the energy to stand up. When my backpack was brought to me I downed two pints of water and in a minute or two was able to stand up and stumble.

My new fishing buddies realized that I was in trouble and they were going to lead me out of the meadow, over the pass, and to my car at the trailhead. Leslie took my pack, which weighed about 20 pounds with emergency supplies and two days of water (and water purification drops if necessary). Sam was my personal coach, standing beside me and picking out targets to walk to, and Phil and Andan were tour guides talking about the history of the area, the fish, and pretty much anything to keep the trip interesting.

With Sam's guidance, I would walk 10 to 20 feet at a time, then I would rest all my weight on my trekking poles, and go to the next target when ready. I stopped at almost a dozen rocks when possible, allowing me to sit down and not use up my "walking energy" getting up from the ground. Leslie, being a botanist, had a wonderful time running up and down the slopes looking at all the flowers (and yes, if I had been in better health I would have joined her and taken photographs of the flowers -- they were in full bloom and beautiful).

It took energy I didn't have, and encouragement from Sam, to travel 2 miles in about 3 hours, not "one step at a time", but ten feet at a time. I was in big trouble -- all I wanted to do is lie down and sleep, but forgot warm clothes and an emergency shelter to make it through the hours and possibly the night. I probably would not have died, but would have been air lifted out and the bankruptcy that would follow would have led to another 5 years of teaching before retirement lol.
These four people took it upon themselves to rescue a stranger in trouble. I would not have made it out that day -- only with their compassion and commitment to me did I walk out of the meadow, especially through snow drifts on the 600 foot incline on the way out (800 feet in, 600 feet out). I cannot describe in words how much pain I was in and how I would not have made it out without their help. They rescued me, and now it is my turn to help someone in the future. I will help someone in the future, hopefully, with the commitment and compassion that the four flyfishers from Davis showed me.

Upon our conversations I found out that the Davis Flyfishers have a trip or two each year to Lewiston Lake. I will be there to be their host and guide.

Thanks Phil, Andan, Sam, and Leslie. I look forward to fishing with each of you in the future.

Take care all,

Saturday, July 23, 2011

HTC 6: Warner Lakes Redband

After resting from my back country Lahontan Cutthroat trip, I headed up into the high country for the Warner Lakes Redband Trout. There is only one small spot in California to catch this species, although it has a much larger native range in Oregon. As one can see from the picture, they are beautiful fish, as are all the fish in the Heritage Trout Challenge (HTC).

I have succeeded in reaching my goal of obtaining six of the available ten trout in the HTC. I have one trip to southern California to try to catch the remaining 4 species available (There are currently 11 native species of trout native to California, but one, the Paiute Cutthroat, is off limits at this time.)

It has been enjoyable, hard work, spiritual, cleansing, and I'm sure many more things that I'll cover in future posts. I recommend the HTC to anyone interested in seeing some beautiful country and many beautiful fish.

HTC 5: Lahontan Cutthroat -- 2 Fish, 1 out of Water

Well, the Lahontan Cutthroat Trout is a beautiful fish that lives in a beautiful area. I had a little trouble with the altitude, but with the help of four members of the Davis Flyfishers club, I was able to land my first Lahontan Cutthroat. Little did I know that the adventure of the day had just started, and those events will be covered in a separate post.

I did like the fact that they carried large plastic bags to put water in and to keep the fish wet. The fish calm down quickly when in the bag, a picture can be taken, and then the fish can be released easily. I also liked the camaraderie between fly fishermen. Two of the members of the Davis Flyfishers were leading a HTC trip, with the other two catching their first Lahontans. When I met up with them, each member had caught a Lahontan. They collectively decided that the next fish to be caught was by me. They let me first on the water, cheered me on, and nobody fished until I got my fish. They even let me use one of their rods that had a nymph on it so I didn't have to retie.

All I can say is that it was a beautiful experience, several people increased their karma bank accounts, and I'll be there for someone down the road when needed.
Have fun,

Monday, July 18, 2011

Jury Duty and No Fishing Buddy: AARRGGHH!!


So, what happened Sunday? I drove to the area that "houses" the Lahontan Cutthroat Trout in a native stream. However, I miscalculated and it appears that I will have hike in, camp and fish, and hike out. I did not have the days available due to jury duty so I drove home (more than 7 hours away) because I don't have a fishing buddy. If I had one he or she would have reminded me to take my jury summons with me and chill all day today at high altitude. I would have called after 5:00 PM and would have found out that my jury pool has been excused. Then, a quick back pack trip into the Lahontan's range and home in time for seeing my daughter as she visits home. AAARRRGGGHHH.

Now, I have a choice -- drive all day tomorrow to high altitude, spend the night HOPING that my body will adapt to the high altitude, hike for hours at high altitude, set up camp, fish, spend the night, hike out, then drive another day back home. Also, I will be spending another $150 in gas and risking a lost trip due to high altitude. My thoughts of adding this trip to the front of my southern California backpacking trip scares me more. The Lahontan Cutthroat is at a higher elevation than the campground in Sequoia National Park that I'm staying at for 3 days of acclimation before venturing in to the back country. If I get altitude sickness going for the Lahontan Cutthroat just before going into the Sierras -- my entire trip into the southern Sierra Nevada backcounty could be ruined.

AARRGGHH. I think I'm heading out in the morning. Nothing like a long road trip.

Take care all,

HTC 4: The Eagle Lake Rainbow

Update for Saturday 8.16.11

Okay Eagle Lake! I get it! You don't have trout, you have adult Steelhead! But more on that later. I made it into the Christie Campground at Eagle Lake at about noon (okay HTC researchers -- The Eagle Lake Rainbow is found at Eagle Lake!). I had pretty good information on what to do from a Great Website devoted to information about fishing Eagle Lake. I drove in to the market in Spalding and had a great conversation with the man working the morning shift. After a couple of good jokes (or attempts at such), he told me that the fish are deep. He also stated that all the fly fishermen left two weeks ago and the "die hards" left a week ago. He suggested that I might get lucky for a fish at the southern end of the lake near the Christie picnic area. After a couple more jokes he told me where he was going to be fishing at 5:00 in the morning, from a boat, and gave me directions to drive to the shore. Well, thankfully I have a Subaru because I was 4-wheeling a dirt road for 3 miles but discovered the end of the road that left several hundred yards of walking to get to the spot. I really did not want to get up a 4:00 and drive off road, but it sounded like it was going to be my only chance to catch an Eagle Lake Rainbow.

I set up camp, cleaned out and organized my car, lost my keys for 45 minutes (NOT Fun), and prepared my gear to fish this evening as a warm up. I put my 25 year old Cortland Crown reel, filled with 20+ year old 4-wt floating line, on my two year old Ross Essence, 8.5 foot, 4 piece, 3 / 4 wt rod. Using the information from the website above I put on a size 10 golden brown mohair leech. Actually, the color was blended by Mike at the Eureka Fly Shop and he calls the flies made from his blends G.O.A.T. flies (Greatest Of All Time). The colors are blended for the lagoons and other fishing opportunities on the north coast, but they work elsewhere as I found out today.

Before the finale, I have to state that I need to find a fishing buddy, male or female, older or younger, to make these adventures more fun and successful. I took all my gear down to the edge of the lake (boots, waders, filled vest, long handled net, rod) and got prepared to fish. I started preparing at 5:30 and finally got my waders and boots on at 6:00. It turns out that my old waders fit me like spandex, and I was unable to put on and tie my boots with the combination of form fitting waders and an inflexible back --- well, not so much of the back as the stomach colliding with the quads to create an immovable upper body. You might think I need a fishing buddy to tie my shoes --- NO -- it took a while (although I was about to ask the kids down to the shore to tie my shoes for $5, but then realized that I only had a twenty). I eventually got my boots on and waded out about 30 feet, only to find out that my waders had a hole in them. But I kept going. I cast my line about 35 feet, with the 8 feet of the pole and the 8 feet of leader, my fly was landing about 80 feet from shore, hopefully near a drop off to a deeper area. I was hoping that some fish would move from deep water into the shallows to feed on the evening hatch. I cast and stripped the line back for an hour. Not a fish showed on the surface and I had no hits. A hatch of mayflies was coming off, as well as some midges. I remembered that the recommendation from the web site was to float a small green midge under an indicator when a hatch was on. I then realized that with all the gear I brought down the hill I forgot to bring a pair of line cutters. I was stuck using the one fly that was on the end of my line. So, I need a buddy so I will have what he or she has forgotten while he or she will have what I forgot.

So, what does Eagle Lake have similar to fishing for Steelhead? Well, all I could do is cast out as far as I could and strip my one fly back, changing the timing and length of pull to figure out what triggered these fish -- just like fishing for Steelhead --- cast after cast after cast after cast. But, there was a magical moment when I discovered that if I gently cast my line out, pick it up and cast it again for greater length, I could reach the same distance achieved by muscling and rushing the cast, and without the line tangles. It was a spiritual moment. I gently cast the line with as much effort as bouncing a ping pong ball across a table and the line flew. IT FLEW. I don't think I remember ever being so relaxed casting a line, and with such distance. I knew I would be ready for the fish at 5:00 the following morning.

Then it happened at 7:00 PM. My fly got caught in the weeds, again, for the 50th time, but I kept retrieving the line through the weeds. Weeds? No, it was a gentle tug of a fish, followed by a much larger tug, followed by a reel screaming run towards the middle of the lake. The fish surfaced and I was amazed at the distance between the tail and the head of the fish. Two more reel screaming runs and I got the fish into my net. I did not horse the fish because I wanted to document it and not lose it. After taking a picture of the fish I kept it in the water and resuscitated it and watched it swim strongly away.

I quit fishing at 8:00, happy to be able to sleep in tomorrow morning and able to head off towards the Lahontan Cutthroat Trout. I will be back to Eagle Lake. The experience was more than rewarding. It was like the other experiences on this trip -- it was cleansing.

Friday, July 15, 2011

HTC 3: Goose Lake Redband

Report for Friday 7.15.11

After packing up from the home waters of the McCloud Redband Trout, I headed to the home waters for the Goose Lake Redband Trout. My directions were hazy and I spent more than an hour finding the first turn off. Once I got to the stream, shown above, the action was fast but not furious. I easily had 50 rises, landed 3 fish, and had long line releases for about 6 more, in less than an hour. I only fished about 50 feet of stream. Also, about half the time on the water was spent putting a new fly and tippet on the line. The willows held on to the flies much more strongly than the trout! The fish were hungry and had tons of energy. Each hookup felt like a fish twice its size. These beautiful fish own their stream and I hope to someday fish an extensive section of their stream(s).

After a lot of fun on the Goose Lake Redband stream, I drove to the area that the Eagle Lake Rainbow trout inhabits. Well, the species inhabits most of the world as it is a major variety used to plant trout into streams and lakes, but I'm near it's native heritage range. I don't think this species will be nearly as easy to document as the previous two on this trip. However, if I can document this species tomorrow I will be able to head out for the Lahontan Cutthroat Trout before interrupting my trip by heading home for possible jury duty next Tuesday -- aarrgghh.

I had hoped to document the Warner Lakes Redband Trout on this trip, but will have to drive to it's native range a second time because of the snow still in the mountains. My plan is to head back to the heritage waters of the Warner Lakes Redband Trout after I backpack in the Golden Trout Wilderness in August. It will be a long out of the way trip, but should give me nine of the possible ten HTC trout available (other than the Paiute Cutthroat in closed water). Then, all I will need is a half pounder steelhead on the Klamath River in August to complete my goal of catching all of the HTC trout with the exception of the Paiute. It has been a great trip so far and I'm having a blast. The fish and their homes are beautiful.

HTC 2: The McCloud Redband Trout

Report for Thursday 7.14.11

Well, I returned to the same area that I visited last week. This time I had a wide brimmed hat, a magnifier, a tent, and a well stocked box of dry flies. The campground was nearly empty, just one week later. Perhaps it was because there had been rain in the past week as evidenced by many more puddles in the dirt road. One of them made me happy I had a Subaru with all-wheel-drive because I slid left and right all through the 30 foot puddle (wide, not deep lol). The bad news is that all the standing water created a mass of mosquitoes. They were everywhere and found any spot on your body that did not have DEET on it. I ended up with bites on my forehead, left arm, a finger on my right hand, and on my stomach, even after "soaking" my exposed areas and clothes with DEET. The good news is that these mosquitoes leave an annoying itch for a couple of hours and then it goes away. Not like some of the Sierra Nevada mosquitoes that leave bites that swell up to the size of quarters and hurt for days. Another reason why the campground was empty is that a logging crew started at 5:30 in the morning, approximately 1/4 mile from us. I easily saw the light of the tractor from my tent. Each time a tree fell it sounded like a cannon going off. Somehow, I slept 2 hours through the racket they were making.

The beautiful water from last week left me blank again. No risers showing and no fish rose to my feeble attempts at casting a dry fly for more than 5 inches of drag free float (after a splat). So, I moved to another section of the creek that had a 20 foot riffle section that was about a foot deep. I swung a size 12 black ant through the area and was rewarded with the beautiful McCloud Redband Trout shown above. I forgot to take my picture with the trout because I was surprised, didn't have my net with me, and wanted to get the fish back as soon as possible. I hope it will count for the HTC challenge even though I am not in it..

The beauty of the fish really amazed me, although I hardly got a chance to look at it (I get the fish back in the water as fast as possible). That we can catch a genetically pure species of trout, living in a very small habitat range makes me appreciate the opportunities we have in California to get into nature and to see wildlife, forests, and of course, streams. There is something cleansing about breathing fresh air and finding trout that are special, and beautiful. Makes the rest of the world seem a little more manageable.

Friday, July 8, 2011

McCloud Redband Trout: Infinity. Me: Zero

I thought I would head out for a quick 4-day HTC trip as a shake down trip for my two week journey in the near future. Well, the only thing that got shaken out was Me! I left my dry flies at home. I left my wide brimmed hat with the attached magnifier at home (Five minutes to get the tippet through a size 16 eye!). I had five size 14 parachute adams with me , and left them in the willows within a half hour. This was supposed to be a no-brainer -- walk to the creek and catch a McCloud Redband Trout in ten minutes. Well, 3 hours and 3 spots led to one underwater flash from a 4-inch fish. I then found that I don't fit well within my Subaru Forester now that I put storage units in the back. AArrgghh! I also don't fit well within stream side willows, but I doubt anyone does.

I hooked zero fish and landed zero fish. I'm pretty sure that 0 / 0 equals infinity, although someone will probably tell me that the limit of 0 / 0 is zero. It doesn't really matter when out in the wilderness walking along pristine creeks hoping to land a genetically pure specimen of a very isolated species.

So, I have some tying to do before my next trip. And, fortunately, the trip was cleansing. It is amazing how traveling out in the wilderness and breathing fresh air, closer to the clouds, makes all the things on one's mind a lot smaller. I can't wait to get out again next week.

Now, I just have to find my hat, my tent, and my dry flies. Not too bad a list to find in 4 days.

Take care,