Eastern Sierra Exploration
On my continuing quest to chalk all 50 states on the fly, my wife Janice and I took a little trip out west to explore the eastern Sierra Nevadas. Here are the wave tops:
Dates: 9-17 August
Species caught: brook trout, rainbow trout, brown trout, and GOLDEN TROUT!
States Chalked: CA and NV
Water Fished: offshore San Diego, Lower Owens, Bishop Creek, Buckeye Creek, East Walker, Robinson Creek, Truckee River, and San Joaquin River. All chalked!
Road miles covered: 1100
Bottom line: it was an incredible trip. The scenery was breath taking. The water was beautiful. The weather was perfect. All rivers produced and we were able to pick up some Sierra Nevada natives – Golden Trout. They rival our brook trout in their beauty and eagerness to take a fly and were definitely the highlight of the trip.
The details (scroll on by if you have a short attention span and just want to get to the images):
If I could do it all over again, I would’ve went on this trip in the late fall/early winter. From talking to the various guides and shops out there, CA and NV are in the grips of a bad drought. Without any perspective on this, it was hard for me to judge but the catching wasn’t great and we tried everything from dredging to dries – the fish really made us work for it. BUT, hindsight is 20/20 and we still had a great time – no trip is ever perfect. Besides, it seems like the dog days of summer are pretty painful across the country as it relates to fishing so I’m very pleased with what we were able to accomplish.
Although the catching wasn’t great, every creek produced. Some wild, some native, and some stocked. I find both states’ conservation methods interesting. I’ll probably write about this double edged sword in a separate piece but it seems both states stock profusely where the waters don’t require it and much of this stocked water is put and take. All the water is beautiful and could sustain wild populations of trout if managed properly but I’m guessing the states’ position is that stocking brings large numbers of people to the mountains thereby protecting the lands and maintaining a steady flow of revenue.
There are pros and cons to this methodology for conservation. Unfortunately, the avid fly angler is at the brunt of the cons – but I’ll save that for another time. Still, I was a bit stunned to be standing at the headwaters of a pristine creek near Bishop, CA, surrounded by bait dunkers. We broke contact quickly and moved downstream in search of wild fish – and found some.
The budget for the trip was very affordable – we stayed in a hotel in San Diego and Reno (first and last days of the trip) and camped enroute. It’s so dry in this part of the country that you never really feel dirty so 5 days without showering didn’t create a problem (nothing a quick dive in a creek couldn’t solve). We also kept the costs down by cooking our food at the camp site and eating out sporadically if something uniquely local caught our eyes so we didn’t miss out on the regional culture. We weren’t disappointed.
Other costs included the flight (Southwest was super cheap), rental car (I’ll never use Avis again), gas, guide fees, and a small amount of gear purchased from Walmart when we arrived in Cali – mainly a cheap cooler, propane, lighter fluid, and food we could cook along the way. Buying some stuff on the ground saved us from having to pack a lot on the front/back end and incurring baggage fees at the airport. Plus – a trip into a Walmart always provides an interesting look at a small segment of the local population.
As a quick aside: I always hire guides for half day trips on these types of benders – for a few reasons. 1. You get local knowledge from a pro, 2. You save time by getting on the best water right away – which may ultimately save you money as well since the time you spend searching on your own could cost you a day, 3. You get to meet someone new with whom you can, exchange stories, maybe make plans for the future, and most importantly, learn something new. Number 2 is debatable as some might retort that finding the primo water on your own is what makes trips exciting. Sure – if you have a lot of time, that’s true and an important part of a trip. Don’t get me wrong – most of the chalking on this trip came from unguided exploration but points 1 and 3 definitely came true as well.
Instead of the usual plastering of photos, we decided to play with a movie app on the iPhone that we think captures the trip quite well. Maybe some day I’ll invest in some high quality camera equipment but until then….If you’re a photographer or an individual that’s interested in filming some interesting fly fishing adventures, drop us a line – we have pages of potential itineraries waiting for execution.
WARNING: fish porn will not follow. Like I said before, the catching was slow and just didn’t lend itself to taking a lot of fish-in-hand shots. Besides, we have enough big trout shots in our albums – new species and natives are more important these days (yeah – that’s what we’re telling ourselves because no hogs came to hand). Enjoy and please share! Oh – I love planning these types of benders so if you need some assistance, drop me a line.
Click here for the video: https://youtu.be/p2DfV97QD_U