About this blog

This blog is all about fly fishing for native trout. On it I cover trip reports, fishing tactics, conservation, the latest news about native trout species and much more. This site provides a companion to my web page nativetroutflyfishing.com.

Gary

Friday, August 10, 2007

Native Trout of the Sierra Nevada

Day 1: Sunday July 29th 2007: I had talked my cousin Derek into joining me on a trip to the Sierra Nevada of California in search of native trout. The main target for the trip was going to be the three subspecies of golden trout native to the Kern River drainage in the southern Sierras, where after a large amount of research I had located some promising populations of these fish. When my parents heard that I was planning this trip they decided that they would join us on the way down for a little vacation in Reno.

My cousin Derek, my parents and I left my house at about 4:00AM headed for Reno, Nevada. The first day was spent almost entirely on the road, with use arriving in Reno at around 4:00PM. Once we got to Reno my cousin and I went and got our fishing licenses, some last minute supplies and prepped our gear before calling it a day.

A lake in the Oregon Cascades on the way to Reno

Day 2: Monday July 30th 2007: My cousin Derek and I set out early in the morning on our own in pursuit of native trout in the California Sierras. The first fish that we had decided to go after was the Lahontan Cutthroat as it was the closest to Reno. My research and some help from another fisherman from California had led me to decide to fish a small stream high in the Sierras above Lake Tahoe. The hike into the creek was 3.5 miles each way with a small pass in the middle, but looked like an easy enough trip to do as a day hike.

The Sierras from near the trailhead

We arrived at the trailhead at around 8:00AM, ate some breakfast and started hiking. The first part of the trail into this stream was extremely hard to follow as it passed over a granit face with no recognizable path. this caused us to get turned around and take a bit of a "short-cut," but we ended up finding our way back to the trail and arrived at the stream at around mid-morning. The creek was very small where the trail crossed it, but after a couple of minutes of poking around we spooked a trout and rigged up our rods to try our luck.

The meadow that the creek flowed through

The first spot that we came to was a large pool surrounded by willows and full of cutthroat. I gave Derek the first shot at the pool and he ended up catching the largest fish of the day here at around 11 or 12 inches. While Derek fished the pool, I worked my way upstream looking for any holding water. Everytime that I would fin a deep enough pool or run, I would toss my royal pmx and copper john step up in and as long as the fish didn't see me they were very willing to bite. However at the slightest disturbance this would all change and the fish would dart under cover and refuse to hit anything.

Derek fishing for lahontan cutthroat

Derek with a nice fish

After a while Derek came up and joined me and we continued to work our way upstream catching a handful of cutthroat averaging about 7" to 9" before the creek became too small to hold fish. At around noon we went back to the pool to try it one more time before heading out. I put a zug bug on, which the fish couldn't refuse and managed to catch a few more cutthroat before we began our hike out.

A beautifully color lahontan cutthroat

A small pond at the top of the pass on the way back out

It was much easier to keep track of the trail on the way out and even though the weather was hot, there was a nice breeze blowing through the pass which made hiking bearable. We got back to the car at around 1:45PM and hit the road for the edge of the Golden Trout Wilderness Area where we would be camping for the night. The drive down to Lone Pine was pretty uneventful and the scenery was beautiful along highway 395 as worked our way south along the sierras.

Me with Mt. Whitney the high peak in the lower 48 states in the background

The view from halfway up the road to Horseshoe Meadows

We camped at Horseshoe Meadows, which sits at about 9,000 feet of elevation and is accessed by one of the hairiest roads that I have ever seen let alone driven on. We set up the tent with the last few rays of sunlight and hit the hay for a big day of hiking and fishing the next day.

Day 3: Tuesday July 31st 2007: The plan for the day was to hike into the upper Kern River drainage and fish for California golden trout. The spot that I had choosen though was pushing the limits of what we could accomplish in a day, as it was over 8 miles each way with a few thousand feet of evelation gain. We got up to a chilly high sierra morning at around 5:00AM and were on the trail by 6:00AM after a quick breakfast. The first couple of miles of the hike were pretty easy going, as the trail traveled through the pine forests and meadows along the valley floor.
Me at the edge of the Golden Trout Wilderness Area
A meadow along the trail

After that the trail started up the pass and things got a bit more difficult. The climb to the top of the pass, which was well over 11,000 feet was strenuous to say the least as the trail wove its way up the mountain side in an endless series of switch backs. However the view from the top was well worth the effort put into the climb.

Looking west into the up Kern River watershed

We took a little break at the top then headed downhill into the Kern River drainage, home of the California golden trout. After crossing a couple of streams on the way to the one that I had planned to fish, we finally came to one that was a little large than the rest and was packed with goldens so we called it good and started fishing.


A marmot along the trail into the creek

We both rigged our rods up with my favorite attractor dry fly pattern, the Royal PMX and Derek decided to try his luck upstream so I in turn decided that I would head downstream. The fishing at this creek was extremely fast paced, and Derek had his first two golden trout before I had even finished rigging up my rod. Once I got my fly in the water, I too started catching fish.
A beautiful California golden trout
Me hooking up with a golden trout

The goldens were exteremly abundant in this stream and it wasn't all that unusual to miss a strike only to have the fly grabbed by another fish just a few inches downstream of the first one. I caught my first golden of any real size (10 inches) at a spot where the creek turned a corner and passed under some overhanging bushes, providing good cover for the fish. I continued downstream a little bit further, catching golden trout after golden trout with a few 8" to 10" fish mixed in with the average 6" to 8" fish. At the furtherest pool downstream that I fished I caught my biggest fish of the day, at 12" giant that held a prime piece of holding water in a deep pool with a small cascade at the head.
A flawless golden from the stream

After this I worked my way back upstream and met my cousin at the trail, where we had lunch before starting on the long hike back out. The hike out from the creek was flat out brutal. We no longer had the advantage of the cool morning air and with the sun out the temperatures rose into the upper 80's. We reached the top of the pass again at around 2:00PM feeling rather drained. After a little break at the top to enjoy the cooler alpine air, we started our decent down the other side. By the time that we reached the car, we were absolutely wiped out from our 16.5 mile round trip, and were happy to be on the road again to the next spot. The next stream that I had chosen to fish was tributary to the mainstream Kern River that was supposed to have a good population of Kern River rainbow trout and we managed to make it there and step up camp just before dark.

Day 4: Wednesday August 1st 2007: We woke up in the morning to a chorus of cows and coyotes echoing across the meadow that the creek ran through. After getting a little breakfast we set out across the meadow for a little fishing, but found the creek to be very low and stagnant so we headed downstream just below the meadows to try our luck.
The creek downstream of the meadow

There was a little more water down in this area and we spooked a small trout almost right away. I found a small pool a little ways downstream, where I could see a nice fish holding. As soon as my Royal PMX hit the water the fish engulfed it. The fish was a beautiful darkly colored Kern River rainbow trout, which appeared to be in its spawning colors still. However this would be my only Kern River rainbow trout of the trip as I fish both up and down the creek and wasn't able to hook and more of these extremely spooky fish.
My only Kern River rainbow trout

Fishing for Kern River rainbows

We decided to head down the road to try a stretch of the creek further downstream to see if the fishing was any better. However we found no such luck and the fish in the lower section were even spookier than upstream which hardly seemed possible, and all that I could catch was an out of place brown trout.
The creek further downstream
The brown trout - a blight on native trout everywhere...

After giving up on the Kern River rainbow trout, we decided to head over to our last stream of the trip, which was said to hold a pure population of Little Kern golen trout. After some very rough roads, we arrived at the stream and started our fishing. This was the smallest stream that we fished on the trip, and it flowed from one small pool to the next, sinking back into the ground from time to time as it traveled through a series of meadows at about 7,700 feet in elevation.
The creek

We could easily see Little Kern golden trout swimming in the pools, so we rigged up with a dry and dropper system (Royal PMX and size 18 black copper john). The action here was almost as fast as the California golden trout stream, with every first cast into a pool resulting in a hit or a fish. At one time I had fish on both of my flies at the same, but ended up losing the one on the dry fly. I caught one Little Kern golden of at least 10" out of one of the pools, although most of the fish were much smaller and after a couple of hours of fishing we had to hit the road again.


A Little Kern golden trout

After finishing with our fishing, we headed over to Sequoia National Park to check out some big trees. This was an amazing spot and I would highly suggest it to anyone thinking of making the stop. I am used to seeing some big trees in Washington's old growth forests, but the Sequoias completely dwarfed those trees. After leaving Sequoia, we drove all night to get back to Reno.

Derek in front of General Sherman

A deer in the Sequoias
Day 5: Thursday August 2nd 2007: It was time to start on our way home, but we figured that it might be fun to go to San Francisco on the way. We arrived at San Francisco in the afternoon and spent a bit of time at Fisherman's Wharf than hit the road again for home. We ended up arriving back home at around 5:30AM after a long, tiring but very successful native trout excursion.
San Francisco

The city from Fisherman's Wharf