Sierra Nevada 2014: Tioga to Bishop Pass

In June professorial thoughts turn to the Sierra Nevada mountains and their hidden treasures. A few days before Mrs. P’s arrival sent me in quest of the fabled Golden Trout. Arriving at Saddlebag Lake just outside the eastern border of Yosemite, I discovered the lake to be frozen—not a terrific surprise, since the Saddlebag sits at 10,000 feet and so does the road. In seven more days the Lake looked like this:

Different in a Week

Different in a Week

So I turned to the Dana Fork of the Tuolumne River instead. Some small native brookies too slippery to get photographed by myself were fun to catch. It was less fun getting lost in the woods, despite the obvious water path to follow. Professors just think differently—until I reached Bishop and the Big Reedy the next day.

The Lower Owens 220cfs

The Lower Owens 220cfs

Thanks to Dave D’Beaupre’s flies and a nice chat with The Sierra Trout Magnet himself:

Sierra Trout Magnet Fly Shop Bishop, CA

the higher flows from January with the Ofishal Colby Hookers were no problem. Dave said that the dry fly hatch was in the morning. His advice was that a well-placed hairy-assed stimulator—my professorial description—would still get action in the heat of the day. Dave was right. His calculation failed to account for the Professor’s slow on the draw style of responding to hits. So when I got on the river at four pm or so, it turned out that bright green and flashy emerger flies,

browner

 

fished as droppers were the way to go, as several browns were willing to attest.

 

 

 

 

The next day sent me up Bishop’s Pass in search of some fish and hikes to be pursued when Mrs. P and the wise old hiker named Seed Thrower and his bride Jorunn—which means “smart fish” in both Norwegian and North Dakotan—were to arrive. The view toward’s Bishop’s pass looked like this:

How Far Do I Go?

How Far Do I Go?

Luckily, I ran into a hiker on her way with two dogs —who happens to be the proprietor of Parcher’s Resort. This beautiful establishment is worth a stay, or a try of the pie. High up in the canyon along Bishop Creek, the cabins look beautiful and great trips are nearby:

Parcher’s Resort—45 Minutes from Bishop, CA, and Gorgeous!

Judy told me which hikes would be good for Seed Thrower, Mrs. P and Jorunn—and better yet, where a fly rod would come in handy farther down. A terrifically smart woman, I’d say, because it was a terrific amount of fun to cast to rising fish all morning and to catch a few good ones:

The Weir

Map 1

There’s many great hikes in this area. Just take Highway 168 right out of downtown Bishop, head 45 minutes up in the hills and you’ll be in a different world with many different day hikes to take, longer backpacking trips to schedule. Thanks to the Water Lords of Los Angeles, South Lake was largely empty thanks to the vampire lawns (see the movie Chinatown) of the San Fernando Valley. But the other lakes had water fish, and even the Golden Trout that eluded me this time. Check out this sight for some fly fishing wheres and hows:

Treasure Lakes/ Toward Kings Canyon

Afterwards, Connecting up with the Jorunn and her forester consort was more than fun—though first, Mrs. P and I had to explore the lake above Saddlebag:

Golden Trout Hiding Area

Golden Trout Hiding Area

 

I stalked the small streams above 10,000 feet here, and then I watched a very friendly worm dunker land and kill this beautiful rainbow from the larger lake. My attempt to avoid imposing my own catch and release values was only partially successful—overcome by my dunker envy. This was truly a beautiful high country California rainbow:

Dunker King

Dunker King

 

 

The Fishing Professor produced a number of stocked rainbows from the lake, and pursued treasures higher above that shall remain nameless and netless:

Saddle_1st bow

 

A few days later we drove up to the Paiute Pass/North Lake trailhead. Jorunn felt the altitude at around 9500 feet and took a break. Your Professor stopped at Loch Leven and discovered that rumors that it is now fish-less are false:

Small, Quick, Beautiful Fish

Small, Quick, Beautiful Fish

Then the famous afternoon thundershowers started. Mrs. Fishing P and Seed Thrower, Man of Jorunn, never reached 11,000 and the top of the pass. We started double-timing it when the puffy Sierra clouds darkened.

Always Bring a Jacket in the Sierra

Always Bring a Jacket in the Sierra

When the lightning started to hit not that far away, the Prof thought it was time to start running. This turned out to be a bad idea:

An Expensive Break-Fall

Expensive Protection

Well, maybe not that bad. The fall I took could have been serious. But the deft professor-trick of the rolling fall landed me on my back, with the beautiful Maine made Stevens (Starks, Maine) hand-made fishing net breaking my fall. I took a few bruises. But once saved by Dave D’Beaupre himself, this net looks forward to Gorilla Glue and more fish in the future:

Swim On!

As did the Fishing Prof on the trip’s last day. A trip to an under-fished stream on the way home was on order. A rising fish of indeterminate type gave away position. I fished the rise for an hour with every hatch-matching fly I had, until the vanilla parachute adams, drifted correctly—probably the whole deal—produced a sharp-finned brown who jumped four times:

June Surprise

June Surprise

Mrs. P was across the stream and reached for her cell phone:

Classic 3 copyAnd while the picture was nice, the shadows across the water meant that it was already time to start heading back to the Bay Area for pleasures more vinous and civilized. And though the friends were terrific—the Jorrun and consort, and a larger, less fishy group—there was a picture of the Eastern Sierra that could seen, at least by me, at the bottom of every glass of pinot and chardonnay. They looked a bit like this:

Panorama of Saddlebag Lake

Though in my memory, the land of the Eastern Sierra always appears as a bright sky, a deep, granite-blue and green lake, and promises of hikes and fish yet to come:

On the June Lake Loop

On the June Lake Loop

“Maybe he’ll ride on again,” as Willie Nelson sings. Hopefully near the Little Kern.

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