My 13 year old son Isaac, 16 year old Ryan Downs and I went
fly-fishing on Hot Creek on Thursday. It was the first time for the boys
and everyone caught quality fish - browns and rainbows - on small size 20
nymphs split-shotted below an indicator. Hot creek is strictly catch and
release on flies with barbless hooks, which enhances the experience and the
quality of the fish, who are wary of the offerings of the fly fishermen who
constantly ply this water. We were in the canyon below the ranch. The creek
was running great, but the weeds were starting to get a bit thick. I caught
a 16 inch brown, along with smaller browns and rainbows. All of the fish we
caught were good sized, with most around 12 inches or so and no real dinks.
Isaac ended the day by catching a nice brown all on his own, without the
assistance/direction of our guide, Josh Hueron. Josh was very knowledgeable
and dedicated, even if he was a bit of a nag about technique. It was a
beginning lesson and he wanted us to appreciate everything at whatever
moment a particular thing needed appreciating. He put us on fish and
dispensed with a lot of lawn-casting practice, so we could maximize our
time. We went straight to the creek and he taught the boys on the go. He
seemed a little bummed that the fish were not biting as aggressively as they
had been earlier in the week, but we were having a great time, even if we
were a little clumsy. Josh's expertise and help made it a great experience
for all of us and the boys learned more than I could have taught them in
between untying snarls and retying flies (probably the wrong ones). I would
always recommend getting a guide for fly-fishing, especially on the first
day of a multi-day trip. After we finished, we headed off to Grumps for
giant burgers and refreshments.
Day two - we went to Lake Mary and rented the fanciest pontoon boat
that the Lake Mary Marina had to offer - $225 for four hours. Isaac and I
had reserved it the previous day from the concession when we scouted the
scene at the basin lakes. I tried to reserve it for the whole day, but no
I tried to get a deal on renting two pontoon boats over the course of a day,
but had to pay for two separate half day rates. I couldn't even get them to
throw in a free rental net, which turned out to be just as small as my
stream net anyway. I bought some lures and bait from the shop and observed
that no one else was getting any kind of deal from these somewhat
wieneresque guys who worked at the marina.
We had ten people, so the seating room on the expensive boat was
appreciated. We trolled needlefish and kokanee lures 4 to 5 colors down to
catch a lot of planter sized rainbows. I brought my portable depth
finder/fish finder, which really made it easy to find the fish, most of
which were holding at 28 to 35 feet in anywhere from 30 to 60 feet of depth.
Several of the kids, including my twin three year olds, Tommy and Davie,
caught their first trout.
We were off the lake by 11. We went back to town and scarfed like
Wendy and Annie stayed back at Annie's massive house in Mammoth with the
napping little boys. I took the five older kids back for another more
standard pontoon boat that we had reserved for the 3:30 to 7:30 pm time
slot. This one cost $165 for four hours and actually fished better than the
fancier one, which had a CD player, but less access to the rail in the
At this point we knew where the fish were, but could not make bottom
there with the 30 foot anchor lines that boat had. The kids wanted to throw
the light rigs and bait fish. We used the depth finder to anchor up in 28
feet of water at a spot where the wind pushed us toward the drop off at the
end of the lake closest to the outlet. We threw toward the deeper water
where we had metered many fish, but they also swarmed beneath us in the
shallower water from time to time. We creamed the trout on inflated night
crawlers on #10 hooks, tied to five feet of 2# test fluorocarbon below a
sliding water-filled bubble, with a swivel stop at the top of the leader.
This set-up casts well and sinks slowly through the water column and the
zone where the fish are feeding. We caught browns, brooks and rainbows and
released all that were not damaged. We ended up keeping eight and releasing
many more. I got to practice my knot tying skills quite a bit on Friday.
We left that spot and headed back with the trolling lines back out.
We picked up a few more on the troll, which was easier on the release
because we were mouth hooking the fish on lures with single hooks. We were
twenty-five minutes late bringing back the boat, as we ended up chasing down
a floater that we had released. Isaac was able to revive it and the kids
all cheered as it eventually swam away from Isaac's resuscitation efforts.
After we got our deposit back and were loading our gear up in the parking
lot, the surly marina attendant (not the nicer guy who had been there all
day) yelled for me to come back down to the shop. He allowed me to wait
while he took a phone call and then demanded another $75 from me for being
late as he waited for one more boat to return (we were not the last boat
in). I gave him the dough without another word and decided, after spending
close to 500 bucks there that day, that next time I would try the other
concession across the lake (Pokonobe), which seemed to have nicer pontoon
boats. We decided that the motto of the Lake Mary Marina should be "We
aren't the only fishing concession on the lake. We just act like we are."
Saturday, we took the day off from fishing and went to the Devils
Post Pile. Wendy and Annie took the little boys back from there and I took
the older kids to Rainbow falls and Red's Meadows, where the end of a long
hike was met with the best ice cream we ever ate and a beautiful bus ride
The San Joaquin was running full, cold, and clear and the falls were right
out of the postcards.
Sunday was our day to leave, but everyone was sleeping in from a
13 year birthday celebration for Whitney Downs at Robertos. Isaac and I
snuck out for one last try at Lake Mary without the company of all of the
sleepers who had had enough of early rising to catch fish. We decided that
since we only had an hour and a half to fish, that we would go big on the
lures. Neither marina was open early. We rented a small boat at about 7:50
from the very friendly and helpful guy (Lou) at the Pokanobe Resort. We
trolled bigger lures 5 to 6 colors down.
We could hardly go more than a hundred yards without getting bit on
a large Mepps Syclops. We caught and released several nice sized trout and
then Isaac got one that took a lot of line and ended up almost straight down
in 70 feet of water. He gradually brought it up and we decided that we had
to keep that one, which taped out at 21 and 1/2 inches. It was Isaac's
biggest trout to date. It was a bright, beautiful fish, with all of its fins
and tail perfectly intact. We decided to head in, since the rest of our
group would be stirring and we had a big breakfast date at The Stove that
On the way in, I got bit again and an even fatter rainbow screamed
off line and fought at the surface, jumping several times at long distance
and circling the boat as we tired him out. The gold single siwash hook
Syclops was red hot that morning and has always been a producer for me. We
were in by 9:15 and Lou came out to see if there was something wrong with
the boat because we had come in so quickly. We explained that the fishing
Gods had been so good to us that we had to quit early to preserve our karma.
We showed him our fish and he took our picture. There was a Sunday morning
service in progress on the large outdoor deck at the resort. We walked
right beneath it as we came down the dock and momentarily distracted the
flock from their devotions.
These are the days.
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