Sunday, November 7, 2021

Mammoth Getaway

  Gentle Readers. 

It has been far too long since your reporter pushed another essay at you from behind all of these covid based excuses.

I am reaching back to the beginning of what turned out to be a hectic summer to try and recapture a trip our offspring conspired to deliver as a Christmas present to their parents.  They decided that their gift to us would be separate vacations.  The girls took Wendy to Topanga Canyon for  some kind of hippie-chick encounter workshop while the full compliment of kids planned a fishing trip to a Big Bear Air B&B in May with Dad.  The owners apparently did a little bit of research and then contacted us to let us know that we were no longer welcome to stay there when we were pretty committed to that time frame.

Fortunately, our good friends Rich and Rachel, who have hosted us on prior occasions, volunteered to allow us to totally horn in in on their vacation plans for Mammoth during the first week of June.  The loss of the Big Bear time slot meant that Isaac was rubbed off on the rail of adverse scheduling.  He had to leave by then to begin his new job as a lobsterman in Boston, so we had to carry on without him.


Sarah, Tommy, David and I  left in the predawn darkness of a Sunday morning for a cruise up 395 to our traditional rally point of an 8:30 am  breakfast at Jack's in Bishop. We were a couple minutes late and there was a line of mask wearing feeders ahead of us, but we got seated soon enough at our favorite table.

We made it to Mammoth and hung out with Rich and Rachel for a day of acclimation followed by the first of a really great series of dinners.

The next morning, we snuck out in the gray light for our 6 am  rendevous at Lake Crowley with Joe Contaldi, our favorite guide in the eastern Sierra.  Joe had planned a day of midging near McGee creek.  This kind of flyfishing involves using a weighted brace of two tiny midges suspended just above the bottom and below an indicator that dips when a trout sips at one of the flies. You have to keep a constant eye on the indicator and strike violently when the bobber exhibits any movement. This year, the bite was mostly cutthroats that were feeding in 25 feet of water, so it was especially challenging to cast with that much sinkered line that had get through a sliding bobber.  It is too much line to allow for a fixed indicator.  We used rubber bands on the flyline as wind-on stoppers for the sliding bobbers.  The rubber bands have a tendency to hang up in the guides as we tried to work our casts away from the boat, so we had a hard time getting distance and then waggling our rod tips so that the line would feed down through the float without bringing the whole rig back towards the boat.

Our difficulty with getting distance on our casts did not really prove to be an insurmountable obstacle, as the fish were periodically feeding through the zone over which we hovered.

Sarah hooked up early and often as the morning clouds kept us cool and the wind stayed off our spot.

She landed a pretty nice rainbow and was the high stick for the day on a nice grade of Cutts.

Below is an example of one of Sarah's  bronze-back cutthroats

Joe now has a special fishing guide edition camera lense which dramatically enlarges the size of the angler's hands.  Below is our favorite example of this  effect, as David hoisted up a trout big enough to have bitten his head clean off.

As is almost always the case, the wind came up round noon and it was time to get off the lake.  It was great to see Joe after a few years of no contact.  He has always delivered and we look forward to trying out his Pyramid Lake technique for monster Lahontans when the opportunity presents itself.

We went back to Crowley the next day to try our luck without Joe. Your narrator was able to put the kids on fish, with Tommy taking big fish honors with a beautiful Brown that ate a Tazmanian about four colors down on leadcore line just north of the entrance to the Crowley Marina.

After we got off the lake, we headed up to Lee Vining for a great lunch at the Whoa Nelli Deli and some hiking near Mono Lake.

Sarah is still their big sister, but Tommy and David have reeled her in on the height chart.

We hit Hot Creek for some fly fishing in the evening before coming back to have another fabulous dinner with the Clampitts.

On day three we went back to Crowley for another shot at the trout.  This  time it was David's turn to score prettiest fish honors with this nice brown he got on a firetiger Tasmanian. Net man Tommy and sister Sarah remained cloaked against the cold of these early June mornings despite the sun on the water.  All fish were successfully released and none seemed too worse off for meeting us .

Lizzy finally was able to join us from Sacramento on Thursday after we got back from Crowley, so we bopped around town and celebrated with another fun dinner after our mandatory cocktail hour set the tone for the flow of another pleasant evening

We got in some tennis with Rich and Rachel.  The kids even got in a workout at a local pool so that we did not completely abandon Wendy's swimming protocol. Oh, and I got to read from Rachel's really beautiful hardbound edition of Typee each night.  I finished before we left as part of my respect for cannibals.

The last day we all had a chance to be together, we decided spend the day on a pontoon boat at Convict Lake, which is one of my favorite places on earth. The kids and I got there early to take possession of the boat and scout around the lake.  We were joined by Rich and Rachel later in the day, as only my children willingingly subject themselves to the kind of lengthy tours of duty that boating with their dad creates for unsuspecting passengers.  We had great snacks and good tunes while orbiting the Lake.  We spotted deer and just basked in the majesty that pulses from the walls of this granite cathedral as the sun came out and warmed up another breathtaking day.

Sarah and Rachel kicked back on the couch. Lizzy got master fishing honors on a day when scenery, food and tunes took precedent over angling dedication, although we kept a line in the water  most of the time to keep the fish honest.  Lizzy even jumped in the lake in the afternoon to scare them away.


We topped off the trip with a fancy dinner at the Convict Lake Restaurant.  I think I would rather eat at this place than any restaurant in the world, because that would mean for sure that I was at Convict lake and likely among those humans I hold most dear.

The next morning we said good bye to Rich and  Rachel, as they decided to postpone the rest of their Mammoth vacation and come back when we were finally gone.  They  explained that they wanted to be able to generate the kind of distance that would allow them to miss us.

We had one more glorious day to spend with Lizzy.  We made the most of it with a dash back up 395 to spend the day hiking below Yosemite along Lee Vining Creek and then heading down to spark about along the so-cool-it-looks-fake June Lake Loop.  We stopped for a tasty lunch at the delightful Silver lake Cafe before hiking and getting in a bit of dry fly fishing along Rush Creek between Silver and Grant Lakes.  I could spend a month on the loop and not put a dent in all that it has to offer.

The next morning we said our sad goodbyes to Lizzy before we escorted each other out to 395. She turned north as we waved one last time and pointed south.  We checked her progress on our cell phones and celebrated the fabulous opportunity we took to be with each other in this magical part of the world.

We have so much for which to be grateful and I am certainly full of thanks to Rich, Rachel and my kids for bringing me more wonderful experiences and memories from which to project future plans and find refuge in wistful moments of dreamy serenity.

The clock has hit pause and the days are suddently shorter as winter beckons. 

 I hope that all of you have a wonderful Thankgsgiving and  try to keep in mind that

These are the Days


  1. Absolutely phenomenal family time, extremely amazing outting and your writing skills are top notch as always ‼️❤️

  2. Thanks for transporting us to a moment of hiking, fishing and experiencing nature’s vistas, through the Schmitt family adventure. Rejuvenates the soul. Happy Thanksgiving indeed.

  3. Ed, I think this is your best report yet. Loved it

  4. Awesome family 👪 and friends time gotta LOVE the Sierra's incredible Memories ❤ Great Fish 🐟 😀

  5. Another great adventure in the Sierras we love! Glad to hear the kids are still into it, too. Thanks for sharing, once again.

    Now, I need to hear from the lovely Wendy about her hippie-chick workshop!

  6. All that down non-writing time from Covid has been released with a avalanche of great thoughts and stories masterly crafted and luxuriously told. Well done >