The Trout Also Rises

"A blog upon my estutcheon" A weblog about fishing, hunting, hiking, cycling, books, beer, and other random musings. Any humor contained in this site is entirely unintentional and has not been tested on animals. e mail aaaaargh at msndotcom

Location: California

A hunter and fisherman, fascinated with books and history.

Friday, April 30, 2004

In the shadow of Mt. Conness

California's Sierra Nevada range has some places that will take your breath away, usually because the air is so thin over ten thousand feet. One such scenic area is the Saddlebag Lake loop trail, just northeast of Tioga Pass. The loop trail is about eight miles, an easy day hike. The trail passes one alpine lake after another. The lakes are very nice to look at, with jagged peaks and green meadows all around. To the south, 12,590 foot Mt. Conness and its glacier lord it over the lesser crags.

The area is not without its attractions for the angler. The lakes contain trout, including golden trout, California's state fish. This is because California is also known as the Golden State. Because gold was found here. Clever folk, the people who come up with this stuff.

The lakes have picturesque names like Shamrock Lake, Helen Lake, and Cascade Lake. I've often wondered how these lakes are named. After all, there are thousands of them in the Sierras. My visit two years ago disclosed that Shamrock Lake is not shaped like a cloverleaf, nobody named Helen was in evidence at said lake, and there may have been a cascade near Cascade Lake, but that is nothing remarkable in these mountains with water running all over the place.

The fish here seem to have some kind of arrangement with each other, which is that there is no feeding before four in the afternoon. This is smart of them, since it limits anglers to only a few hours of predation before dark, and makes it tough for day hikers to do much damage. The trout may also have noticed that fisherpersons also like to feed after four, which further limits time spent fishing.

My own experience of this was at Helen Lake. After fruitlessly looking for a Helen or a Ms. Lake to ask permission to camp there (maybe she was working at the visitor center in Lee Vining), we proceeded to put up the tent in the midafternoon. An hour later, the sky clouded over, and the mountains shook like a bunch of overloaded washing machines to the roar of thunder. Then it began to hail.

Sheltering in the tent, we two refugees from the enfeebling heat of a Southern California summer had to wrap up in layers of synthetic fibers and down to stay warm. It felt great. After the hail ended, we noticed rising trout in the little stream that flowed from Shamrock Lake past our campsite. These proved to be pretty little microtrout, but they were goldens. Any dry fly got their full attention. Aye, we be hungry trout.

There was a brief pause to cook a zesty freeze-dried dinner under a sky still muttering with the occasional roll of thunder. Then we headed to the lake to try our luck there. As daylight faded, we started catching more golden trout where the creek entered Helen Lake. These were larger fish. Rather chubby, in fact. Yet they were no choosier than their little streambound cousins about what sort of dry fly was presented to them. It was great fun, and then it got dark.

The loop trail can be reached by hiking around Saddlebag Lake from the parking lot by the resort. You can also pay a modest fee to the nice folks at the resort, who will take you to the trailhead in a boat, and pick you up again.

Thursday, April 29, 2004

Those rotten volunteers, we'll show them!

You couldn't make this up. Daniel Weintraub of the Sacramento Bee has described how state law is preventing volunteers from working on stream cleanups and other projects which receive state funding. The link is here.

Got beer?

Bet you have not tried this one. Zelta Gold, a lager from Latvia. Yes, Latvia (Lettland auf Deutsch). On sale at the local bargain store for $.99 for two eleven ounce bottles. It is a smooth drink, light on the palate, and perfect for the warm days of late spring.

Zelta is made by Aldaris, Latvia's biggest brewery. In Latvian, Aldaris means brew-master. Try this beer, if you can find it.

My favorite barleywine these days is the Weltenburger Asam Bock. The Weltenburg monastery in Kelheim, Bavaria has been brewing beer since 1050, or almost one thousand years. I suppose they know what they are doing. The Asam Bock is not sweet like a lot of Bavarian beers, but instead has a robust dry flavor. Try it with ribs, a backyard grill burger, or any hearty meats. Heck, just try it by itself.

First day of the California trout season

The first fishing trip of the year was spent on local waters near Los Angeles. Instead of heading up to the Eastern Sierra, my fishing partner Mike and I went to Piru Creek. This small stream is located in the mountains north of LA. The morning was spent trying to find fish off Hungry Valley Road, but that part of the stream seemed to be quite unpopulated by fish.

Never easily defeated, we drove out, and tried to reach Hardluck Campground, but the road had been closed by an iron gate for which my 4Runner was no match. Next time I'll bring my Leopard II with the rod rack in back. That will teach them to close the road!

Defeated, we headed for the Frenchman's Flat stretch of Piru Creek, an easily accessed spot off Interstate 5, and proceeded to catch some smallish wild trout. Mike was using dry flies, and I was dredging with a No. 14 bead-head hare's ear using an upstream retrieve. The score for the day was ten rainbows when we called it a day, retiring to the 4Runner for well-earned bottles of Black Hart Dry Irish Stout. The Adventure Pass (a $30 annual fee charged to park your vehicle on USFS land in Southern California) seems to have helped Frenchman's Flat somewhat. I'd not been there in several years, and the volume of litter is noticeably less.

Hey, we caught fish, we drank some decent beer. Life is good.