Tuesday, January 18, 2022

Revenge is a Dish Best Served Cold

January 14, 2022

End of last year we tried our luck here on the Upper without any success.  The trip was a bust.  Out of laziness we'd chosen not to wear our snowshoes and we paid the price.  We wanted our revenge.  When we arrived at the parking lot two guides had already set off on their snowmobiles and three trucks were parked.  I assume two must have been with the guides and the other fishermen were fishing near the bridge.
So we hiked in about a mile to one of our favorite spots.  From there we'd have the next mile or so we'd have the river all to ourselves until we caught up with the snowmobiles in the afternoon.  Not long after reaching our spot Chul hook up with a nice hen.  He told me that had his indicator set at 5.5 feet so I adjusted my depth to the same. 
After landing the fish and gave me the hole expecting a pod to be in there.  I drifted my fly exactly as he suggested multiple times.  Each perfect drift resulted in nothing.  Odd.  Was there only one fish in there?
After several unsuccessful attempts I moved to the next hole.  The honey hole.  I made my long casts and was refused at every attempt.  Was it possible the guides had already blown out the hole?  I checked my tippet and noticed that I was fishing without any weight.  How long had I been fishing without it?  No wonder I couldn't get any takes.  After securing another water gremlin it didn't take long before I got a strike.
Once I had him on the line he ran through the hole and spooked at least five other fish.  I saw all the swirls.  This buck had some fight in him and put my five weight to the test.   He then ran me downstream and then upstream.  Eventually we'd landed him.  From the scaring this trout I assumed it had been in the system for a while.
After landing the fish I told Chul to take the hole and not long after he was on another hen.  The pod moved over slightly into the seam and against the weed line which is where Chul got the strike.  This fish too ran upstream.  The fish buried him into some structure and as he tried to pull him out we worried this fish may be lost.  But eventually the fish released after some serious pressure.  So much pressure I worried and warned him to watch that bend of his rod.  I thought it might break.  We landed her and released her.
All the hens appeared to be a new batch while the buck seemed to have been in the system for a while.  We would continue to fish until we reached the guides.  We knew they were sitting on another honey hole some 200 yards away.    I decided to wait them out and have lunch as I was starving by this time as I didn't have much for breakfast.
There was plenty of bends to fish before we would reach them but as we moved closer they simply sat there and never moved.  After finishing lunch the holes ahead of us were now occupied by an angler that had hiked up while we were taking the lunch break.  At this point the sun was at it's highest and we haven't had success during this time of day and decided to head back to the trucks.
By this time it was 1:30 and we decided to head down to the valley and fish the lower in the hopes of catching the afternoon hatch.  Armed with our dry flies we searched the river for rises.  The hatch never materialized and I only saw two rises the hole time.  I threw a few probing casts throughout river but it was more casting practice than actual fishing.  Speaking with an angler who had been fishing all day he said he saw no rises at all.  When 3:30 came we had already quit and I made our way back to camp as Chul went to return his rentals.
The next morning we scouted some areas but chose not to fish them.  Afterwards we checked out a falconry event that Chul's buddy was participating in.  We never found him but we watched some of the trials before I made my way home.  On the way home I'd stop by Freddy's for burger fix on my way home after taking an alternative route home which was far more pleasant drive than the usual route.

Monday, January 17, 2022

Change of Plans

January 13, 2022

On this weekend we were supposed to be heading north fishing steelhead but that trip needed to be postponed.  Instead we opted to head back to the eastside for some revenge for our last poor outing.  I woke up at 3:35am to get ready to meet my buddy in  Bishop. 
We met up on the road and gassed up at Big Pine and a decision needed to made.  Where to fish?  Exhausted from the long drive and lack of sleep we saved the Upper for the next day.  Since I've never fished Hot Creek while completely blanketed with snow that was where we'd go.  As the road is not plowed from the gate we'd have to snowshoe in.  Another reason for choosing this water is we didn't need to wader up. 
Already rigged up from the last trip I took out my prerigged four weight tied with Galloup's Found Link tied as a trico in a size 18.  I figured the pattern could pass for a BWO or a midge. We snowshoed to the geological site and made our way down the trail so we could fish upstream and back toward the trucks.  Once down into the canyon searched for rising fish. 
Chul found the first pod taking emergers while I was unsuccessful downstream of him.  He'd catch several more before I caught up to him.  He told me they were taking small emergers in 20 or 22 just beneath the surface.  So instead of taking off my dry I dropped 12 inches of 6x tippet to my fly and tied a black three dollar dip in a size 20.  I would catch a number of fish in mostly the 6-9 inch range and a few in the 10 or 11 inch.  The largest of the bunch took the dry.  After a while we moved on upstream looking for more willing fish.
Hiking upstream we'd search for more fish but the rises were limited.  We did find a fish in 16-18 inch range that we casted to but this meat eater had no interest in our tiny flies.  We didn't bring our streamers but I'm sure that would have enticed a strike. Having this creek without a crowd is almost unheard of but on this day the water was all ours up until the end when we saw one angler fishing the property border.  But before even seeing him we had fished 90% of the creek.  One concern we had particularly when climbing over elevated portions of the trail were hidden air pockets covered in snow which would prove a justifiable concern on our way out. 
I did find another section where I saw a rise and I started casting to the fish.  It sparked more rises from other fish.  I caught a few more and lost two very good ones including a 14 incher that spit the hook after a few jumps.  We'd continue upstream only to find that angler fishing toward the border.  At that point we decided to head up the gorge trail to get out.  All morning we tried to stay on well worn footprints to avoid hidden air pockets.  Watching Chul reel up started my way out of the canyon.  I took a path up that looked well worn but once I was half way up the canyon the footprint path vanished.  Chul from below stating it was safer on the path he took.  I said he's right but I was too tired to go back down and was pot committed now so I charged up to the main trail.  Chul having taken the "safer" path ended up finding that air pocket that dropped him in the snow balls deep and he struggled to get out.  Eventually he did mange to pull himself out of the predicament. 
Earlier in the day once down to the geological site one of Chul's straps on his snowshoe broke.  As we hiked out more straps failed on him and lucky most of the snow on the main road was packed enough that the shies were not necessary.  While he didn't need it for the rest of the hike out  this day he would need a pair following day on the Upper.  So after lunch he'd have to make some calls to all the sporting good stores both Mammoth and Bishop to see if they had any spare straps for his model of shoe.  None had any available so he had to go into town to rent some before making it to camp.

Tuesday, January 11, 2022

Once in a Lifetime: First Outing of 2022

 January 2, 2022

Steam rises off the bush as I pee on it.  I am cursing myself for wearing waders as I hate hiking in waders.  Although its 41 degrees I'm sweating and peeing in wader absolutely sucks especially when you don't wear your zip up version.   My regular fishing buddy and I took to the local mountains to start off the New Year with a fishing outing.  Last year it took me five months to get out, I wasn't about to do that again.  

We had debated which local river we should check out.  After deciding Location X was probably covered in snow we chose another option lower in elevation.  We knew we all the rain we gotten the past weeks it was probably raging.  And when we arrived we weren't wrong.  Water was glacial looking bluish green in color and running fast.  We started fishing some spots closer in that we normally bypass but because there weren't the crowds we started early but it was a a waste of time and we should have just hiked in more like usual

First Fish of 2022
It wouldn't be long though before I managed my first rise.  I launched the little dink behind me as set the hook like a bassmaster.  It ended up flying off the hook 10 feet behind me.  Not long after though I'd land my first fish of 2022, a dink and more dinks after that.  Biggest fish was probably no more than six inches but I'd catch many of them.  Chul had already cheated and put on a nymph rig on once he realized the raging water wasn't conducive to dry fly fishing.  I refused.  I refuse to fish anything buy dries in our local waters.  Although I may throw streamers and that's only because the fish tend to be smallish and I find it amusing for a fish to hit a fly nearly it's own size.  We decided to fish for another 30 minutes before heading back.  As we made our way up, my concentration was on the water looking for the perfect piece of dry fly water.  On one run I was so focused on the water I failed to realize what was to my left.  Only when my periphery caught what I thought was a moving bush did I turn my head and notice three Bighorn Sheep grazing.  I almost had to do a double take as I couldn't believe they were so low in elevation.  I called Chul who was fishing downstream of me and pointed to the rams.  Both of us stopped fishing we watched in awe of these magnificent creatures.  Cursing ourselves for not bringing a proper camera we both tried to capture the moment with our iphones.  Poor lighting and garbage zoom we both failed to get any decent pics.

I've fished these mountains for over 20 years and the closest I've ever got to a Bighorn was when Chul and I saw them in the opposite mountain hundreds of feet above us in a valley of a different range.  Even then we only noticed them when we heard them and had to glass them with binos.  On this day we could have pet them (although that would not have been wise) we were that close.  I've fished among the bison of Yellowstone, elk in the sierra, deer and moose in just about every mountain state, I've even been face to face with a linebacker sized black bear here in the San Gabriels while coming around a bend hiking back to the truck after fishing but this was probably the most memorable.  These are the reasons you get out afield.

Monday, January 10, 2022

Opinel Mushroom Knife

My first exposure to Opinel mushroom knife was probably 20 or so years ago when I saw one in a bin of a local Williams Sonoma.  My first impression was what the hell is this?  At the time I didn't know squat about Opinels in general, their history, their usefulness, their awesomeness, let alone what this oddly shaped knife was.  Despite my negative opinion I thought of buying it out of curiosity given at the time it was only a few bucks.
I never did buy it and years later I was reminded of it when I bought my first Opinel knife and went  back to that exact same store to look for it but they no longer carried it. In 2017 I finally bought one online for $26. 

The knife is manufactured in Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne, Savoie, France made with Sandvick 12C27 stainless steel . Uniquely shaped and easily distinguishable the mushroom knife has both a curved blade and handle and is essentially a modified pruning knife with brush feature.  The blade is designed for cutting around tight areas.  Like all Opinel pocket knives it has the viroblock locking ring so you can safely carry in your pocket and  lock the blade when in use. 
The blade spine also has jimping for thumb placement when more precise movement or when more traction is needed.
Holding the knife can be held either way but with the curvature it is most comfortable pruning style for more of a peeling style cut when the you cut towards you.
The handle is their standard beechwood and the bristles are boar's hair that are stiff enough to remove dirt but soft enough not to damage delicate mushrooms.  There is also a hole that allows for a lanyard if you so chose to make one for the knife.
This is my second mushroom knife and let's hope after all the rains we've gotten this winter it'll be put to good use this mushroom season.

Sunday, January 9, 2022

Should Have Worn Snow Shoes

 Dec 20, 2021

In the morning I made a simple breakfast of bacon and egg sandwiches before heading north to the frozen tundra.  The morning was cold and will be evening colder when we made elevation.  I never did get cold though sleeping in the Rover.  The night got down to 21 degrees but my zero degree down bag and my Germany Army wool blanket kept me warm. 
We left to drive up the 395 and once we reached the crest we slowed down and started drive more gingerly as ice was now on the road.  Last winter on a trip by himself Chul spun out on the turn at Benton Crossing at took out the stop sign.  Neither one of us needed a repeat of that so we took that turn cautiously as it that section was still iced over.
We got to the water and there was already at least ten trucks parked at the entrance.  A lot of anglers.  As we started to get of gear together we debated whether to bring the snow shoes.   Thinking the anglers ahead of us already blazed a trail for us we opted to to leave them behind.  It proved a mistake as even hiking in that packed snow was not as easy as we thought.  As we made our way upstream Chul's boots began to contract from the cold and bind on his toes causing extreme pain.  We didn't even make it to the Hot Creek Confluence before we started to fish but with about ten groups ahead of us and with Chul in pain we decided to fish downstream and head back to the trucks.  I maybe had one hit and that was it.  Slow fishing.
When we reached the parking lot we chatted up a guy in a Van conversion.  He had camped there for the night in -6 degree weather and had his battery died.  I offered him a jump with my portable jumper battery.  At first he declined as he had AAA on the way but later reconsidered figuring better go with a sure thing than wait for someone.  So when I reached my truck and got the charger and then hooked it onto his battery but with no luck.  This van was a rental and he told me the battery compartment was in the back.  Now that I think of it I don't believe that was the car battery but the battery for the mobile home section. So that may have the reason we couldn't jump it.  I did what I could and he'd have to just wait for AAA.  We proceeded to head down the valley but we'd stop for lunch before we did.

For a couple years KB had told me how good the spaghetti and meatballs were at the Shell station at Crawley so we decided to check it out.  They didn't have that item that day so we got meatball sandwiches instead.  Wasn't bad for gas station food but wasn't anything to write home about.  After the quick bite we headed down south back to the Lower in the hopes there was still a dry fly bite.  We'd fish further down than yesterday and it suck.

We went back to camp and I decided it wasn't worth staying the night only to fish a couple hours the next day.  I figured it was better to just go home rather than spend the night in the cold.  On the way though we'd stop at Victorville to get some burgers at Freddy's, one of their few locations in California.

Saturday, January 8, 2022

Winter in the Sierra

 December 19, 2021

Snow season is upon us and it was time to use our fishing license before the year ends.  In between storms we decided to check out.  First day I woke up early so I'd be on the road before 6am.  Drove up to meet Chul in Bishop.  The plan was to met up at Mahogany Meats for breakfast burritos.  I got there before Chul and ordered two while I waited for him.  They then told me that they quit serving breakfast at 10:30am.  Not knowing what time it was I checked my watch only to see it was 10:35.  Oh brother.  
I walked out to call Chul to see what he wanted instead but once I got into the parking lot he arrived.  Disappointed we decided to make our own sandwiches.  After eating we left for the Lower and fished the Wild Trout Section.
The night prior I set my rigs up knowing I did not want to deal with knots and tiny flies in the cold.  I knew I'd have compromised dexterity in such an environment so I wanted to do it the night before.  While I had everything for my nymph set up, for my dry fly set up all I had was a 20 year old 7x leader I bought in Japan.  That night I would test the strength of the line and it seemed okay.  I'd tug on it and it held so I figured to try it.  I'd buy some  6x leaders at Regan's before stopping at Mahogany's.  Too lazy to re-rig I kept the old leader on with the hope it would hold.  I was wrong and after losing two fish I put on the new leader.  The new leader held up and we manged several fish to hand on dries before making camp.  When planning this trip I wanted to camp in the snow at elevation just to test my equipment.  Chul talked me out of it and we camped down in the valley.

Friday, January 7, 2022

Hubertus Picnic Knife

Read this blog long enough and you'll probably realize I'm a bit of a Germanophile.  I like their cars, trucks, guns, watches, clocks, knives and more.  So when I learned about several Solingen knife companies making a take part picnic knife I really wanted one.   A few years ago I picked up a Hubertus version of  Picnic Knife off a German seller on Ebay.
At the time rumors on the internet were that Solingen's quality was on the decline.  Knives were simply not what they used to be.  I took this as internet hearsay.  After all I heard this about Mercedes but I never experienced a lemon with them even during the "bad" years.  Few years back I bought an new old stock Hubertus Small Game Knife that was from the West German days.  Fit and finish was excellent and by all accounts a wonderful knife.  So I thought the newer stuff would be the same.  Unfortunately it was not.
I really like the idea of a folding picnic knife especially for outdoor use.  While I probably wouldn't carry this knife afield in the pocket, it does make nice knife to keep in the truck or in the picnic basket when you return from hunting or fishing to eat lunch of cured meats and cheeses.  
The picnic knife is a slip joint with two layers.  One layer for the blade the other a two prong fork.  Opposite side of the fork is a corkscrew for you wine drinkers.  For you beer drinks there is a bottle opener on the fork.   There is no 90 degree stop but has enough tension not be a problem. 
Each utensil can be separated and held together by tabs on brass inner liners.  It is locked by the indentation under the bottle opener.  Once closed the indentation closes the gaps of the hole in which the tabs enter.
While various materials may be chosen for the handles from wood to bone, my knife is made of stag held together with three brass pins.  An upgraded model exists with German silver bolsters and comes with a thin green leather sheath but mine the basic model only comes with the knife.
I really wanted to like this knife and as a concept I really do but at least on my example the execution is poor.  Fit and finish is not up to German standards.  The two inner liners are not flush.  A lot of play gaps between the two pieces.  There is some gap between the handle and liner also.
My blade came dull, particularity the tip.  I mean worthlessly dull.  Butter knife dull.  I had to reshape it and sharpen it. Blade tip sticks out and isn't tucked within the liners.  Maybe this model is designed that way but I can't see why that would be.  While there is no rubbing the blade centering is also poor and leans left.
When I received the knife it wasn't clean either.  It contained a lot of grind particles and what looked like dried oils.  

This was bought several years ago so I don't recall what I paid of it but I can say it was a disappointment.  As much as I wanted to like this knife it simply wasn't worth it.  Not sure if I just got a bad version but I would recommend if you are interested in this knife is to see it in person which maybe difficult as no where in the US carries this model at least from what I've seen.  There was once a dealer in Arizona that had a few in stock but they were way over priced even if you got one without the issues I experienced.  If you order online as I did I'd ask a lot of questions or ask for pics of the actual model for sale. 

Hubertus is not the only German maker of such a picnic knife.  Hartkopf, which seems to be sold at a lower price point, also makes a version.  So if you're interested in such a knife you could also look at them.  Although I can not speak of their quality.

Begining of the End July 12, 2021. LA Inshore a dud August 21, 2021

 July 12, 2021

Local fish have taken a beating with drought conditions and with mass crowds because of Covid lockdowns.  This outing I didn't get the type of fish like last year.  Far more dinks and no large fish.

August 21, 2021  Long Beach Harbor/ LA Inshore

Roy gave me call and wanted to see if I wanted to head out on his boat and fish off Long Beach.  The trip would be more of a test run as he had repaired his outboard engine.  If it ran successfully we run outside the wall if not we'd fish the inner wall.  When we drove up to the harbor I was amazed at all the shipping vessels parked outside.  This was before news were reporting on the backlog at the ports.  Boat ran fine and we made it outside the wall  navigating through the traffic jam.  Fishing was poor and all I got was sick. Was only out there for a couple hours before calling it quits.