Sunday, March 6, 2022

Upper Owens with Obi Wan Part Two

March 2, 2022
Back in my high school all the way through my early working years I fished Canyon Lake as my one of my best friend's father had a vacation home there.  He would call me into the community so I could fish it any time.  Then that stopped when the Association changed the rules and my buddy no longer could call me in.  A decade or so later I joined a local fly fishing forum.  That is where I met my friend Luc.   I noticed he lived in Canyon Lake and I not so subtlety tried to get  him to invite me to the lake despite being new to the board.  Eventually I did get an invite from him and we have been good friends ever since.  I consider him a fishing mentor and I've learned a lot from him.  Whenever I'm going to fish new water he can usually expect a phone call from me.  Whether or not he's fished that water he's a good source as he at least has some idea of how to fish it.  And if he has fished it he's definitely going to give me enough info to lessen the learning curve. 
On this day we'd fish the upper and it would require another day of  slogging through the snow. As I knew Luc would be a slow hiker I wanted us to be the first on the water so we'd have first crack at the choice holes.  When we came into sight of water I was discouraged that there was three trucks already parked at the first two parking lots.  This gave be a bit of anxiety as I knew we'd be fishing behind others who could have blown out the holes.  Two trucks were parked at the second parking lot and one was parked at the entrance.  I drove down to the second parking lot but after getting out and looking at the ground I decided it may not be wise to park there.  The ground was a mix of snow and iced over mud.  Once the sun started to warm the ground that mud could potentially get us stuck.  So I dropped Luc off with our gear and drove back to the entrance.  Already feeling hurried I didn't realize I left all my gear behind.  My weights, fly box, indicators, everything.  I didn't realize this until I was a quarter mile away from my truck.  The day before I told Luc to empty his vest to just bare essentials to out to lighten it up for the hike.  I gave him one of my egg boxes that had a few weights and hooks but not many.  I had nothing just what was rigged on my rod.  Living dangerously.  I better not break off or I'd have a real problem.
The anglers parked at the entrance fished immediately adjacent to the lot.  So I didn't have to worry about them.  A guide was ahead of us with three of his clients.  They were fishing the very hole I wanted to start.  As we moved closer to the hole they left and we took it over.  It wasn't long before Luc was hooked up but after it breached the surface it popped off.  It took a long while to get another bite.  The water was low and slower than I've been used to.  I was surprised considering how much weather we got this winter.  Luc was fishing a paragon dropper on his egg system.  It added too much weight to his rig and his set up was heavy given the water conditions.  Unfortunately he left his split shot behind.  I thought I had various lighter weights in my waders but I had removed them when I went to the Trinity earlier this year.  Even without a dropper my set up was just slightly too heavy. and without any other size split shot I would have to just deal with it.  Several holes later Luc broke off on some vegetation and he rerigged. He decided to abandon the egg set up.  Luckily Lu brought a small container of nymphs mostly paragons.  Since they were the heaviest flies he had he chose those.  I showed him how Kelly Galloup attaches his a dropper fly using a piece of tippet with a dropper loop.  After that he attached two different color paragons and abandoned the split shot.  With both heavy flies it was just about enough weight for the current conditions.
While Luc managed a quick take earlier in the morning after that it was a complete slog it would be a couple hours before we saw some action.  Eventually I managed to get one to take.  It didn't fight much and I was able to land it easily with a long handled net that I borrowed from my buddy for this trip.  Self landing fish is such a breeze I'm going to have to bite the bullet and get one. 
After I released the fish I essentially stopped fishing and devoted my energy on getting Luc a fish.  He'd switch from fishing my rod with the egg set up and his indicator double nymph rig.  As we moved from one unsuccessful hole to the next I was starting to stress out. As we continued moving upstream I noticed the guide and his clients were parked at the "Glory Hole" the whole time.   I never did notice any of them on fish.  Nor did I ever see them move from that spot.

By noon we were closely reaching the hole when the guide and his clients were heading off the water.  When reached the Glory Hole Luc fished it hard with both set ups but didn't have one take.  We left and fished the hole above it.  Another anger came in and took the now abandoned hole.  While fishing the new hole I look back at the angler and he was one a fish.  I look at Luc and said "I don't think it's your day."  We'd continue upstream and had Luc's back was starting to get sore so I told him to have lunch and relax.  After lunch it wasn't long before Luc was on a fish.  A nice fish in the 20 plus range.  The fish much darker and had already spawned unlike mine. Like mine his fish didn't have much fight in him either for some reason. In between holes Luc and I would chat and he'd teach me a different way to tie a clinch knot or how to improve my mending technique.  Watching him mend is like watching a masterclass.  He does it so effortlessly and gracefully unlike me.  
By 3pm I really wanted to continue fishing but the water looked less and less promising and I knew with every step away from the truck was another Luc would need to make to get back.  After examining the next five bends and seeing that that were shallow and not very promising I asked Luc if he wanted to call it quits.  He agreed.  The hike out was a mix of packed snow, melted ice and sloppy mud.  I'm sure it wasn't a fun hike for Luc but he just took his time.  For dinner we'd stop for burritos at Mercado Mexico before we made the push home.  Although the fishing wasn't great I'm glad I was able spend time on the water with Luc.  Can't wait to do it again with him.

Friday, March 4, 2022

Hot Creek with Obi Wan Part One

March 2, 2022

After my last bushwhacking outing I really wanted to get into some legitimate fish.  I had asked Steve if he wanted to head up to the sierra the following week.  He gave me a wishy-washing answer and said if he could it would be only for one day.  One day suicide runs are no longer what I want to do anymore so I looked through the Rolodex to find anyone else who could fish with me on a weekday.  Most of my friends can't get out until weekends but I was trying to avoid that.  I thought of Luc.  Normally he would be on the top of the list but I've asked him if he wanted to go after snowbows in the past but he's always pooh-poohed the idea.  At least that was my impression.  After all he's caught real steelhead he didn't need to go after the imitation versions.  Even with this on my mind, now that he's retired maybe he'd have a change of heart.  I mean he's got nothing to do but fish now anyways.  So I texted him and he was game.
My initially plan was to three days and camp the whole time but I altered that after some serious consideration.  At 68 Luc is in good shape but he's also no spring chicken.  This trip would require us to park away from the water and hike miles in the snow.  I wasn't too sure how many days of that Luc's legs could handle.  In addition night time temps were forecasted to be below freezing.   So after some deliberations with Luc we altered the plan.  We'd fish two days with the option to fish a third depending on how he felt and how good or bad the fishing was.  The blueprint for the trip would be the same as what I did earlier in the year.  First day fish Hot Creek and the second we'd fish hard on the Upper.  I wasn't sure what the conditions were going to be like.  Despite warming temps did we need snowshoes?  I asked some locals before the trip but they hadn't been in the valley for a while so they couldn't help.  So I brought them just in case.  After spending Monday night at Luc's we awoke at 4am to head up north.  We arrived at the parking lot after 10am.  The warm temps had packed much of the snow making the snowshoes unnecessary.  We hiked to the geological site and made our way down.
Initial plan was to fish the Interpretative Site to save Luc's legs but when we drove past there were already five trucks parked there.  Disappointed we drove up to see how the gorge looked.  There were three cars already parked there too.  It was discouraging to see all those vehicles but I was reminded that many locals simply park here to hike the road or walk their dogs.  So I wasn't too disheartened and decided to start hiking from there.  It ended up being a good decision.  We made it to the end.  I wasn't too sure Luc could make it there and I'd ask at every put-in if he wanted to enter from there but he just said let's keep going.  Once we made it to the water we had the creek all to ourselves until about two when crowds started to fall in and the hatch slowed considerably.
Fishing was excellent until then.  Luc started with a parachute Adams and a dropper.  I would start with a trico Found Link.  I missed my first two rises and I'd miss many more throughout the day.  Eventually I started hooking up on fish.  Same with Luc.  We'd miss or lose ten fish to every one landed.  By the end of the day we'd probably have 100 takes between the two of us with fish up to 13 inches.
We had about a quarter mile left before we started to run into other anglers.  By this time the red hot fishing slowed to a halt.  Not sure if the holes were blown up by the anglers or if it was simply the hatch stopped.  We weren't seeing too many bugs on the water so it was probably the latter.
Once we reached the first entry point we decided to quit and head out.  There wasn't much water left to fish anyhow and it would have probably been fished out away.  On the hike out I saw that Luc was starting to get winded and I told him to give me his vest.  I'd hike out ahead of him and told him to take his time.  I'd be waiting for him at the truck with drinks and a sandwich. 
Earlier when coming up to here I thought of driving the snowed out road but thought against it once I saw the conditions.  I turned around and parked where everyone was stopped.  The last thing I wanted to do was dig myself out of there.  On the way out a truck was making his way up the snow packed road.  From about 500 yards away I was shaking my head trying to tell him not to continue.  At about 100 yards away from him he managed to get his truck stuck and he kept spinning his wheels.  He wasn't in four wheel and he was simply making things worse by trying to gun it out of it.  Once I reached him he had already lowered his window peaking out at his wheels.  I asked him if he had a shovel and he said he did.  I started to take off my backpack and asked him if he wanted me to help.  After trying save his ego and giving me every excuse why he got stuck he refused my invitation and said he just needed to put it in 4 low and he'd be fine.  With that I left him and made it back to my truck some 1000 yards away. By the time we left thirty minutes later he'd still be there.
A sandwich was ready for Luc when he finally made it back to the truck.  And after eating resting a bit we made our way down the valley to our roach motel in Bishop.  There we prepared for the following day.  Luc would teach me a new knot and I'd show him how Tom Loe rigs his egg patterns.  While carrying out Luc's vest I noticed how heavy it was and told him to remove most if it as he wouldn't need all that stuff tomorrow.  Knowing the hike to come I wanted him as light as possible.  We'd go out to dinner once we prepped all our gear.  The first option Mercado Mexico was closed so we hit the Roadhouse instead.  Went to bed early and I ended up waking at 2:30am and couldn't fall back asleep.  To be continued...