The following appears in the April issue of California Sportsman:
By Tim E. Hovey
When spring rolls around, the Hovey clan puts up all the hunting gear and we begin the transition into the fishing season. We usually loosely plan weekend fishing trips to the coast or toss rods in the truck during camping trips to fish for trout in high mountain streams.
We essentially don’t make any long-term plans to fish anywhere specific. We just go when time permits. This year, however, things are going to be different.
Over the last few years, we’ve made memorable trips into the backcountry to fish for trout. This season we’ve decided to head back to a few of our favorite fishing spots. Some are easy to get to; others not so much. For me, when it comes to fishing the journey doesn’t always matter. I return to certain areas to relive old memories and make new ones.
Back in 2010, I started taking my daughters to the high Sierra for weekend camping trips. Along with some family friends, we’d plan a fishing weekend and spend a few summer days angling from the banks of Rock Creek Lake.
We’d wake up early, hike to the lake and soak PowerBait in the hopes of catching a few stocker trout. To complete the experience, my daughters and I would keep a few pansized fish to cook up for dinner. We usually didn’t catch any real monsters, but they enjoyed catching their first trout on the scenic lake.
It was a father-daughter tradition that we looked forward to every summer and religiously participated in for five years. Unfortunately, as the girls got older, it became tougher to coordinate schedules and we stopped going. We continued to spend time outdoors every chance we got. But getting away for several days was harder to do. I honestly felt like Alyssa and Jessica outgrew the trek to the high country to fish for stocker trout.
But a few months ago Jessica and I were out running errands and we started talking about plans for the summer. Out of the blue, she suggested we gather up the camping gear and head back to the lake.
She mentioned that she really missed camping and fishing for trout. A few years older and tougher, she even suggested we hike to one of the high-elevation lakes to try our luck. I couldn’t have been happier
While we were discussing the planned summer trip, it occurred to me that I had only assumed that my daughters had outgrown the camping trips. I had never really asked them about it. That was my mistake. This summer we’ll once again load up the camping gear and head to the high country to try our luck.
In a time when cell phones and school drama are frequently at the forefront of most teenagers’ minds, my daughters still want to camp out and fish with their dad in the Sierra. And I can’t wait.
TROUT OF GOLD
Last year, my good buddy Ed Davis – he and I have been hunting together for over a decade – called and asked if I wanted to join him for a high-elevation fly fishing trip to look for golden trout. During a few previous trips, Ed had tried to educate me on the subtleties of fly fishing. It has not been an easy task for him.
As a lifelong angler, I hadn’t fished more than a handful of times with a fly rod in my hand. I just had no desire to learn. Despite my reluctance, Ed and I headed to the Horseshoe Meadows area last summer.
Using a 40-year-old fly rod and a borrowed reel, we fished the narrow creek for a few hours catching dozens of beautiful goldens.
Something clicked for me during that trip. I finally saw why this type of angling appealed to Ed. I enjoyed the skill involved in sneaking up to the trout and gently casting the small fly. That day, I became a fly fisherman. A week later the brand-new fly rod and reel I ordered arrived at my front door.
With conflicting schedules and warmer-than-normal temperatures, Ed and I weren’t able to get out again last summer, but last month he sent me a text mentioning that he was headed back to the land of the golden trout this summer and wanted to know if I was interested in going. He added that we might want to hike to a few of the upper lakes on this trip to try our luck.
I walked out to the garage and took the new fly rod out. I looked over a few of the flies Ed had given me during last year’s trip. I grabbed my phone and attached a photo of a golden trout I had taken last year to the text Ed had sent me. Under the photo I typed, “Let’s go!”
Needless to say, the return trip is already planned.
HIKE TO THE TOP
A true benefit of my job as a fisheries biologist is that I frequently discover amazing, out-of-the-way fishing spots during my weekly aquatic monitoring runs. Due to their remote locations, I usually have these angling gems mostly to myself.
A couple of years ago, I was conducting a stream survey on a creek on the back side of the Coastal Range. We already knew the creek contained a healthy population of wild trout that occupied the mainstem. What we didn’t know was how much of the drainage contained trout.
A natural fish barrier was located several miles upstream and we had no idea if trout were present above it. The plan was to hike up the main creek to the barrier and then continue further upstream to look for fish.
I called Russ Barabe, another fisheries biologist located in San Diego, and asked him if he wanted to tag along. While planning the survey, he asked if I thought he should bring a fishing rod. Almost without thinking, I said yes.
We got an early start, headed upstream and decided to focus on the survey of the upstream barrier first. We reluctantly passed by over a dozen trout-filled pools to get the work done first.
At around noon we reached the barrier and hiked around it. After seeing trout in just about every pool during the hike up, it was rather obvious that the waters above the barrier were vacant of trout.
We had lunch at an amazing spot and started the trek back out of the drainage. We fished several amazing pools with small lures and flies, and the trout kept coming. The fish were smaller but fought great and were brilliantly colored.
We spent several hours picking apart some of the bigger pools and catching lots of fish. As far as numbers go, it was one of my best trout fishing days ever. That trip occurred three years ago and ever since, I’ve been hoping to get back into that canyon to fish for the colorful trout.
Earlier this year I saw Russ at a staff meeting and he brought up the trip. He said if I plan a return survey, he’d be interested in helping out. Fishing rods in hand, we’ll revisit the drainage this June.
READY TO FISH
I always look forward to fishing familiar spots during the season. For us, these spots hold great fishing and good memories. It really doesn’t matter how many trout we catch or how big they are. I’m just looking to make more memories in the outdoors with good friends and family. CS