August 31, 2009

I Thought I Knew, But I Was Wrong...

This last Friday we spent a day up at about 9,500 feet fishing some of the eastern sierra waters out of Bridgeport. The original intent was to hike to and camp at Tamarack Lake for several nights and fish for brook trout in both Tamarack and Hunewill Lakes; however, as D-day for the camping trip grew closer, the plans slowly changed: Monday... now it's a two night trip and we have to be back early on Sunday... Tuesday... we have to change the dates because of some inane excuse... Wednesday... now it's a one-night trip and we have to be back before Saturday evening... Thursday, we have to change the camp site because the forest is under fire restriction (camping up there without a fire can get a little chilly at night... trust me... I know). The night before - I was hesitant to assume that the trip was really going to happen, but I knew I was going by myself if I had to...

Much to my surprise everybody was ready to go and on-time at 5 am on Friday morning, which was really weird for these guys considering that Josh is (or was) the king of, "I'm just leaving," but won't show for at least 30 minutes after he said he would, and Jason is the master of the shade-out (shade-out = no call/no show... you know... stuff you'd get fired for at your job). Good people, just not very punctual. I guess these guys had a change of heart. Either that or they were scared that I might break in to their houses and drag them out - when it comes to fishing, I don't really mess around.

After an irregularly on-time exit from the ville we made a quick stop at my parent's place to pick-up some wood, a float tube, and (to our surprise) some world famous artery clogging calorie dumping tooth rotting delicious double fudge brownies. If you've ever had Sue Plank brownies, you know what I'm talking about. After that we were on our way. It's really a short drive to Bridgeport from Pollock, only about 2 and a half hours, but we managed to make it there in less than 2. When the anticipation builds so does the amount of lead in my foot. Let's just say that there were a few corners through the Walker canyon where I deposited some tire rubber.

No trip south to Bridgeport would be the same if we didn't stop at the casino in Topaz... not to gamble though... The Topaz Chevron is home to some of the finest road toilets in Nevada. Clean tile floors, spotless vanity mirrors, and an unending supply of 2-ply that you just don't find roadside anywhere else. Josh gave it the Howenstine seal of approval.

After we pitted for a few, we hauled-ass up to the Trumbull lake campground to try and secure a campsite before the grounds filled up with yahoos from so. cal.

Every year there are more and more people in these campgrounds. Not just one specific campground, but ALL of them throughout Bridgeport are filling up every weekend. I called the ranger station on Thursday to check the availability and the woman in the office said that the reservation sites had all been reserved for the entire weekend at all of the camp grounds in the region. If we were going to get a first come/first serve site we were going to have to get there early, so we did, and there were only three open sites. One was covered in small 5 to 10 pound sharp pointy rocks (perfect for tent camping), the second was about 18 inches away from the pit toilets (audible range), and the third (thank god) was decent. Without that last site we would've been pretty much screwed, or nauseous the entire time.

I was a little unsure at first as to whether this site had been reserved or not (the campground's reservation system wasn't exactly a perfect science), so we quickly threw everything out of the truck and set up camp and took off before anyone could say anything. We paid of course. I don't think anyone was going to say anything anyway, not after we unloaded a small arsenal of shotguns, rifles, handguns, and about 75 pounds of ammunition from the bed of the truck.

It was funny to see the looks on people's faces as they walked out of their RV-4-Rent trailers to see 4 sketchy-looking 20-something guys cocking shotguns next door at 8 in the morning. No amount of paper-thin rental-trailer wall was going to put their minds at ease that night.

From the campground, we drove for 12 or so miles up a dirt road towards the lakes before hitting the trailhead.

The last time we came up to these lakes we had the unfortunate luck of arriving immediately following a flash cold front and snow storm, and after an hour and a half of hiking through the snow we came upon two very frozen lakes... Needless to say, we didn't really catch many fish that trip... This trip was to be the reconciliation and reparation for our botched trip two years ago... boy was I wrong...

A beautiful hike and a beautiful lake...

But no fish...

The fishing was so shitty at Tamarack that we didn't even bother hiking the extra 500 vertical to get to Hunewill. If there was even the slightest possibility that the fishing was half as bad at Hunewill as it was at Tamarack we weren't going to exert the energy to find out.

We fished the entire shore line of Tamarack. I tried, literally, every fly in the fly box with not even a look. We saw a few fish, but they weren't moving for anything. I even stomped in the water about 4 feet from three stationary fish and it didn't even spook 'em. They just sat there and laughed. The only time I could really get the fish to move is when the flies would bounce off their faces, and even then they were moving to get out of the way. Streamers, dries, midges, caddis, PT's, emergers, stones, terrestrials, you name it... nothing...

I think the high frustration levels were pretty obvious when I looked over and the other three guys had stripped-down to their underoos and jumped in after the fish. Jason busted-out the birthday suit to try and save some flies from being victimized by a rogue tree branch. He saved the flies, but not without being immortalized by color photography first:

Sasquatch has been found, shaved, tattooed, wearing sunglasses, and in the Hoover Wilderness. I don't know which was funnier, Jason naked in the wilderness, or Ryan's very manly undergarments.

Jason and Ryan put their drawers back on on we split. Enough was enough.

That was it... not a single fish... I though I knew for sure that we were going to slay these fish all day in that lake... I though I knew, but I was wrong....

All hope hadn't been lost though. There was one more piece of water on the way out that was either going to make or break the trip. Two beaver ponds along the trail were all that was left. As we came up on the ponds we saw some fish rising here and there which reignited the fire in Ryan and Jason. Both of them bolted to edge of the reeds to get their line in the water. Meanwhile, I followed the trail around to the other side of the pond to an open area in the reeds and started casting. Mind you, this is not a large body of water, in fact, at its deepest the pond is probably about 20 inches deep with a surface area of about 60 feet by 30 ft, but we could see fish in there, and lots of 'em.

First cast... fish on... Second cast... fish on... Third cast... fish on...

Then, like the fishing gods had finally been appeased, everybody started hooking a fish every cast. Not huge fish, but beautiful 8-10 inch brookies. Fish after fish after fish to hand. Now that's what we were looking for, but next time remind us to not hike the extra 1/2 mile past these beaver ponds to not catch anything.

I think in a matter of about 15 minutes we had hooked and released 20 fish each which, I'm pretty sure, composed the entire fish population of that tiny beaver pond. Shortly after, the rises stopped and we were looking at each other wondering what was next. Then, like I could have guessed, Jason, Ryan, and Josh all stripped-down again and began to ford the boggy marsh of reeds to another beaver pond about 50 yards away. I hesitated to follow, but I was the only one who wore shorts which meant that I got to keep my clothes on, so I took my shoes off and went for it.

First step into the reeds was sort of like stepping into a giant barrel of cottage cheese (not that I've ever done that): really soft but kinda' firm at the same time, and probably smelled about the same. As your foot pressed the reeds down into the water you could see the mud coming up through their roots as they began to snap under foot. Every additional ounce of weight placed onto a single foot caused you to break through more and more roots which meant that you were sinking deeper and deeper. If you went slow enough you would prevent all of the roots from snapping at once which would keep you high enough to keep your knees (and your shorts) above the swampy water. If you were to stand in place and jump quickly you would snap all the roots keeping you up and just sink about 2 more feet in the swamp mud, not to mention the random spots where you would step and instantly sink up to your belly button. Josh probably has a few words to describe that feeling.

Jason had no problem with the swamp because his legs are about 10 feet long but the rest of us suffered a little trying to get to the other pond.

I think Josh suffered the most. I looked over and there he was desperately hanging on to some reeds, submerged just below his elbows, "Uhhhh... Can I get some help?.... I think I'm stuck..." he said quietly... I tried to get over to him, but that wasn't happening. Another moment in which I couldn't help but laugh quietly... Sorry Josh, but it was pretty funny...

After braving the boggy marsh we finally made it to the second beaver pond where we were hoping that the fishing was going to be just as good as the first (it better have been considering the Vietnam creep we just went through to get there), and it was. Fish after fish after fish... Every cast... Jason was able to use his stilts to get to some prime real estate where I think he managed 30 or so fish without moving a foot.

Again, the rest of us were left to splash around in the muck, but that didn't slow any of us down, each of us got at least 10-20 fish apiece even waist deep in...well... waste.

These fish weren't the slightest bit choosy, if it floated and looked like it might have legs, they were eating it. Well-worth the trip across the tar pits.

Crawling out of the swamp was just as fun as crawling in. I think Josh ended-up waist deep a couple more time as did Ryan. Once out, I got a chance to look down at my feet, which felt fine while I was in the swamp, and was happy to see some blood and nice cuts all over the sides of my feet and in-between my toes... still worth it... We all washed our legs and feet off in the cold clear creek running into the pond, or at least it looked clear. Everybody but Jason made it out of the creek clean and feeling good. Jason had the pleasure of pulling some high sierra leeches off his ankles courtesy of the creek... still worth it... and pretty funny that it only happened to Jason...

Walking back down the trail felt much better after having caught 40 or so fish. I couldn't imagine hiking all that way having not caught a single fish. It would be like hiking all the way to a lake like... oh let's say... Showers lake... and not touching a fish... that would suck... good thing that's never happened to me before.

A little smokier on the way down, but we were all so tired that I don't think it mattered.

Again, another successful day of fishing even though we didn't catch any fish out of our destination lake. We all had fun and caught plenty of fish as well as some bacteria out of the swamp.

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