View Full Version : Wilderness Adventures In The High Sierras

08-06-2008, 02:09 PM
It was early in the 1900s when my wife's family first packed into the Emigrant wilderness and beyond, into the wilds, and off the beaten track of Yosemite National Park. Ironically my family was doing the same thing at the same time. Fishing and packing have always been a huge part of both families history. My wife's family has been very active in the Leavitt Meadows Pack Station over the years. Thus, for the last year we had planned a trip into the wilderness to fish and retrace the rugged Emigrant Trail and the haunts of both our families grandfathers. The following is a brief account of our adventure and quest for wild High Sierra trout!http://i46.photobucket.com/albums/f132/washoe_pirate/IMG_3808.jpg *The first day was spent packing our mules and riding to the luxouriouse and well equiped Leavitt Pack Station base camp at Walker Meadows. When we arrived we quickly unpacked and made our way to the creek for brookies. They hit just about anything, but my weapon of choice was a 4wt fly rod, floating line, and a size 20 dry adams. It was a fish every cast and mostly brookies with the occasional rainbow (biggest going 13 inches). We threw everything back, but I probably caught 30 or 40 fish in the little pools in a couple of hours.http://i46.photobucket.com/albums/f132/washoe_pirate/IMG_3813.jpg The second day was spent retracing the Emigrant Trail over the Sierras. We rode through places people should not be and to imagine over 2000 wagons and 30,000 head of stock passed over these mountains during the early 1850s. http://i46.photobucket.com/albums/f132/washoe_pirate/IMG_3816.jpg The wildflowers were awesome, and the horses and mules were magnificent going over Bon Pass. We made camp at Dorthy Lake after a long day riding. The fish here were rainbows going to 15 inches, and fought like 20 inch fish. I used the same fly set-up as Walker Meadows. I have no idea how many fish we caught that evening. The others in the group used lures and caught just as many feisty bows as I did. I'm not sure when DFG last planted this lake, but it appears to be a sustainable fishery with good age distribution. http://i46.photobucket.com/albums/f132/washoe_pirate/IMG_3828.jpg
The third day we fished Dorthy in the morning, with better success than the previous evining. The bows turned on at about 10 am hitting hatching duns everywhere. We packed up and rode to Tilden Lake, a hard ride on an unmaintained trial in Yosemite National Park. The Park Service needs to spend some money on trail maintenance here. Tilden lake is off the PCT and is a huge lake for the Sierras.http://i46.photobucket.com/albums/f132/washoe_pirate/IMG_3833.jpg *We reached the lake late in the afternoon, unpacked and targeted wild bows and golden/bow crosses. I used the same dry fly set-up and the rest of the crew used lures. I caught a few on a dry then switched to Thomas Boyents for huge success. I think I landed a 14 inch cross and boy was he pretty!!! http://i46.photobucket.com/albums/f132/washoe_pirate/IMG_3829.jpg *We gazed at the stars and meteors shooting by at night as the horses feed in the meadow. In the morning we woke and made our way up the lake. It was just about every cast with a dry fly or a lure. We were sight fishing 15 inchers that jumped 15 times when you hooked into one. http://i46.photobucket.com/albums/f132/washoe_pirate/IMG_3831.jpg *I broke off countless times and got quite good at tying nail knots. We worked our way to the mouth of the creek that feeds Tilden. We fished up the creek, destination Mary Lake. Note that these subject lakes are a minimum of two day hard ride in. Walking would take longer. Mary Lake was suppose to hold goldens last planted in the 1950s. We fished up the creek with small dries. We caught bow/golden crosses low in the creek. We caught goldens higher in the watershed. I don't know how many goldens I caught in the little pools (maybe over 50?). http://i46.photobucket.com/albums/f132/washoe_pirate/IMG_3838.jpg *We through all the fish back, but kept a few bows from Tilden for the griddle on the trail up to Mary. I am glad we threw all the fish back because when we got to Mary we found it to be void of fish. It may be it is just a typical golden lake with wary fish, but between four of us we never had a bite using flies and lures. DFG hasn't planted this lake in years and unfortunately we didn't even see a golden. This was a awsome spot though http://i46.photobucket.com/albums/f132/washoe_pirate/IMG_3837.jpg *Many lakes in this area are currently undergoing management for YYLF and are being poisoned which does not sit well with me. We hiked back down the trail to Tilden, catching goldens on the way down http://i46.photobucket.com/albums/f132/washoe_pirate/IMG_3839.jpg *then hit Tilden for the evening bite which was off the hook!!!

The fifth day into the trip we rode to Benson Lake. We rode through the equivalent of double black diamond terrain for skiers/boarders all day. Up and down Stubblefield and Karrate Canyon into Benson. Benson is way in there but holds awesome bows, stunning views, and a white sand beach. This beach was a welcome sight equipped with topless sunbathers of the female variety, and plenty of room to park it for the night. My father in law packed his float tube in and the next morning he was on the water. I recommend a small raft or float tube for this lake, because to get to the good fishing you have to be a mountain goat and half way crazy and in good physical shape. http://i46.photobucket.com/albums/f132/washoe_pirate/IMG_3854.jpg *I barely made it around the lake alive but was pleasantly rewarded with nearly a 100 fish day. http://i46.photobucket.com/albums/f132/washoe_pirate/IMG_3855.jpg *All bows and brooks ranging to 16 inches. My weapon of choice was the standard dry fly set-up with a size 12 grasshopper imitation. It was awesome watching the bows swim up from the deep to hit the bug on the surface (air jaws came to mind). Benson Lake... two days off the beaten path, great views, stellar fishing, and great climbing and cliff jumping. Definatly a sustainable fishery with good age distribution.

The seventh day into the trip we rode back up Karrate Canyon to Peeler Lake located in the mountains above Twin Lakes. http://i46.photobucket.com/albums/f132/washoe_pirate/IMG_3871.jpg *We basically rode a 20 mile swath around Tower Peak. Peeler lake gets hit hard and I caught only four small bows. This lake drains to the west and to the east. I think this lake needs to be subsidized with plants because it gets so much pressure. We saw more people here than any other place on the trip.

Day eight was spent riding up the rest of Karrate Canyon to Buckeye Pass, into upper Buckeye Canyon and over to Upper Piaute Meadows where we camped. http://i46.photobucket.com/albums/f132/washoe_pirate/IMG_3905.jpg *We camped where our families had camped in the meadow when there were wolverines, wolves, and griz still in the hills. We fished the creek and then went to a secrete family spot that holds goldens for the last of our fishing. I wont name this spot but will say it is impossible to get to for most people. This is a special spot that only holds a few remnant wild fish of the past. If anyone ever stumbles across this place you will know it from it beauty and bounty of brilliant golden fish in the small reach of stream where they still exist. There is nothing better or more rewarding for a fisherman than the flash of red and gold when a golden trout shoots out of the water for a well presented dry fly!! http://i46.photobucket.com/albums/f132/washoe_pirate/IMG_3888.jpg *This is a very sacred place for our families and I ask that if anyone who reads this finds this spot please respect it and release these fish so that our grandchildren will be able to catch a wild golden trout in a stream where their great-great grandfathers did.

This is a wild and relatively untouched wilderness. I hope that everyone who reads this report of fishing the High Sierras considers supporting these wonderful and historic fisheries. Please write letters to your representatives in support of fisheries in the High Sierra lakes and streams. It is a very important part of Calf history. The paradox between golden trout and YYLF will continue but I think we can have both!! I would encourage folks to show support for supplementing non sustainable fisheries i.e. support back country stocking programs!! Lets get some of those native to Calf, wild, pure golden trout planted back into the High Sierra lakes and streams folks, and demand DFG stop unnecessary poisoning!!!

I would like to specially thank and recommend the Leavitt Meadows Pack Station for a wonderful trip and adventure. They have great stock and will accommodate just about anyone. Thanks for reading, and please support High Sierra fisheries!!

08-06-2008, 02:17 PM
Awesome story,pics and so on but where did you get that mackinaw in the first pic ? (at least I think its a mack)


08-06-2008, 02:20 PM
No Mac.....just a brook trout my man!!!

08-06-2008, 02:29 PM
That what I'm talking about! Great fish and great places to visit Pirate! I hope to take my kid back there someday too, that is why I do this ;D I live in Nevada so not sure if our congressmen and women would care much about the California state fish. That brings up a question, is there any lakes in Nevada that have goldens????

08-06-2008, 02:37 PM
I get your point...because I am a resident of Nevada as well these days. I suport those lakes in other ways and I recreate in the Sierras so I will continue to write letters in suport of fish. As for goldens in Nevada.....the state record golden in Nevada is like half an ounce and it came from Hidden Lake in the Rubies. I am confident there are no goldens there any more :(.

08-06-2008, 03:23 PM
Wow, i have no words to say as i read your post. I have always loved the history of the rush to California and crossing the sierras . What it must have been like , the REAL and TRUE stories that you and your wife know first hand. So much is lost or paved over. So Sad too. Thank you so much for your post and sharing . THANK YOU. Love the fish too.

08-06-2008, 03:24 PM
Great post WP! Backcountry fishing at its finest!

08-06-2008, 03:37 PM
I want to be a cowboy baby! I sure wish llamas could carry as much as them mules. This is the best highcountry report ever and I throughly enjoyed it. Sweet looking fish as well!

It is great to hear Dorothy is still one of the better self-sustainers. I have never been to Mary, from my study it looks off-trail and only accessible going up the outlet. Did you find a fishermans trail going up the outlet and did you take the stock all the way to Mary? Peeler does get hit hard with day hikers out of Twin Lakes.

I'm with you on the MYLF issues. I started a topic on the Issues board back this winter but unfortunately it got little to no interest. We have lost and are still loosing many backcountry lakes. I think DFG is very hubris in their decision making. They are not the only ones who know these lakes and they should receive input from folks like you.

Great report and I hope we are treated to more.


08-06-2008, 04:08 PM
just an awesome report and the beauty was evident by your pictures. Thanks for sharing your experience. :)

08-06-2008, 04:09 PM
Great report Washoe,
There are very few chances in life to enjoy such a trip. When I was of a younger nature we used to go on long backpacking trips up in the Sierras. Your tale of the sunbathers reminds me of a day I still remember stumbling across a nudist group near a small lake up on the high. ;D
That is something a young man never forgets.
Your story is one of the better and your trip was as well. Good luck on future endeavors and keep the stories coming.


08-06-2008, 04:28 PM
I also think that is one of the best backcountry reports with pictures I have ever read. Incredible. What a wonderful thing to pass on to your kids and there’s.

Thanks, outstanding story


08-06-2008, 04:29 PM
Great pictures and surley a great trip.

08-06-2008, 04:33 PM
outstanding post and pictures! I especially liked the first picture with the fly gear and brookie!

08-06-2008, 04:46 PM
Washoe, FANTASTIC report. Thanks a bunch. Thanks for taking the trip, getting home, then taking us on a trip! ;) ;) ;)

08-06-2008, 05:10 PM
No Mac.....just a brook trout my man!!!

My bad sorry :-/

Mackattack in awe of your experience :D

08-07-2008, 08:08 AM
Washoe, Looks like an amazing trip ! I remember your golden trout trek pics from last year. Looks like you take some great trips. Always amazes me to think that all those people made it over the sierras over a 150 years ago.

08-07-2008, 08:45 AM
Was this trip through an outfitter or is this a trip somone could do with their own animals? Are there any good maps of the trails you are aware of?

Sounds like a trip of a lifetime!!

08-07-2008, 08:59 AM
Your sierra wilderness post and pic's are the best I have seen on the Fishsniffer board. Absolutely awesome story and pix. Looks like the trip of a lifetime and memories that will also last a lifetime.
Waterdog :)

08-07-2008, 09:14 AM
Washoe, my father and I did that same trip only we walked it back in 1986..we tok 2 weeks and caught fish as you did, great pics sir, thanks for the poat...it brought back lots of great memories, especially Bon Pass, and tyhe mosquitos there and Dorothy lake....Mike

08-07-2008, 09:58 AM
Great report! It is posts like these that get me to try new places and new things. It is awesome that you can have a place like that to take your family and keep in the generations again and again. Keep up the good fight!

08-07-2008, 02:07 PM
Those are some of the most beautiful pictures I've seen on the board all year. gorgeous fish! Thanks for sharing.

08-07-2008, 03:13 PM
Very good report, and thanks for your perch tips on Crowley, I actually caught a couple.* I'm curious if the frog issue is a federal endangered species issue.* If so, fish and game's hands are tied, and no amount of lobbying will help.* The Endangered Species Act has been a boon, as well as a cross for fisherman to bare.* It may eventually wind up saving Columbia River Salmonids, with the demolition of dams, but at the same time, it may erradicate non-native salmonids from the High Sierras.* I can't believe they've gone to the lenghts of poisoning fish.* I would figure they'd give the typical governmental beauracratic run around, where they just stopped planting, and nothing gets done, and everybody says, "That's not my job, ask my boss."* Then the boss says "that's not my department" etc... do you catch what I'm saying?**

08-07-2008, 04:26 PM
What a great trip!!!!! Those are some beautiful wild fish in those pictures. Those mule pack trips seem like the way to go. I gotta look into it. :D

08-07-2008, 04:46 PM
AWESOME REPORT! Definitely a Keeper, Thanks! ;)

08-07-2008, 07:14 PM
Great story, check your PM . IM

08-07-2008, 07:31 PM
A must read! Thanks for sharing.


08-07-2008, 07:49 PM
Outstanding report.... I do miss the backcountry & wilderness lake fishing trips.. After seeing your post I my have to get the backpack.
Bediver :)

08-07-2008, 10:03 PM
An outstanding tirp and report. Thank you for sharing.
That "cross" is absolutely gorgeous as are the goldens as well.


08-08-2008, 05:25 AM
Now that's a fishing report!! I know it took a lot of effort on your part to put it together, but it's obvious we all loved it.[smiley=thumbsup.gif]

08-08-2008, 01:11 PM
Great report, loved your naration and pics.

08-08-2008, 01:42 PM
That was indeed a very special trip and brings back old memories as my last horse/mule pack trip was when I was in high school in Emigrant Wilderness. That was my dad's favorite way to camp. Thank you for sharing your trip with us.

BTW, this beauty sure looks like a cross between a red band and rainbow.

08-08-2008, 04:44 PM
Yep, classy write up. *My favorite post for awhile. *Thanks.

*I didn't get drawn for Nevada Mule Deer this season, so I won't be taking the horses into the Arc Dome Wilderness, southwest of Austin this fall. The fishing in the headwaters of the Reese River there was outstanding. *Reading your post makes me wish otherwise.

08-08-2008, 09:40 PM
That is a beautiful area. I've not been in there since I was a youngster but if the old body would put up with the lack of O2 I would love to go again. I remamber fishing levitt and conic. Golden trount came from conic if I recall. I was at least 40 years younger then and the lack of O2 got to me then.

08-10-2008, 07:46 PM
I've read this three times now and I'm still in awe, what a great time that must have been.
I used to do that stuff on foot but never on horse back. I might have to make a trip like that as one of those things to do before I go.
Thanks for the great story and pictures, inspiring to say the least.

08-10-2008, 07:53 PM
i remember your post from last year was awesome.season 2 was even better!!way to light a fire under everyone who dreams of a trip like that!

08-11-2008, 03:05 PM
Thanks everyone....Usually I have a pack on my back as most of you 8-). This pack trip was more of a traditional (family history) outing than anything. When I am not working I try to get into the Sierras as much as possible, and I have no problems sharing my experiences. The Sierras are full of experiences waiting for someone to enjoy. I hope this thread inspires folks to get away from it all and enjoy the simple things in life like climbing 3000 vertical feet, enduring pounding rain/hail and lightning storms, eating horrible freeze dry food, lack of oxygen, bugs, blisters, all for the chance at a six inch golden trout ;D. Anyhow, its the simple things in life that keep me ticking, so stay tuned for more golden trout walks into the High Sierras. Support back country fisheries, and leave no trace unless on horses where you undoubtedly will leave road apples which decompose and fertilize trailside wildflowers which create nectar for bugs that feed fish ;)!

08-11-2008, 06:08 PM
WOW, add that to my Bucket List.

08-12-2008, 01:32 PM
Wow, great post. If I close my eyes I can hear the creaking of saddle leather and almost smell the, er..... wildflowers!

Thank you very much, you really took me back.

In the 1960's my family ran Shaver Lodge, above Fresno. It's where I meat my wife, & future father-in-law. Prior to my leaving for Nam & as part of an 'initiation' into their family I was invited on a long standing semi-annual horseback camping trip in the Dinky Lakes Wilderness and beyond. I too was taken to a 'secret family place' that held Golden trout. And I'm sworn to secrecy. *:-X

I hadn't thought of that trip in many years and you took me right there! *8-)

I can't believe how similar our stories are. My sister-in-law worked for many years as a wrangler for that packing outfit at Dinky Creek!

I have to agree, this has gotta go on my bucket list!
I wonder if I can ever find that 'Golden' place again?! ;)


08-13-2008, 10:20 AM
Great story. Wish my wife was more adventurous. Maybe my daughter will be....I hope. :(

08-14-2008, 04:08 PM
I'm at work at my desk hating it but it was great going on that day dream.Thanks you got me through the day.Until next time.