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Catch Reports 2017

Walker Lake 8/10


Monday August 7 I once again found myself northbound 395 to June Lakes to fish Walker Lake just north of The Loop, where four years ago I experienced a great time catching many brown and rainbow trout.  Any time a lake of this elevation (7,926 ft.), size (76 acres) and depth (100 ft.?)  has browns eating rainbows all night, there will be a behemoth patrolling the shore in the evening.

Access isn’t easy.  You drive a two mile dirt road to a trailhead at the top of a ridge then walk down a steep trail for a mile toward the back of the lake.  This keeps the crowds at bay however today there were 20 cars and trucks in the lot.  When I stopped by in May I was thwarted by a sign in the middle of the road proclaiming closed due to a giant rut caused by this past winter’s deluge. Today as I traversed the gravel I could not detect any road issues and the ride was smooth. 

I pre-loaded my pack yesterday.  All I had to do was lace up my boots, strap on the 75 pounds and gently descend into the thick forest.  From one vantage point I could see all the sagebrush and trees burned by The Walker Fire of 2015.

Not much past an hour I was at the inlet crossing a log bridge noting a larger volume of water flowing into the lake.  Tall green grasses covering wet soil made perfect habitat for clouds of a small variety of mosquito repelled by DEET 100 rubbed on any bare hand and leg skin.  I had to duck under five aspen trees that were growing rapidly over the trail.  Once at the junction with the Bloody Canyon Trail, I turned left, walked 25 feet then cut through a sagebrush flat to a stand of four Jeffery pines, where I made camp last time.

After setting up I had two hours to kill before the 17:30 big brown prime time lure flinging.  I used my folding pack saw to clear out three large dead branches at camp then went over the trail and removed those aspens that were in my face.

I was able now to hike more freely back to camp, set up my 12-pound Rapala casting outfit, gather up net and water and walk over to a good casting point half way out the north shore.  The trail was muddy and the flora was thick but in seven minutes I began the evening’s session.  I could plainly see the point of origin of the fire.  It was a two-foot diameter circle in the middle of the trail where someone started a small campfire with no rock ring.

Here in Mono County night fishing is prohibited.  At this lake you have to be careful to sorta-kinda obey the one-hour-after-sunrise regulation due to the relatively easy access to the lake.  There could be wardens keeping an eye on you.  Other waters in the wilderness that take all day to pack to, you don’t have to worry so much.  Just don’t say in your report you caught one at 10 pm.

The lake is supposed to have not only rainbows and browns but also brook trout but I have never caught nor even seen any.  This evening I used a rainbow pattern J-13 Rapala.  My Casio Fishing Timer watch predicted quitting time at 20:55, way earlier than what I would like.  Another way to detect sunset time is to look east to the clouds.  As soon as they stop reflecting light, that’s it.  You legally have only an hour to get the job done.

When you are fishing at the other side of the lake from the main access trail, nobody will see you if you don’t turn on a light.  The full moon was not up yet so if I did catch something big, I would have to click on my headlight to be able to net it.  Also walking back to camp you need a light and all the illumination against the trees will be noticeable from a mile away, both a potential bust.

To be on the safe side (right, me?) I packed it all in at 21:15 and headed back to camp.  Not one bite was noticed while using the big lure.

Tuesday morning I was up relatively early at nine and after breakfast gathered up my four- and six-pound poles and gear stuffed into my pack and ventured back to the casting point.  Last time I was here I tried dough bait, inflated baby nightcrawlers and Kastmasters and learned a few things.  First was don’t cast very far out to the deep zone.  While soaking bait fifteen or twenty feet out I caught most of the fish, mainly browns using the worm.  Today I could see three large browns in the crystal clear water patrolling very close to shore.  Also I had a good time reeling in many rainbows and browns using the lure.

Fishing today was slower than what I remembered from last time.  I fan cast the Thomas Buoyant and Kastmaster for at least four hours from the two nearby openings between trees to various depths but did not have a single hit.

However in that time I was able to catch two browns using the crawler but it was three hours between hook-ups.  The rig consisted of a four-foot leader of two pound test tied to the four-pound main line using a blood knot, a #6 Owner baitholder hook and a small split shot squeezed on just above the knot.  I used an insulin syringe to inflate the worm so that it would float off the bottom.

The first one was fourteen inches, fat body with small head  All the fish in this lake are super nice quality.  What a ding-dong I left my net at camp and had to grab the fish with open fingers under the belly to flip it onto shore.  You can’t just stick your fingers into their mounts due to their rows of mini shark teeth that will shred your skin. 

The next one was even bigger and fought hard against the light line, taking drag out left and right before I could tire it out enough to be able to grab.  Just then a couple walked by for the show.  They had a laugh watching me struggle to bring this fighter to land.  They were jazzed how big and colorful the fish was and I mentioned this was my second one of the day.  Before installing it into the creel I pulled out the other one for a proud boastful display.

Three o’clock was lunch and nap time.  I eviscerated both fish, removed the heads, buried the guts and stashed their bodies in a zip bag inside a trash bag under a log in a shady section of the freezing cold creek for safe storage.

At five thirty I was back to the point casting the Rapala, listening to The Giants beat The Cubs starting at seven when the AM signals rolled in.  Again nothing much attracted to the lure even though I know there are many big ones around.  Then at the rule breaking time of 21:05 I had a sizeable hit that bent the rod and speedily pulled drag for two seconds before getting stuck.  Disappointed, I thought to myself, dam I had the drag set tight but you need it somewhat loose for when something hits close to shore, as there will be less line out from the spool to stretch. 

I slacked off hoping the fish would swim off on its own but after five minutes I could tell that guess was futile.  I walked over to the right as far as I could to the next big tree at the waterline and reared back, pulling the twelve pound line with as much force as I could and just before the breaking point, to my surprise, it freed!  I could tell it was good size but already tired out.  I scooped out with the net an eighteen incher weighing in at a solid two pounds.   It had hooked itself with all three prongs of the lure’s tail treble right in the belly and it’s stomach was poking out the rip.  On the way back to camp I added it to my stash in the creek.

Wednesday morning I was up even earlier and wanted to fish the big rock past the point.  By eight thirty I happened upon a fisherman who was tossing a Roostertail lure without any luck.  I mentioned last time I was here I caught a bunch using a lure but had not one bite yesterday on the Kastmanster or Thomas Buoyant and that I will use nightcrawlers and Gulp bait all day today.  He said he doesn’t have any worms with him because he has been hiking all through The Sierra the past three weeks and guessed, probably correctly, live bait would not last long enough to be usable today.  He started at Red’s Meadow near Mammoth, hiked John Muir Trail and some other trails to Yosemite Valley, then from there hiked to Tuolumne Meadows to pick up a stash of pre-mailed food at the post office then walked over Bloody Pass to Walker.  There is no other greater love for The Sierra.  I said that’s not for me.  My shtick is to hike five or six miles, park for a week, fish, then hike out.

His next leg was to hike to the highway to hitch a ride back to Mammoth where he would take a bus to Lancaster, metro rail to LAX then fly home to Texas.  I said bra I got you covered.  I’m bailing in the morning and will dump you off in Mammoth on the way home.  Meet me at the log bridge over the inlet at 9am.  Off to the big rock I went.

On the way I spotted a paper sign in plastic nailed to a tree from the California DFW asking that any Kamloops rainbows with their adipose fins removed be released unharmed back to the lake, as they are using these waters as a Kamloops brood stock farm.  Not sure how they will manage that.  Maybe when the rainbows spawn in the inlet creek they will scoop up the eggs and take them to the nearest hatchery to raise like they do with golden trout.

At the rock first thing I see cruising by is a Kamloops with its fin cut off.  I dunked the worm right in its face and just like that I had my first catch of the day.  After the photo it was set free as suggested by the sign.

I recast the worm outfit as described from yesterday and with my other rod I cast an inflated worm/Gulp bait combo out as far as I could with a ½ ounce egg sinker.  Just then hikerdude stopped by.  I asked if he took lots of pictures of his adventure and he proceeded to show me many, all very beautiful.  I gave him my information and asked that he send me his gallery link after he publishes them.

Standing atop the rock I could see three nice size browns swimming around then in an hour I had another bite as signaled by the fish pole bell attached to the worm rod going crazy .  It felt pretty good size but didn’t fight very well.  It was yet another one of those Kamloops with big head and small body released unscathed.

I noticed when I cast the bait combo with the big sinker, the area wasn’t very deep.  When I reeled in to check the status of the wad I ended up landing two large strands of weeds.  I told dude I’m going back to the point where it is deeper.  He said ok catch ya at the log at 9 tomorrow.  I confirmed with a yessir.

At the point I made sure the Gulp and worm floated then cast out as far as I could.  It took twenty seconds to hit bottom; very deep.  With my other rod I flipped the worm-only set-up about twenty feet out.  With both alarm bells set I relaxed in the dirt against a backstop rock.  About an hour later I hear children coming.  Across the lake a young couple with six kids ages baby to 14 hiked down to fish where the trail meets the lake.  The bad news was they were all yelling and screaming making a bunch of noise.  The good news was they are going to frighten all the fish over to my side of the lake.  That trick worked.  The bell on the combo rig went off and as I cranked in I could tell I hooked another big one as felt by the way it fought.  After seven minutes of drag pulling and generally resisting with force I netted a seventeen incher just under two pounds, again with fat body and small head.

An hour later I heard a ding ding emanating from my worm rod and I was on again to yet another battle with a big fat seventeen-inch beautiful brown netted and slid into the creel.  The pace of catching didn’t match last time but the quality of the fish was the best I’ve had in years.  At Secret Brown Trout Lake the fish this size don’t have a chance to eat bait because the small brook trout vermin will attack your offering immediately.

At lunch ‘n’ nap time I stashed the pair in the creek bags with the other three fish then headed back to camp to rest before the night’s casting session.  As I approached my clandestine establishment I didn’t see my tent in the distance between the trees like I thought I should.  When I walked up I found out why.  I suffered a bear raid.  The tent and contents were in a flattened wad with both poles broken and the rain fly was slashed.  Not sure why the tent attack as the only items in there were my jacket, sleeping bag and Thermarest pad, which was now popped and useless.  I absent mindedly left my Tang bottle out and it was all chewed looking like someone shot it up with a 22.  Also it bit through my Reliance collapsible water jug, which I do not understand.  It’s only water and there’s plenty of clean H2O around.  My bear keg was covered with filthy dried slobber and to add insult the attacker took a big dump right there.  Nice of him not to do that on my tent, I guess.

I had one extra tent pole and was able to re-pitch it well enough to keep the mosquitoes off while I snoozed, now on the hard ground.  I realized the hard way I made two mistakes when I left to fish this morning.  The obvious was leaving the Tang bottle out.  Once he got a taste of that he went on a rampage looking for more.  Second was I had the bear keg sitting in camp and should have walked it over fifty feet away to some other trees and rocks, all noted for the next trip.

Oh what a beautiful evening back at the point, where this instance I brought my worm rig to soak while I launched the rainbow Rapala.  About an hour in, the bell went off and I fought and landed another drag-pulling seventeen-inch fat brown just under two pounds.  I re-wormed the hook and tossed out but nothing else bit the bait the rest of the night.

Meanwhile I had more action than usual with the Rapala.  In the next four hours I had three big hits but to my chagrin I only fought each for ten seconds before they unhooked.  They all felt like two pounders at least.  I was devastated.

Thursday morning after a final night of trying to sleep on hard ground I rolled up camp, ate and was at the log bridge collecting my fish a little before nine.  As I removed them from the plastic bags and inserted each of the six into a wet creel, hikerdude shows and was amazed by the size of the catch.  I wrapped the creel in a wet T-shirt, then hung the strap over the back of the pack around the top part of the frame to keep the meat cool and fresh for the hike out.

Once we crossed the creek I had dude take the point and told him meet me at the ancient white Toyota truck with camper shell all the way over to the left.  I am old and decrepit and you will make it the mile up the steep pathway long before me.

I took my time, enjoyed the views and met up with dude in ninety minutes; no big ordeal.  As we kicked back he was able in five minutes to reserve a room at the Mammoth Travel Lodge using his iPhone.  We stopped to look at a full Grant Lake and bought ice for the fish and drinks at the June Lake Junction store.  Twenty minutes later in the hotel lobby he confirmed his reservation, we shook hands and I was on the road home.  I hope he sends that link with all his pics.  They were spectacular and I cannot wait to share.