By Chris Leonard
“School’s out for summer. School’s out forever. School’s been blown to pieces.” –Alice Cooper
Leave it to Cooper’s 1972 rock classic to best define how hundreds of local kids feel as they arise from bed tardy this morning. Yep, school’s out for summer!
All across America, kids are trading in their math and science textbooks for fly rods, soccer balls and track bikes. I really enjoy teaching, but there’s something to be said about the last day of school when the last bell finally rings and every student in Mono County steps outside the shackles of school into a world of summer freedom. It’s quite the breath of fresh mountain air, and that goes for teachers, as well. I too can handle sleeping in late and waking up with the sole agenda of watching Landon Donovan pass and dribble his team’s soccer ball into the next round of World Cup playoffs, followed by a float tube session at Upper Twin.
Or reading a good book. I did recently enjoy Greg Mortenson’s “Three Cups of Tea,” the true story of building elementary schools throughout Pakistan and Afghanistan where none previously existed; so, yes, it is easy for us to take our life for granted.
But, I like the freedom of summer. I can handle nine weeks of unemployment, with health benefits and paid retirement. This is a great time of year: nothing but trout, dusty trails and cobwebs in empty classrooms. Ah, summer.
As for water flows and bent rods, after coming off of one of the most impressive major snowmelt runoffs this region has seen in several years, the waters are finally starting to simmer down to the point where you can actually catch fish, which is especially helpful if you’re fishing.
One afternoon last week, I debated between riding the 250cc and heading down to Hot Creek. I opted to grab the fly rod to see if any browns or bows could be caught in the blue-ribbon trout fishery just south of town. It’s not an easy choice; I’ve spent a lot of time at Hot Creek and recently uncovered yet another addiction that I’ve always had, but didn’t unleash until this year: trail riding.
I got so tired of hearing from other alpine coaches — in particular Harry Blackburn, who I coach with during the winter months — how much fun trail riding is, that I finally got myself a Yamaha back in February. And for the first time in my life, I can finally appreciate what the racers do at Mammoth Motocross. So, I’ve been riding a lot lately; it’s fun, yet I have to remind myself that if I’m going to guide this summer, I better remember how to catch fish. Besides, it’s not like I was going to catch a lot of trout the first part of June anyway; flows have been crazy (I love rationalization), but are stabilizing.
As a result, angling on Hot Creek is not only turned on again, it’s fishing really well. With the rapid flows, the majority of trout I landed last week was all subsurface nymph fishing. I managed to land quite a few trout with Olive Scuds, Prince Nymphs, and the one and only San Juan Worm. I’ve gotten heat from other fishing guides for fishing Hot Creek with San Juan Worms, as it’s not quite “matching the hatch,” but, honestly, who really cares? I come from the school of thought that fly fishing is more about landing trout than obsessing over bug species.
For what it’s worth, I did appease the entomology crowd by pitching Tent Wing Caddis when the surface feeding happened on and off during the late afternoon. You’ll also successfully surface pluck trout with Elk Hairs, Yellow Stimis, and Yellow Humpies with the right drift. For the first time this season, I’ve seen a real explosion of Caddis on the creek, a sign that summer is truly here.
With the warm temps and feeding frenzy beginning, catching trout at Hot Creek is now about as sure a bet as USC alumni rightfully asking Mike Garrett to clean out his desk and abandon his office before he screws up another sport for the Trojans.
Along with the increase of water flows in the creeks and rivers, our local lakes are very healthily filled to the brim with snowmelt. The lakes above Mammoth (Twin, Mary, Mamie, and George) are ice free and the fishing has begun. If you’re not racing in Motocross (and even if you are, you’ll have some down time, ya know), get on them and fish! These four lakes are so heavily stocked with trout that we need your help removing a few pounds of Alpers trout to ensure that the lake floodwaters don’t rise above capacity and submerge the Town of Mammoth Lakes completely!
If you’re willing to do your part to keep Lake Mary Road high and dry, you can catch trout out of any of these lakes with Powerbait or Inflated Nightcrawlers. Thomas Bouyants are great lures for the Lakes Basin. The Brown Trout, Rainbow Trout, and Red/Gold Patterns work well. Trout Teasers make for decent shore fishing jigs. For you fly anglers, Yellow Stimis, Parachute Adams, and Callibaetis Cripples are recommended dries, as well as Black Gnats for the wild-born brooks in Twin.
I really enjoy fishing next to the waterfall for these colorful trout in the early evening. Stripping streamers on a sink line with a float tube will hook trout throughout all of these stillwater fisheries. Doc’s Twin Lakes Special, Woolly Buggers and Olive Matukas all seem to do the trick. Now that the Lakes Basin is open, it’s worth fishing. There’s no telling which nation is going to grab the gold on July 11, but we know you’ll land trout.
Hence, the fishing is good, and there’s a lot of excitement going on right now. Between running around the forest in 3rd or 4th gear on the 4-stroke, watching the action in South Africa on ABC and ESPN, or kicking the ball at Shady Rest, the angling is finally turning on big time in Mono County. Whether you live here full time, or are visiting for Motocross or just to hang out, wet a line this weekend.
A more detailed report can be found at http://kittredgesports.com/fishing_report.php. Leonard guides for Kittredge Sports. Call 760.934.7566.