Conejo Valley Fly Fishers

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High Tea at Hot Creek

By Mike Weigand

While angling may have it's origins in the Bronze Age civilization of the Shang Dynasty in China, Fly Fishing traces its birth in literature to The Treatyse of Fysshynge wyth an Angle, possibly written as early as 1450, by Dame Juliana Berners. Who has not heard of, and longed to fish, the famous chalk streams of England or rivers of Scotland for Atlantic Trout? So it seems only natural to continue many of the traditions of the homeland of our sport. And what is more traditional, more British, than High Tea?

Afternoon tea, cucumber and egg salad sandwiches, and desserts, or "High Tea", might be welcome between the mid-day hatches and the spinner falls of the evening as you relax in your tweed jacket, But High Tea is NOT how you would like to have the waters of your favorite stream described. And that’s exactly the way Hot Creek appeared to my friend, Bob Allaire, and me when we arrived at The Ranch on Friday, May 28. Not totally muddy and not running over the banks, but cold, high, and brown. The opposite of last year's low, autumn-like flows.

In face of such conditions, we tied on attractors and began working our way down from the cabins. In spite of the conditions I thought it was going to be a great weekend when in the first few minutes a 14" Rainbow rose and sipped my size 14 Royal Trude. Yes! Just like last year! Well, that is what I though for a while. Through the next hour not another fish rose, or was seen. Maybe Saturday morning would be better.

Hatches are dependent on proper water temperatures. For Hot Creek Ranch that is the mid 50's, not the high 40's I measured in several places through the weekend. And since The Ranch is dry fly fishing ONLY, the trout are reluctant to come to the surface when there aren't bugs to draw them from their lies in the runs or under the cut banks. The usually successful attractors, such as the Royal Trude and Humpy, were ignored. A very few fish were seen rising, and they to very small emergers in slack water. When a trout has a long time to examine the fly, the fly has to be a perfect match or it will be refused. Mine did not match close enough.

Fish could be seen with their heads down, which means they are rooting for nymphs. And the strong currents were washing many from plants and rocks to be gobbled up. Why should the trout look up, why open themselves to predators when the chow line kept delivering breakfast, lunch, and dinner? Only because I know something about where some trout may feed, I was lucky to land four for the day! Ouch! Almost as bad as three years ago. And that was really bad! In the late afternoon we drove to the "Longears" section of the Upper Owens. Two other fishermen acknowledged that it had been slow here also. As we were giving up and I was winding in my sculpin streamer a nice brown chased it across the river and was on for one jump. At least that was something.

Sunday was beautiful and we drove to Rock Creek Lake. It was full of holiday campers soaking their Powerbait. On to Crooked Creek, looking for some late spawners. For such a tiny ribbon of water in a broad meadow it had a good population of rainbows and browns. Only by crawling and making very delicate casts did we have a chance of catching the wary trout. And that we did! Nothing over 12", but they were "wild" trout!

Bob had to leave on Monday and Wayne Caywood came to take his place for two days. He certainly was not excited to hear about the conditions, but was ready for the challenge. By skittering a caddis, Wayne was able to bring up several, and landed about a half dozen. Compared to the two previous days that was really good. Tuesday morning was the same; an occasional rise and a few brought to the net. We, were ready to give it another try after lunch, but the wind decided to make us reconsider. With the cabin shaking, Wayne decided to go to his condo to do some work, and I sat and tied some flies. About 3:30 the winds slowed a little and I decided to give it another try while waiting for my wife, Patti, to arrive. A few fish thought my caddis was acceptable and I had landed two when Patti called on the walki-talki. The weather was getting cloudy and colder. After- dinner we drove to Mammoth to go to the movie - Notting Hill.

Wednesday was an "inside day". Cold, windy, and distant snow showers. There was suppose to be a matinee, so we drove to town again. Who knows why, but it was canceled. Back to the cabins. Being a die-hard, I decided to see if there were any fish as dumb as I was. In the "Willow Pool" bugs were hatching and the surface boiling with rising fish! A quick call to Patti. In the few minutes it took her to walk down I landed three - one on the Trude I had started with and two on an emerger. Through two snow showers the hatch continued and fish feed hungrily. By the time it was over we had landed about a dozen! Yes, the fish are there! They only needed something to bring them up.

Unfortunately Wednesday's hatch was not repeated the next day. Back to being thankful to have an occasional rise and being able to bring a handful to the net. Well, Barry Sweet and I will give it another try at the end of the month. Let's hope the run-off is past, the water temperature warmer, and the bugs and fish active.

 

(The Webmaster visited Mike and Patti at the Ranch, and as he reports, conditions were pretty ugly. About 6" of snow in town while we were there! But Notting Hill was good.)

  

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