June 26-29, a test trip to Kirman and Poore Lakes.
Winter is over, snows that kept us from fishing or hiking are melting fast. Fishing options are finally opening and will only get better through the summer and fall. After full time winter work that was a lot more stressful than expected, I was offerred a part time job and took it. May flew by as I matted and framed pictures and the first weekends of June were spend indoors hosting open studios, talking painting to death but revisiting so many places I was able to visit and paint last year. I was ready to get out.
Last year's Angler's Journal was a long road trip car camping. It was an inspiration to visit so many new places but reality dictates that level of movement and consumption and absolute freedom can only last so long. Shorter drives and long backpacking trips are what I want to be doing this year. My new schedule gives me four-day weekends, perfect for backpacking to paint in the sierra.
The high sierra is still snowed in above nine thousand feet, and the tiny creeks that show up as dotted lines across a trail are still unsafe to pass for a few more weeks. I planned a short backpack into Kirman lake and further up to try out my feet and gear. I have never packed with a float tube before but the hundreds of lakes in the high Sierra call for it. I have heard there are two foot long golden trout in some lakes where I haven't even seen a fish from shore. This year maybe I'll find out.
I purchased a no-frills V-shaped tube of five pounds. At home I found that I could blow it up mostly by mouth then tighten to firm pressure with my mountain bike pump. With this extra weight I have to eliminate some, so no frying pan, tent or lantern. With the olive oil and onions, coffee and oatmeal, a couple of pairs of socks and tee shirts, jacket, raingear, extra pants, float tube, fins and flyweight waders the pack still felt manageable enough to stuff in six beers. I prefer real ales but they only come in bottles, too heavy. For backpacking I make do with light beers.
The hike from Highway 108 to Kirman Lake is only a couple of miles, flat enough that I saw folks walking with canes and pushing baby strollers. It is on a rancher's road and some people with permission drive in. I had intended to backpack another few miles to Poore lake but I'd been told this required a crossing of the raging West Walker River. Reports were that the fishing at Kirman had been red hot in the dawn and dusk with brook trout ranging from two to five pounds. That is something that a kid from New Hampshire, where brookies are native and twelve-inchers are leviathans, cannot pass by.
Two anglers were fishing as I arrived and two others just leaving. I set up my camp and by noon had the whole lake to myself. I enjoyed some quiet time reading and resting against a perfectly formed chaise lounge of a rock. This was still just Friday. As the sun dropped to a less threatening level I rigged up the rod, blew up the tube and fished. I tied on a small maroon leech fly, cast it out and kicked a few feet while I fumbled for a beer. Before I could even get it opened a sharp yank tore thirty feet of line from my reel in a second, went deep and cut crosswise until he'd gathered a lineful of weeds and the tippet snapped. This was the first brook trout that has shown me my backing. It dictated that I keep my camp there at Kirman.
I caught and released a few of the smaller athletic and healthy brookies, ranging from fourteen to perhaps eighteen inches and all very full-bodied and firm. None of them showed any of the brookie's reputation for a dull and sulking response to the hook, and they were well-aided by full squared fins and tail, unlike the edgeworn and often missing fins with trout from rough cement-lined hatcheries.
At dawn three other anglers had arrived and were already fishing. Two were in tubes and one was casting from shore. As I wadered up the two tubers hooked and played good fish, and after a few kicks from shore I realized that in my eagerness to get in on the action I had forgotten to put on my fins. The shore angler laughed as he said that I was lucky to have merely forgotten to put my fins on, he had left his two miles back at the trailhead. His buddy said he should be thankful he didn't do that guiding up in Alaska, which perked my interest but I didn't want to pry too much. I fished for an hour with just a couple of fish but as the sun hit the water I started getting regular action on damsel nymphs, an indication that the fishing might well continue beyond the early morning hours as damsels are usually a mid day trout food. With the successful fising I was very satisfied and it was still only nine o'clock on Saturday of a four-day weekend. The gent fishing from shore was elated when I said I was done and that he should use my fins. I went back to camp for breakfast, then sketched.
Kirman Lake, California.
Kirman is not known for its scenery but it really deserves to be painted in the early dawn or late evening light that would show the relief in the smooth sage that surrounds it. But if early and late are the times to fish, that painting will have to be done by someone else.
After painting I saw from the topo map what looked like an easy route to Poore lake, another two miles up, without having to cross any streams. Rumor had it that this larger lake had many small brookies and some larger rainbow trout. The little-used trail cut over a notch in a ridge and petered out but it was easy from the lay of the land to see the basin which held the lake. Above loomed the solid white rise of mountains still in heavy snowpack blocking access further into the Emigrant wilderness. This way in from Kirman might be a slight shortcut to this area where I hope to go later when the snow melts.
At Poore lake small brookies patrolled the shoreline in groups of five to ten fish, plainly visible but reluctant to bite. I caught just one on a small Adams dry fly after a long and patient wait, and slipped it into my bag for dinner. There are plenty of fish at Poore; it would be better to be there in the more fruitful daybreak or twilight fishing.
Poore Lake with the Emigrant Wilderness still Snowbound.
After a trout dinner back at camp I headed out to fish again I found that in thanks for the loan of fins there was a baggie with ten flies in it, including some good-looking scuds and foam bodied ants that I lacked, that I knew would put me into good fish sometime this summer in the high sierra.
It was a restful and enjoyable weekend, with the only stress being the larger of the brook trout.