FISHING THE HIGH SIERRA
Early morning has come to the valley and it's nice outside for now, but I know it won't last. The Sierra calls my name, "Come, its cool here, this is a good day to breathe clean air."
So, I pack up a lunch and head out up the hill to Kings Canyon National Park. My car is the only one waiting at the entry station. Quickly I affix the required sticker and head to Big Meadow and beyond, to a secret trailhead that only a select few know about. I cross a scary looking bridge thinking that it hasn't collapsed under my truck yet, then ascend a one lane dirt road, slipping it into four wheel drive to smooth out the bumps. Arriving at the secret trailhead, I find a Prius covered with dew proving that it has spent the night here. Funny, it that looks as if it has maybe 4 inches of ground clearance.
There are many entries in the trailhead log at my secret spot, none of them showing anyone intending to spend the night. Did the Prius driver not sign the log, or is he on a multiday trip that was supposed to have lasted only a few hours? No way to know.
I look at my watch; time my trip to this nearby lake, 38 minutes to hike from civilization to wilderness. Well, sort of wilderness. This is a chosen destination for many day hikers and overnight campers as well. Nevertheless, it is a world away from Fresno. Cool breezes blow, trout are seen rising and cruising the shallows, bird song replaces traffic noise, and a granite monolith rises nearby. I quickly rig up my rod, and begin circling the lake, casting here and there. I soon realize I am not only the predator but prey as well as I enter a swampy side of the lake and stir up the hungry mosquitoes. A quick trip back to my pack, a few sprays of Deet, and I'm back in business.
A school of trout circle, dorsals out of the water. They are like miniature sharks, happily inhaling some unseen and unknown unfortunate insect, so I toss out my offering, only to be rejected. Whatever they are after it must not look like what I have. I try casting to another spot, and a trout darts across ten feet of water to inhale my phony insect. It puts on a spectacular display of aerobatics, identifying it as a rainbow. This fish is not large, but it is fat, healthy, and strong. Evidently, there is plenty of trout fare available here.
Soon there is another take, not as enthusiastic but not difficult to detect. This one heads for the bottom of the lake instead of the sky. Brookie, I think and sure enough, a well fed brook trout soon comes to hand, gets admired for a moment, is released and quickly darts away and down, out of sight.
After several strikes, jumps, releases, some at long distance, it's time to think of lunch. A couple of day hikers have taken up residence near my pack, also having lunch.
"We didn't notice it there, didn't mean to intrude."
"That's OK, no problem."
We chat for a while, and then they head back. A tiny black headed bird soon takes their place, also intent on lunch. His favorite fare appears to be dragonflies, and he eats heartily.
A whir of wings, too large to be an insect, too small to be a helicopter, is heard nearby. A brightly colored hummingbird hovers a yard or so over my head, showing off bright iridescent greens and reds. In a second or less, it has decided that my red shirt is not a flower after all, and it disappears into the woods.
At first glance, the High Sierra may appear stark, almost lifeless. It is, after all, covered with snow much of the time. The growing seasons are short, frost and storms are normal, barren granite common, and yet a living jewel that measures its weight in grams and can starve to death in a matter of hours flourishes here.
I made one more trip around the lake, another dozen or so catches and releases, and it's time to head back. A hundred yards down the trail I meet a couple of backpackers, breathing hard under heavy packs.
"Is this the trail to Weaver Lake"?
"Yes, it is. You're almost halfway there." Chagrin at my blatant lie.
"No," I correct myself. "It's about a hundred yards ahead" Laughter. Of course, they knew that all along. Sure they did.
Halfway back, I meet a permanent resident, a marmot standing next to a cleft in the rock regarding me. How close, I wonder, will he let me get before he goes into his safe hiding spot? The answer turns out to be about ten feet, rather close for a creature far from the top of the food chain. Perhaps he has learned that humans are harmless, at least to marmots, and that a few of them will throw food.
Back at my secret trailhead, there is a half dozen or so vehicles. The Prius is gone, presumably driven out by its owner who was not, after all, lost in the Sierra.
Nearby Weaver Lake is a good destination for an easy day hike to a High Sierra lake populated by fat brook and rainbow trout.