How A Nissin SP 390 Rod Resqued A Very Frustrating Deer Hunt
If you look at deer hunting as a way of putting some meat in your freezer, you would be a very frustrated deer hunter if you live and hunt around where I hunt. I have hunted deer for 17 years now, and in all that time I have killed just one buck, ten years in. I believe I am about due for my second deer, but it was not to be this year. It snowed some a while back in the high country, with a string of cold subfreezing nights following that burned the plants the deer depend upon for their nutrition and caused the plants to reabsorb the nutrition back into their root systems, so the deer had to migrate down before the snow drove them out this year. I saw no fresh deer sign at all over the 6-day hunt. The only deer I saw was 4 doe and yearling fawns that crossed the road in front of me, a little more than an hours drive into the 2 hour and 45 minuet drive it takes to drive up to the trail head I was to backpack hunt in from. Thankfully, I decided to take some Tenkara style fly fishing tackle with me on my hunt and that saved the day for me this year.
Now you are probably thinking that my only getting 1 deer in 17 years means that I am not a very good deer hunter, and you would certainly be right on that score. But in my defense I must tell you that 9,000 deer tags are sold each year for the area that I hunt. About 300 to 330 bucks are taken each year, which works out to be a 3 to 4% hunter success ratio. Put another way, the chances of you getting a deer are 96% against you under the best of conditions. The last two winters were the driest on record, which puts things far from being optimum for both the fishing and the deer hunting. With such a minimal chance for success, why are all of those deer tags sold out each year? I can't speak for the other 8,999 hunters that bought deer tags, but I can tell you why I continue to go. I love being up there in the fall, seeing the changing colors, feeling the crisp cool mountain air after all the crowds of summer have departed, that's what really turns me on. There are a lot of lakes and ponds in the basin I make my hunting camp in, but they are all fish-les. And even the streams that had fish in them at one time have gone dry over the last 2 years, and all of those fish have also died. I hunt up and on top of a high ridge and down its 4 side canyons, down one of which was where I got my deer. From the summit of that ridge the creeks flowing off the east side flow down into the San Joaquin River, while the creeks flowing off of the west side flow into the Kings River, and you can see the whole crest of the Sierra lying in between Yosemite and Kings Canyon National Parks from that ridge top. For me it is a spiritual experience just being up there. This area was up-lifted by earth plate action, meaning that the west side of the ridge is comparatively gentle terrain, while the granite to the east has been broken, fractured and fallen, making it cliff faced. There are a number of lakes that have fish in them 500 or more feet below you that you can see from the top of that ridge. It is a real top of the world hunting experience even though your chances of getting a deer are pretty remote.
FISHING H LAKE ON THE WAY IN - 10/27/13 - 9,060 FT IN ELEVATION:
The first time I fished H Lake was just as its fish population was beginning to die out. Environmental law suits had prevented the Department of Fish and Game from air stocking our high lakes for a period of 7 or 8 years, during which time H Lake became a totally fish-less body of water. An out of court settlement allowed the DFG to resume its stocking program again at a considerably reduced level, and about 3 years ago H Lake got some new fish, going 1,000 rainbows per 3 Lbs in weight. So on each fall hunt I would check the lake out to see if and when the fish would be big enough to fish for them again. I camped at the lake last year on my way out and walked around it. There were plenty of nice sized rainbows within inches of the shore line that I felt could easily have caught if I had had my T-tackle a long, so I decided to include two light weight rods on my deer hunting trip for sure this year. I didn't intend on fishing the lake on the way in, but there were some good sized rainbows cruising the shallows within easy T-casting range of the shore, so I decided to give it an hour's worth of fishing try or 10 fish, which ever came up first.
The Fishing Conditions: It was clear, sunny and warmish, with the breeze coming up just as I was tackling up, making it much harder for me to see the fish, but not moving them out of the shallows. In this kind of fishing there is no point in fishing fish-less water. You sneak along the shoreline, casting into the wind ahead of any fish you spot far enough ahead so you won't spook the fish, and giving the fly enough time to sink to fish's eye level before you give an inch at a time pulsing retrieve of your wet fly pattern.
Tackle Notes: Rod - A Nissin SP 390 Seiryu rod; line - Rigs Floating T-line, with a hand-tied leader that I added totaling about 8 feet to make about a 17 foot of total line length.
Flies Fished: A #14, Peacock Sheeps Creek pattern for 9 Kamloops strain rainbow trout before I lost it to a tree, and then a # 12 Orange Sheeps Creek pattern that netted the biggest fish of the day, and another 2 fish that I spotted and caught while I was hiking back to my pack to continue on up the trail to my camp sight for the night.
Fishing Conclusions: These were hard charging, high jumping, very strong fighting, deep slab sided fish, which the 8-penny rated SP 390 rod handled surprisingly well for being such a soft rod. The best fish went an inch and a half above the electrical wire warning sticker on the rod butt, which measured out at 13.5 inches after I got home.
FISHING BC CREEK THAT EVENING - 9,200 FT IN ELEVATION:
A mile down from the lake the trail intersects the BC Creek trail. Hiking along this boulder and cobble stone freestone stream in the past I had always seen lots of fish and fish activity, but not this year. The stream looked like it had gone intermittent to dry last summer, and the fish had died out due to too warm of water conditions. I didn't find any fish in the really deep holes either, which should have held water all year around. But when I crossed the creek at the meadow to get to the Cow Camp, where I was going stay for the night, there were fish in the creek.
The Fishing Conditions At BC Creek: There was not as much water or fish as I had seen in the past, but there were enough fish to reseed the stream when wetter years come along. This is a spring fed, flat, sparsely timbered meadow section of water, with no detectable current to give the fly any drift. There was no light penetration into the water because the sun had gone behind the ridge, so the fish were not easy to see.
Tackle Notes: Rod - The same 13 foot SP 390 rod was used as before; Line - 10 feet of #3 Level HiVis Orange FC line, with enough 6X FC tippet material to equal the rod's length. And really an 8 foot line would have worked even better than the length that I used.
Flies Fished: I fished only a single #16, Two-toned X-rated Ant pattern.
The BC Creek Conclusions: The rod handled the fishing on this flat meadow water to near perfection. I could stay back from the edge, cast and hold nearly all the line off of the water with out being detected if I was careful. Being fall, there was a lot of debris on the water's surface. So the brook trout did not take the fly all that readily as it hit the water most of the time. Pine needles and leaves were constantly hitting the water all the time with the slightest of breezes. And with no current to move the fly, I had to pulse the fly slowly on the surface to make it look like something that was alive, which sometimes caused 2 and 3 or more bow waves to converge on the fly at a time, as fish raced to hit the fly. These were 4 to 9" brook trout. I will not tell you that no fish were launched into flight on the hook set, as quite a few surely were. But the rod that handled those big heavy fish so well on H Lake also made these little brook trout seem much bigger than they really were, and they were a challenge to play and land in this small stream environment as well. Even though the line was no longer than the rod, the rod bent so deeply with a fish on that you had to hand line the fish in to unhook and release all the bigger fish, which required choosing casting positions that allowed you enough room so you could lay the rod back far enough to be able to reach the line with a fish pulling the line away from you. I ended up releasing 100 brook trout on a single ant pattern that evening, which is a personal best record for me. For a fly to last through 100 fish is really something. Although the fly was still catching fish when I quit fishing at near darkness, the fly was completely shredded and not worth keeping. I impaled it in the bark of a lodge pole pine as a tribute to its success, which no one will ever notice and the elements will destroy the monument that I left in a season or two.
Last edited by Golden; 10-31-2013 at 12:56 AM.