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A hot time at Hot Creek

Staff Reports

Fourth of July typically provides us with a routine. Those of us with children are usually involved with the local parade. This year was unlike other years for me.

I traveled south to the Bishop region for a wedding. My neighbor’s daughter married into an old-time family in Bishop and they got married on grandma’s ranch a short distance from the parents’ ranch in beautiful Round Valley. One of the structures on grandma’s property was a former Wells Fargo Way Station.

The wedding was great and the Truckee contingent had a great time. Since we were all fishermen, and the wedding being a late afternoon affair, we all observed that the “light was wasting.” As we attempted to “sneak out,” the groom collared all of us and told us we had to have cake. Being a hardcore fisherman himself, we surmised that if he couldn’t go, we couldn’t go.

After the wedding concluded we older types headed for the Owens River just minutes away. The younger set partied until 3 a.m. we were told.

We only had less than an hour to fish but it was great. While only one fish was caught, it was a nice 17-inch brown trout.

After a nice evening, we made arrangements to meet at the parents’ ranch the next morning to try and fish either Hot Creek or Crowley Lake. Keep in mind this would be the Fourth of July. I was expecting crowded conditions and I was not disappointed.

We opted to try Hot Creek because the buddy I had made the trip with had never been there before. The best quote of the day came from him when he said, “This is like fishing in Yankee Stadium.” With an angler occupying every 30 feet of the public section of the river, solitude was not going to be in the cards.

Hot Creek is a beautiful spring creek that originates right out of the ground in classic fashion. Millions of gallons of clear, cold water spew forth from a fissure of lava rock created millions of years ago. A combination of 11 different springs contribute to the creek located within miles of the Mammoth Lakes airport and the town of Mammoth Lakes.

There is the private ranch section that is about two miles in length and a small amount of public water above and below the private water. The public water gets fished very heavily. The one other difference between the public water and the private water is that only dry fly fishing is allowed in the private section. Nymphs are fine to fish in the public sector.

Fishing was remarkably good given the number of people lining the banks. While the public section of water was crowded, the private ranch portion had little pressure. We could only see two anglers working that entire stretch. Having fished both stretches, the limitation on dry fly angling in the private water limits one’s activities and success to periods of high insect activity. During a hatch or evening activity appears to be the best times to fish in the private water.

In the public section, since nymphs are allowed, you can catch fish all day long and switch when there is a hatch. I found a little bead head pheasant tail nymph would do very well. During a hatch of mayflies and small Quigley cripple did the trick. Precise casts tight to the opposite bank are typically what it takes to catch fish in this water. An angler must have the ability to make these precise casts and mend his or her line to provide a drag free presentation. This will give the angler the best chance of success.

If you are traveling to this region a word of advice to all of you is to bring smaller flies than typically fished in our region. Size #18’s and #20 +’s are a necessity.

The one other thing that the angler must be prepared to contend with are the windy conditions. On the day we fished, I was using a six-weight rod due to the extreme winds. It was very difficult to make the casts necessary that day even with a six weight. During other times I have used as little as a two-weight rod. A local weather forecast can really help you anticipate the windy conditions, but be prepared for the possibility of a change.


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