My Last High Lake Fly Pattern Tests Of The 2016 Season

Your experiments and findings on tenkara fly-patterns and fly-tying.

My Last High Lake Fly Pattern Tests Of The 2016 Season

Postby Karl Klavon » Tue Oct 25, 2016 4:44 pm

The real reason for doing this backpacking trip was to deer hunt. In the 20 years I have been hunting for deer (age 53 through 73 years), I have gotten just one buck, 10 years ago now. The California Department of Fish and Wildlife issues 9,000 Deer Tags for the Zone I hunt, the take is usually around 300 bucks a year, so the odds are not in the hunter’s favor. Before I discovered Tenkara fly-fishing, I didn’t fish on these hunts because my Western fly rod and reel tackle was just too bulky and heavy to deal with in addition to the gun, shells, binoculars and other assorted hunting gear required. Now that I do fixed line fly fishing though, I can take my T-tackle and fish in addition to doing the deer hunting. I see so few deer now after 4 years of the worst drought in recorded history in the California's Sierra, that the T-fishing has become one of my deer hunting’s saving graces and much anticipated and enjoyed activities.

October’ 18 thru 23 Rd, RR Basin, A 6-Day Backpack Hunting/Fishing Trip
10/18, H Lake: is about 5 miles in from the trail head, and at just under 9,000 feet in elevation. I usually give this lake an hour’s worth of fishing time or 10 trout, which ever comes first, on my way in. These are nicely conditioned, very hard fighting rainbows. And I intend to spend my last night here as well on my way back out, so I could fish the lake again in the evening and on the following morning, which usually results in 20 to 30 or more fish being caught, but not this year. I hiked completely around the lake on the way in with out seeing a single fish or any fish activity, which is highly unusual since the lake has had fish in it again. For some reason the hatchery rainbows in California only seem to have about a 4-year life span, and there were plenty of fish in this lake last year. The lake was just as dead on my way back out as it was on the way in, so this was a big disappointment for me going both ways. It was very cold on the way in and there was snow on the ground all around the lake, shutting down all the insect activity completely for sure. By the time I came back out, the snow was all gone and bugs were plentiful, but there were still no trout to be seen.

10/18, 9,200 Feet, the Cow Camp on BC Creek: I saw one doe while I was hiking up the trail beside the creek, which stood broadside and watched me until my patience gave out and I started hiking again. It was cold and breezy, with the sun already below the ridge line when I made camp. Not much water was flowing in the creek but it was much better than last year. The last two years, most of the creek beside the trail has been dry this late in the year. Getting water to drink in several places this year, I noticed that brook trout had moved back downstream to re-populate the lower sections of the stream, where there had been no water or fish for the last two years, which made me a happy angler. I fished a #18, Two-Toned Foam Beetle Pattern for 40 very small brook trout, which ended the day on a much more positive note than my visit at the previous lake. It was brutally cold that night.

10/20, Mt. S Lake, 9,880 feet: The previous day I hiked and hunted up into RR Basin. Making camp at an unnamed lake that has no fish in it. For me its main function is to serve as a water and base camping resource. There was so much snow that I hiked up to the saddle that evening to see if I would be able to descend the steep terrain to the lake below I was to fish the next morning, when the snow would be very hard, icy and dangerous. By going down a stream gully that was a jumble of boulders that would require some rock climbing skills (which is not easy with ski poles, a TC Encore Hand Gun carried on the pack’s hip belt and its shoulder strap, binoculars in a chest pack, and with a pack on your back) but it would be safer than trying to go down the convex shaped steep slope that could give way in an avalanche or send you careening down the mountain side for hundreds of feet on ice before something would abruptly stop your descent. It was about 11:00 AM when I got to the lake. It was calm at first, then breezy to windy later on in the day. It was clear, sunny, and warming up nicely, with working fish not too far out from the shoreline. I fished for about 3 hours there before heading back to camp.

Flies Fished And Results Achieved At Mt. S Lake: It was late enough in the day when I started fishing and the breeze was coming up as I was setting up my tackle, so I thought the midge activity would be pretty well over. So the first pattern I tried was the #14, Peacock Sheeps Creek: which caught its 10 fish limit pretty quickly. Next up was a #12, Orange Sheeps Creek. 5 brook trout charged up to the fly, stopped, inspected it, did a 180 and swam away. There is no point in beating a dead horse, so I changed to a #16, Red Butt Zebra Midge Pupa, mostly because the fish had been hitting the knots on my tapered leader from the get go. Ten brook trout nailed that fly a lot faster than they had taken the Peacock Sheeps Creek Pattern. Next up was the #12, Orange Midge Pupa, which scored its 10 fish just as fast as the RBZMP had. The #10, White Midge Pupa scored its 10 brooks the fastest of any of the midge pupa patterns, with the #16, Blond Midge Pupa taking the longest of any of the midge pupa to fill its 10 fish limit. By this time it had gotten a lot warmer and the wind had come up, so I thought I would give a terrestrial dry fly pattern a try. The #16, Two-Toned X-Rated Ant Pattern went on next, and it scored 40 fish because I got too lazy to make any more fly changes, and there was no need to try to find anything that would work any better than the ant was already working. Final Tally: 90 brook trout in about 3 hours of fishing with a 12’ floating PVC coated 000 Wt. T-fly line, and a 9’ tapered leader, with a 5X tippet.

10/21, LH Lake, 10,080 feet: This was after a morning hunt, and having a bear break trail for me down through the snow was quite helpful. I didn’t know this but when a bear goes down a steep incline in the snow, it spreads its toes wide apart, causing the snow to pile up into little mountain peaks in between its toes, and the snowshoe-like spread was really amazing. Where the bear would post hole in the soft snow, I knew I had to avoid those soft, deep places. Where the bear slid, I knew I had to be careful too or I would slide as well. The bear had gone down and back out the previous afternoon (which I could tell by the condition of its tracks and the condition of the snow as it goes through its daily freeze thaw cycles). This lake was farther away from my base camp, so it was about noon by the time I first started fishing there, using the same 3.9 meter length rod as the day before, with the same line and leader set up.

On The High Lakes In The Fall, Midge Pupa Patterns Are Usually Tops: The #10, White Midge Pupa was up first, and it caught its 10 brook trout even faster than it had the day before. The # 12, Orange Midge Pupa was no slouch either; while the #14, Red Butt Zebra Midge Pupa was also very good and fast; with the #16, Blond Midge Pupa taking the longest of any of the midge pupa patterns to fill its 10 fish limit.

When The Wind Shuts The Midge Action Down, The Sheeps Creek Patterns Are Often Effective on the High Lakes: The #14, Peacock Sheeps Creek was up first, and it was very good in getting to its 10 fish. But the #12, Orange Sheeps Creek Pattern was even faster, while the #10, Black Sheeps Creek produced its 10 fish the fastest of all my Sheeps Creek Patterns tried. There is a 4th pattern but its for cloudy, overcast, dark and rainy days, so it wasn't fished.

As The Wind And The Air Temperature Climbed, Terrestrial Fly Patterns Are Always Worth A Try On The High Lakes. On this lake I decided to give the #12, Two-Tone X-Rated Ant Pattern a try first, and it produced its 10 fish very fast. The #13, Foam Disc Spider was up next, and it also got its limit very quickly. The size #12, Two-Tone Foam Beetle Pattern seemed to pull fish from farther away and faster than the ant pattern had, while the #18, Two-Toned Beetle Pattern didn’t provide a big enough bite or have enough food value to motivate the fish to put much effort into taking such a small fly, but it also caught its 10 fish limit.

With four total hours of fishing time in, and 110 brook trout released, it was time to hunt my way back to camp and endure another very long, cold night. The next day I would start heading out, making it back to the trail head the day after that.

Why Do I Write These Fly Pattern Test Result Pieces? Although no one has said as much, I believe their are those out there who probably believe I have an over active imagination and that I am a teller of tall tales, which couldn’t be farther from the truth. What I would like to encourage you to do is to conduct your own pattern testing, to see for yourselves how much of the time the fly pattern and/or the color of the fly you use does not make all that much of a difference in your ability to catch fish. It is sort of the flip side of the One Fly Concept in Tenkara fly fishing, but using many different flies to more or less prove the same things.

Bob Wyatt’s book, What Trout Want, The Educated Trout and Other Myths, is an excellent work that explains how and why much of the fly fishing public has become hood winked into believing trout are a whole lot smarter and more sophisticated than they can possibly be. What trout want is put food in their stomachs. And presented properly, just what fly pattern that happens to be will mostly not make all that much difference to the fish. Give some of these things a try and report back on how well you do. I am sure we would all like to hear about your experiences along these same lines….Karl.
Karl Klavon
Posts: 664
Joined: Wed Mar 02, 2011 10:01 am

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