Golden Hybrid, 14.5 inches
Having had some tremendous success in the past two years with my high Sierra fishing adventures, I would like to share my technique and photos in the form of this album. I have been fishing the high Sierra for 20 years, but only in the last two have I succeeded in catching trout over 15 inches (a trophy high Sierra fish in my book). My goal is to catch one over 18 inches! Fun enough will be had in the effort if not in the catch.
I taper my own leaders, using blood knots, going from heavy leader material attached to the floating line with a couple feet of 3x, then maybe three feet of 5x, and then two or three feet of 6x or 7x (6x is probably light enough to do the job, I generally shoot for around 9 to 12 feet of total leader length). This tip of 6x or 7x is checked after every catch, and I retie the fly if any abrasion is evident…very important and well worth the time spent. In fact, the time spent often gives any spooked fish a chance to settle back into a feeding mode.
To get the wet fly to sink, I use a wet fly dope and I apply the dope to the leader up to the strike indicator as well. The location of the strike indicator will determine how far the fly sinks (two to six feet is generally were I catch the most), and the use of a beaded hook or a small sinker will determine how fast it sinks. Work the shore and near areas first before working the deeper or more distant water. The key is to get a good cast out into the lake, a roll cast works best in my hands, and let the fly sink. Often a strike will occur within a second or two, and at times, I will wait one or two minutes before giving up and casting again. As I prepare to cast again, I will slowly lift the rod to retrieve the fly to the surface before executing another roll cast, and often strikes will occur on this retrieve. I will work all directions from the shore, and if I can get out on a rock or a peninsula, I will have fewer problems getting my fly caught on a rock or plant.
Some fish will feed in the lake at an inlet stream, and letting the wet fly drift with little or no weight in the current will often times bring a good amount of action as well.
Wet flies have taken my success on lake fishing from small occasional fish to several fish, and depending on the lake, the biggest fish I have ever caught in the high Sierra. I still fish dry flies on lakes, but the best time is in the morning when the shadow of the mountain will obscure your visibility from the cruising surface feeding action. Otherwise, I find dry flies to be short lived in their production.
Wet flies, being fished under the surface, can make your visibility to the fish far less an issue. You will not see the fish strike, so a strike indicator (I really like a product called Biostrike made by Loon Outdoors) is a must. Some fish will hit so hard they hook themselves, and then you will get the occasional, often times very big fish, that just gently sucks the wet fly into the mouth with a slight ripple of the strike indicator. Set the hook!
I use floating line for both wet and dry flies. Sinking line might be good for getting to the bottom of deeper lakes in an effort to hook some of those lurking lunkers, but I have yet to test that method. Likewise, I don’t mess with sinking leader material. I use the same stuff for both dry and wet.
As for types of flies, I find the high Sierra trout will eat just about anything. Matching the hatch, as often mandated on lower elevation streams and rivers, does not apply. But generally speaking, the small stuff is better. I am not sure color is a factor either. Problem for me with many dry flies is I have a hard time seeing the small ones. As were with the wet, your strike indicator makes the size of the fly a moot point.
As for my favorite wet flies I like black hares ear, various caddis patterns, and hooks just wrapped in black thread with a red pattern (mimicking an underwater midge), same sized hooks (16 to 18) or smaller. Bead head wets are nice to get them to sink.
My favorite dry ones are red humpies, adams female, blue wing olive and pale morning dun lawson with size 16 to 18 hooks.. Many people give mosquitoes high ratings for dry, but I can’t see the damn things! No good if you can’t see em’.
Having some terrestrials (ants, grasshoppers and such), scuds and a healthy variety in general is a good idea in fly fishing fundamentals, but I don’t find myself much needing the variety.
And I don't want to neglect the streams. The streams are where I used to do most of my fishing. But the fish will be generally smaller than what can be taken in the lakes, and thus my enthusiasm for stream fishing is considerably less these days. I do still enjoy the stream fishing primarily for the change in scenery. I will use a shorter leader and fish up the stream therefore placing myself behind the feeding fish as they look upstream for what is coming their way. I will also get very low, on my hands and knees, as I approach the stream or the fish will spook. In general, the fish spook very easily in the streams, and anything to obscure their line of sight is helpful ("fish low, go slow and from below"). As I get older, rolling around on the ground after fish is becoming less appealing to my senses. Another negative is my fly will far more often get hung up on plants and shrubs while stream fishing.
As for equipment, my rod is a pricey Winston model, their Boron IIx 8.5 ft with #3 line. My son has much less expensive but very good rod, an Echo 8 ft with #4 line. I find in the Sierras #3 or #4 is good for line, and 8 to 9 ft good for rod length. Both of these rods cast well.
As for reels, I have a pricey Evolution model. I really like it. My son has a much more reasonably priced Scientific Anglers reel, and it works just fine.
My Two Pennies
The fun is in the effort. The thrill is in the catch. Although, I don't bother eating my catch, the pure ecologists will say all these fish are aliens and don't belong in this habitat, having been planted by fishing enthusiasts over the past century. In my opinion, these fish belong in the Sierra, and it is where I intend to leave them.
Brookie (Char), 10 inches
Rainbow-Golden Hybrid, 12 inches
Rainbow-Golden Hybrid, 15.5 inches
Rainbow, 16 inches
Rainbow, 14 inches
There in lies a good deal of the trick...finding them fish. I can't give it all away. Got get out their and do the looking around on your own. That is why its called fishing ... the angler's word for prospecting.