Walking Trout

ALL-TROUT 2004:  The Walking Trout Almost Flyfish

Iris Meadows
A Car-Camping Trip At Rock Creek

August 14 – 17, 2004

Charles, Steve

Prologue

This entry is from a camping trip rather than a backpacking trip. Steve was recovering from knee surgery, and Charles was willing to sacrifice a summer’s backpacking trip to remain in the relative lowlands during Steve’s recuperation. The plan was for Charles to introduce Steve, a lifelong bait fisherman, to the art of flyfishing.

Day 1: The Drive Up

Charles and this writer met in Piersonville at the Shell station. After jump starting the 40-year-old truck of a man hauling oil drums to Kennedy Meadows, we set out northward. We stopped at a small motel near Olancha to drop off this writer’s car. Charles thought the car was being left in a speculative spot (hidden behind some shrubs, per the inkeeper’s instructions). Would it be there on Tuesday? We’d have to wait to see.

We stopped in Bishop for lunch and supplies. Sadly, Pyrenees Sandwich Shop had been purchased and was under new management – no longer recommended. Supplies consisted of food at Vons and plenty of flyfishing tackle for this writer, who had never been flyfishing in earnest, and was looking forward to Charles taking us float-tubing on Lake Crowley.

We found a camp spot at Iris Meadows, up from Tom’s Place towards Rock Creek Lake. It was raining, so we didn’t set up camp right away. Instead, we put our chairs and relaxed next to the stream, partially protected from the rain by a canopy of pine trees. After the rain cleared, we set up camp and made a righteous dinner of prime steaks from Bisher’s butcher shop in Poway, pan-fried potatoes, and canned corn. We also had a camp fire and watched a beautiful display of stars after the clouds had cleared. The new moon made the stars spectacular. That night, we realized our tent rested on a patch of the most uncomfortable and solid ground on the planet.

Rock Creek At Iris Meadows

Day 2: Attempted Flyfishing At Lake Crowley

If this writer was cursed on prior trips (e.g., forgetting his toilet paper on the 2002 trip), Charles was hexed on this trip. After a quick breakfast of cold cereal, we set out for Crowley Lake in Charles’ truck. Charles’ two-wheel-drive truck, to be more specific. Although the clerk at the fishing tackle store in Bishop advised against Crowley Lake because of a moss build-up, that’s where we headed. Charles was exploring the dirt roads around the lake when the truck bogged down and became stuck in the sand. We tried, unsuccessfully, to budge the truck. Thank goodness for cell phones, and for Charles’ AAA membership. A tow truck was dispatched, and we began the long wait for salvation. We couldn’t flyfish as we waited, on account of the moss build-up along the shoreline, but we spent time toying with our fishing gear, as idle fishermen often do when given time to pass. As we waited, this writer examined a map of the lake, and learned we were stuck at a promontory aptly named "Sandy Point."

One Stuck Truck

After about two hours without a tow truck in sight, the hot day had turned into a thunderstorm. We counted three seconds between lightning flash and thunder clap, and this writer was sure the end was near. There was nothing around but us… no trees, no rocks, just a wide-open area next to the lake, and us. Charles thought that staying in the truck was the safer choice. Ordinarily, this writer would have agreed. But, since the axle and frame of the truck were resting solidly on the ground after being dug in by the spinning wheels, this writer opted to crouch below the nearby shrubs. Crouching became increasingly difficult given the state of this writer’s knees, and as lightning touched the ground to the west, north and south of us, it was clear that the end had come.

Owens Valley

The good news is that we didn’t die there on the plain. The bad news is that we didn’t float tube (or flyfish) either. The tow truck eventually showed up and freed us from the sand (the tow truck driver noted it was easier to pull the truck after Charles had released the parking brake, rather than dragging the truck through the sand, as had happened for the first 10 feet before Charles had released the brake).

Salvation And Shame

After the truck had been liberated, we drove up to Rock Creek Lake and ate lunch while the rain came down, sitting in the same truck in which we’d spent the morning. We tried fishing from the shore during a let-up in the rain, but then Mother Nature returned with a fury. Thunder, heavy rain and hail were all present. We hid out in the Rock Creek Lake Lodge and had coffee and pie as the tempest surrounded the basin. Hats off to Sue King for making the best Dutch Apple Pie this writer has ever tasted. The clouds cleared out that evening, and we barbecued chicken and corn, with a side of chili. Beautiful stars, again. That night, we had not only the hard floor to contend with, but also the unfortunate fact that the tent leaked. Considerably.

Day 3: Fish And Eat

This day is easily summarized: fish, eat, fish eat. We set out to use Charles’ float tubes in Rock Creek Lake, but upon arriving at the lake and attempting to inflate the float tubes, we realized Charles’ air pump was broken. Still no flyfishing for this writer. Instead, we waded into the lake for a morning session of fishing, without night crawlers (since we were supposed to be flyfishing). Very cold, but no rain.

Charles' Eyes Say
"My Float Tube Pump Is Broken"

After striking out, we headed back to camp for a fine brunch of thick-cut bacon (from Bisher’s) and eggs (fried in the bacon grease, of course), piled high atop hash-browned potatoes. And an excellent Bloody Mary for each of us, using the recipe this writer credits to Otto.

Salvation And Olives

This Kind Of Breakfast Does NOT
Come In A Freeze-Dried Pouch

 

After brunch we waded back into Rock Creek Lake for a great afternoon session, aided by the use of night crawlers. We landed two fish apiece and stayed out there until the sun went down. A great time.

Success

After cleaning the fish, this writer convinced Charles to eat at Tom’s Place rather than to cook and clean in the dark again. Once at Tom’s Place, we sampled fine local beer from the Mammoth Brewery and threw coins at the saw hanging above the bar (a local tradition). After dinner we returned to camp for a long campfire beneath the stars, which once again had returned as the clouds cleared away. Ultimately, however, we had to return to the hard floor of the tent.

Day 4: The Return Home

Not much to write here. We struck camp and headed down to Bishop for gas and for bread from Schat’s. Lunch saw us return to the Pizza Factory in Lone Pine, and this writer’s car was found, safely parked near the motel in Olancha. In fact, on account of the heavy rain, the car looked particularly clean.