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    Campfire Tales — fishing

    Ansel Adams Wilderness

    Ansel Adams Wilderness

    Mid to late August is the perfect time to explore the Eastern Sierras.  Warm days and cool nights are typical at 8,000 feet elevation.  The mid summer mosquito hatch has already died out, but the Golden Trout are still biting.  

    Tucked away a few miles south of Highway 120 and Tioga Pass leading into Yosemite National Park is Gibbs Lake.  The area is often overlooked because of the relatively short hike in, the 4x4 road access, and the plethora of other more lucrative popular gems of the Sierras (i.e. Thousand Island Lake, Big Pine Lakes, Little Lakes Valley).  Located on the edge of the Ansel Adams Wilderness the flora takes a drastic change from the drier high Pinion desert of the Mono Valley and becomes a lush, dense forest more typical of Yosemite but without the trash bears.  

    We started out on the 395 and passed the Roosevelt Tree in Big Pines.

    After a quick stop at the Mono Lake Visitor Center for our wilderness permit we headed up Horseshoe Meadows Road to the trailhead.

    With a thunderstorm looming over the next ridge we felt a few raindrops as we loaded up and got started up the trail.

     Gaining 1,500 feet over about 2.5 miles the route scrambles up the mountain following a rushing creek.

    Here's Bullwinkle rocking his Ruffwear pack loaded down with all his goodies.
    Looking back downhill I could see the Mono basin where we started.

    Passing the Ansel Adams Wilderness boundary from Inyo National Forest we came upon Jeffery Pines whose bark smells like vanilla.

    Closer to the creek a mixed riparian vegetation starts to grow.  Here a nice grove of Aspen stand tall.  By fall the area will show a beautiful array of colors.  Sierra Gooseberries are wild edibles that taste like a ripe cherry tomato.

    We finally approached Gibbs lake and set up camp. After filtering more water and other chores it was time for dinner.  Knorr pasta side dishes, Spam singles, and baby food fruit pouches made for a tasty meal.

     The trusty Hydroflask keeps me hydrated and happy.


     Sunrise greeted us over the lake with a jaw dropping view.  Trout were beginning to rise and sip on flies.  We could watch them cruise the shallows in search of breakfast. Nearing mid day the fish activity waned and we followed suit with swimming, laundry, lunch, and napping.


    The Arcade Adventure Belt is super comfy, low profile, and fits under my backpack belt.  It's stretchy so it makes my pants feel like they have an elastic waistband.

     By afternoon Adam had caught his first Golden with a Tenkara rod, on a Parachute Adams fly, in the Ansel Adams Wilderness. 

     Saying goodbye to Gibbs lake we headed down the mountain.  The going was a lot easier descending from 9,500 feet elevation. 

    The next stop was the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest - home of the some of the oldest living things on earth.  High in the Mono-Inyo mountains east of the 395 north of Big Pine these Bristlecones slowly grow over millennia.  Some trees date over 4000 years old.  A small foot tall sapling is as old as my grandmother.  A decent Christmas tree sized Bristlecone started out it's life when the Declaration of Independence was signed.

    Deep Creek - Devil's Hole

    Deep Creek - Devil's Hole

    Deep Creek runs in the San Bernardino mountains from the northern side of Lake Arrowhead going westward towards the Mojave wash. Eons of erosion carved a deep canyon separating the southern San Bernardino side of the creek from Apple Valley.  
    Getting there:
    There are two ways. The northern route parks you at Bowen Ranch ($5 parking, it's private property)  Google earth pin . You can enjoy the hot springs, but don't drink the water or let it get in an orifice, unless you want to suffer for a few days after! From there and running downstream tiny brain eating protozoans are found in the water. Since we were bringing a dog we decided to go the southern route and not risk it, since Scout couldn't be trusted to not drink the water.
    The southern route has two options: one is an off road adventure requiring a high clearance 4x4, while the other is more mellow.  The mellow option is to park at Splinter's Cabin. From there you can go north on the Pacific Crest Trail to explore this region. We went the 4x4 way to really live off the beaten path.
    The drive can mostly be done in 2WD until the last 50 yards. There is a copout option right before the trail plunges to the valley floor just in case you don't have the cajones neccessary. But arriving at Devil's Hole you are greeted by this fantastic view. 
    Wild mint grows rampant here as well as miners lettuce and wild strawberries if you're looking to do some berry picking. Be on the lookout for bear scat keep yourself out of harms way.

    From there the PCT runs along the creek. We went south towards the notorious cliff diving holes and Aztec Falls.   
    Most of the trail will look like this if you happen to have a 120lbs GSD/wolf hybrid leading your pack. We knew you guys would enjoy the dog butt view.

    Scout found a trail for us down to that bend. Follow me!
    To get down to these holes on this section of the PCT requires some bushwhacking down/up some steep faces. Pants and sturdy shoes are recommended. Emily was tough as nails and made it no problem.
    We made it down and proceeded along the riparian banks.  Scout decided to go for a swim while we set up lunch and our fishing poles. I was using a cut down Shimano ultralight spinning rod rigged with an Okuma 5/6wt reel and full sinking line.  Adam tried out his new collapsible Tenkara rod.  
    It was raining/misting on and off all day with the average temperature hovering around 45 degrees.  Emily was a champ and toughed it out.  We explored more off trail and along the creek bed in search of native trout but came up empty handed.  The summer drought of 2015 must have hit pretty hard and the numbers are not rebounding yet. We hightailed it back to the SUV and did a tick shake down.  I found one on my back and used tweezers from my Med Kit . For these shoulder seasons the area is rife with ticks and skeeters. I always recommend treating gear and your dog with Ben's Permethrin spray to not have to deal with these guys.
    Now for the hard part: getting out is a short 25 yard rock garden with one big maneuver at the end.  Emily got a video of me high centering and rocking the 'Treg, tapping a tree, and nearly running over Adam.  This is the carnage. If you can't duck it..well...
    Come summer time this place will be a great way to escape the heat, picnic and cool off in the deep pools.
    ROUND 2: Early June 2016 revisit 
    The weather forecast for the weekend was to be a hot one.  With that in mind I rounded up the Wander Squad and headed back out to Deep Creek this time from Splinter's Cabin for a slightly easier path.  The drive in was mostly paved and mellow winding through groves of oak and juniper.  We hit the PCT going north and in no time found a decent track that plunged down the steep canyon walls to the inviting pools below.  
    With temperatures in the 80's we stripped down and swam the pools adjoined by small waterfalls and rock slides.  Stirring up schools of native brown trout we decided to let the fish rest for a bit and chow down on lunch in the shade.  
    Adam tries out his Tenkara to see if he can break it in with it's first fish.
    I get some luck in a pool above with this big lunker.
    Here's a closeup of one of the larger specimen of the day showing it's beautiful coloration.  Their feisty feeding habits and undamaged pectoral and dorsal fins indicate these are healthy native trout. I suspect in some larger and deeper pools further downstream there are some big uns hiding.
    Obligatory selfie with Bullwinkle. He gets jealous if we post more pics with other dogs.
    Links to gear used:

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