Yet another report from days gone by...NK, you would've died on this trip. Puthy. Here we go...
My buddy Krudler and I had been planning an overnight backpack for what seemed like weeks and, sure as sugar, every weekend was either rainy or, gasp, snowed out. Rescheduling became a part of our normal routine, and I began to wonder: will we ever make this trip happen?
Early last week, the long-range weather forecast called for a semi-partly cloudy Saturday with a 30% chance of sprinkles, with Sunday appearing to be sunny and warm. It seemed like a good time to get a little Black Diamond adventure under our belts, so plans were laid, so to speak. Another buddy -- Jon D. -- managed to pull a few favors with the wife – god only knows what that poor man had to go through – and was able to join us on the trip.
I don’t know about you, but I really love our local mountains when they’re drenched in sunshine, accompanied by a gently, warm San Gabriel breeze blowing through the big cone Douglas firs. However, upon our 8:00AM arrival at the trailhead (yeah, we got an early start, hehe), we were somewhat surprised to find it foggy, and damper than Paris Hilton after an all night rave. Here’s a shot you might recognize from de facto Black Diamond Trout Society leader Sir Homey (and his trusty sidekick Jake)’s earlier posts:
As you can see, the clouds were rolling in and, in fact, did so, not only all day Saturday, but all weekend.
What’s a Black Diamond fly fisherman to do? Cheer up, chum, and carry on, that’s what.
The hike into this canyon is like cheesecake with extra sour cream and blueberries; it’s about four miles, descending all the way to the bottom (as seen in the picture above); not super tough, but it’s a bit of a walk. It didn’t take us very long to reach the bottom, and I believe we each enjoyed the damp, fresh splendors the hike provided. The trail generally follows an extremely sweet looking tributary, one which looks very fishy, but none of us were able to spot and trout from the trail high above.
Once we hit the confluence with the main stream – Tube of Miso Creek – I led the guys off-trail to a small, hidden campsite (one of my favorite places to spend a night), where we stashed our overnight gear and rigged up for some fly fishing. It was about this time that it started to drizzle, not heavy, just enough to soak the brush and adding an uncomfortable chill to the mountain air; here’s a dismal shot of T.O.M. creek as we found it:
Hey, at least the water was clear – if I’d had some lemons on me, I’d have made lemonade. Instead, I fortified my resolve with a shot of Southern Comfort and headed upstream, visions of strawberry-cream wild trout filling my head.
We settled into a pattern of spreading out over the stream, sometimes fishing together, sometimes on our own, and it wasn’t long until I had my first Southern California dink sitting in my numb hands, courtesy of one of Krudler’s fine “Petey Nymphs” (ask him about the origin of that name some time); obligatory dink shot:
A short while later, this chunky little Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup came to find me; I fell in love with the late 1960’s swirling, Dali-esque parr marks and a toothy grin on this little fattie:
Krudler – patient fly fisherman that he is – intently worked one crazy deep pool whereupon he had seen a fourteen-inch range trout in lurker’s clothing, so I gave him some room and soon hooked up with Jon. Jon and I stumbled – literally; it was freaking WET, people – upon a nice pool with a sizeable fish seemingly protecting its territory from a handful of smaller fish. Jon, being a gracious sort, offered me first cast at the fish, so I tossed a #14 purple beadhead woolly bugger in the pool, and started a quick retrieve; amazingly, the “daddy” fish followed my fly, then opened its mouth, taking a swipe at the bugger. Predictably, I missed the strike.
Then it was Jon’s turn. I think he made all of one cast – I recall the “Petey Nymph” was Jon’s fly – and BAM, the fish was on. What a fight this noble warrior gave! Jon must’ve spent ten full minutes – maybe more; the clouds and fog were in my mind as well as upon the hills – before I was able to get Jon’s net under him. Here, first, is a shot of the fish during the fight, and the “net shot” follows:
What a gorgeous specimen! Folks, that fish almost topped the thirteen inch mark in Jon’s measure net, a fine, healthy, strong warrior that all but made my day. Nice work, Jon!!!
A little while later, Jon watched as a nice sized trout – perhaps eleven inches –took my #14 Red Humpy (which I was using as an indicator) and began to battle me; in a flash, an even larger trout came out of the depths and charged my #16 beadhead Prince nymph dropper. For a moment, I thought the Trout Gods were going to bless me with a two-fish hook up, but, alas, it was not to be. Not one but BOTH trout soon shook my flies off and left me standing there, damp and fishless, silently weeping, as Jon tried – unconvincingly, I might add – to console me.
After flogging the upper stretches of T.O.M. creek for about five hours, we met back at the campsite and compared stories. Krudler told of landing a twelve inch fish, then losing a fourteen inch alligator in the next pool below. As he told us this, tears welled up in his eyes. I brought out the pack stove and whipped up a batch of hot tea for Jon and me to ward off the chill, then we all gathered our gear and moved a quarter mile or so to the “main” campsite – a sprawling, football-field sized flat with some incredible oaks (which blocked the drizzle which had by now turned to rain), a huge fire pit, and several sheltered flats for sleeping. Snack lunches were consumed, and the rest of the afternoon was spent with each of us individually working the lower stretches of the stream.
As the day drew on, it got progressively colder and wetter, and the fishing seemed to slow down, although we each managed a fish or two. Round about 6:00PM, I headed back to camp, found Krudler gathering firewood, and proceeded to do the same, gathering a nice pile for the long, cold night ahead. Having not expected rain, I had brought along a simple tarp shelter, and, as I set it up, I hoped it would be sufficient to keep me dry throughout the night.
We spent a great evening cooking dinner and then hanging around an absolutely spectacular, roaring campfire (started courtesy of some of Jon’s cookstove fuel), talking and sharing various libations (Southern Comfort, Jack Daniels, some weird-named Irish whiskey, and a Guiness or two). It was a pleasure to get out of my wet fishing clothes and into some dry camp clothes and shoes, let me tell you. We partied like crazy and soon it was the midnight hour; miraculously, the clouds had parted, revealing a starry night sky. We bedded down in our various shelters with visions of a warm, sunny daybreak. I, for one, slept like a log, and my “minimalist” shelter – as Jon called it – kept me snug and dry, much to my delight.
We awoke to cloudy skies, but at least it wasn’t raining. On the mountains around us, about 500’ above, the trees glistened with frost and a dusting of new snow. Jon made chilaquilas for breakfast – ground sausage scrambled with eggs and tortilla chips, topped with fresh salsa – and then we broke camp and proceeded to fish, downstream, for several hours.
The fishing this day was a lot better than the day before. We spread out and pretty much fished solo all morning, leap-frogging and leaving everyone plenty of water to explore. I managed to land a couple of nice fish from some typical runs, most of which were incredibly brushed over (this shot is typical of the stream):
I pulled this sweet “stocker” from a tight little run:
Later, an olive beadhead woolly bugger started performing miracles, and I took this, my “fish of the day”, from a deep pool between two fallen logs, as tough a spot I’ve ever fished:
In fact, let me state here that T.O.M. creek was probably one of the most difficult places I’ve ever tossed a fly; obstacles were EVERYWHERE, with brush alongside, above and in the water. I lost more flies on this trip than on my past ten trips combined. The challenge was a blast, though, and these spooky fish made it all worthwhile.
We headed back to the cars in the late afternoon, actually hiking up into the clouds, and made a strong, steady pace. Along the way, Jon and I were talking about how many beautiful fish we’d spooked, and we came up with a patch for the Black Diamond Trout Society Spookers, which is simply a solid Black Diamond.
I dunno, it seemed funny at the time.