A Sons introduction to High Sierra fishing

Fishing Rock Creek at French Camp, High Sierra, CA
Fishing Rock Creek at French Camp, High Sierra, CA

As a boy growing up, I was fortunate enough to spend a great deal of time in the High Sierra mountains fishing.  When I was about five years old, I learned to fish in Lone Pine Creek, California under the watchful eye of my grandfather.  We left camp one afternoon and walked about 50 feet to a small pool next to our campsite.  My memory of this event has faded, but my recollection of the event is that I quickly caught my limit of Rainbow trout within about 30 minutes and returned to camp with a full stringer of fish.  I recall my grandfather recalling later that it was the “damnedest thing”, and surely proof of beginners luck.  Time embellishes all tales, and true with fish stories the facts of the actual event may no longer support the tale being told.  It is true non the less that I had beginners luck!

For the next fifteen years or so, my parents, brother and I would spend a great deal of time in the High Sierra, or other camping locations.  My brother and I perfected our fishing technique in the high mountain lakes and streams.  We did not always catch our limit, nor did we have a desire to harvest more than we could eat that day, but we often had fresh trout for dinner.  Eventually, our camping trips became further and far between and my interest in fishing waned as the cost for a licensed increased.

During the summer of 2016, my brother and I planned a family trip with our two families to the High Sierras.  Naturally, I decided to introduce my seven year old son to the sport that provided me with so much fun as a boy.  I pulled out all of my old tackle and started cleaning and organizing.  Ryan helped out quite a bit and I could see his excitement grow with each shiny lure and pole.  He helped me restring the reels and organize and repack the tackle.  As we loaded our poles into a custom built fishing pole carrier built from ABS pipe for the jeep trip, hopes that my son would enjoy fishing as I did when I was a boy filled my head.  I hoped that I could deliver this memory for him.

That summer we camped at French Camp, located along Rock Creek just outside of Tom’s Place along the 395 highway.  The day we arrived, even before the tents were setup I heard, “Dad, can we go fishing now?”.  No son, we needed to setup camp.  Once camp was setup, “Dad, can we go fishing now?”  Sigh, although my fishing adventures were second only to Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn clearly I oversold this sport a bit.  We arrived at camp on  a Sunday.  Due to itineraries, we would not be able to go fishing until Wednesday afternoon.  For the next three days after every five minute lull in activity, “Dad, can we go fishing now?” would break the mountain air.

As we rolled into camp on Wednesday afternoon I was greeted with out traditional greeting upon turning off the Jeep engine, “Dad, can we go fishing now?”

“Yes, son we can go fishing now”.

We packed up our gear and tackle and began the short walk to Rock Creek.  I won’t lie, the Andy Griffith theme played in my head as Ryan jumped and bounce around me on the trail to the creek.   We walked up stream just a few feet when we find a nice isolated fishing hole.  I was not optimistic that we would catch anything in this spot.  The fishing hole was feet from the road, directly across from a bath room.  The trails around it were well worn and frequently travelled.

After a short crash coarse in casting, fishing, Ryan helped me bait the treble hook with some Zeke’s Power Bait and he cast into the fast flowing stream.  Ever the pround dad, after he took a seat, I snapped a photo with my phone and started to upload it into facebook so my wife could see her boy fishing.  As Ryan patiently sat waiting, I  pulled up a tree, pulled my hat down over my eyes hoping to enjoy a quick nap by a cool stream.  

“Dad, I caught a fish!!!” soon burst into my head?

“What?”, I asked.

“Dad, I caught a fish” and as I opened my eyes, and straightened the brim on hat only to see the image of my son bouncing up and down and his fishing rod bent almost in half.  

I showed Ryan how to fight the fish and within just a few seconds he landed ony of the largest trout I have seen caught.  Quickly, we opened the tackle box and I instructed him of setting the stringer and removing the hook.  Since this was Ryan’s first fish, ever the proud father I took a photo of him with his catch.  The total time spent on this first fish was less than five minutes.

His first Rainbow Trout caught in under five minutes proves my superior fishing technique.
His first Rainbow Trout caught in under five minutes proves my superior fishing technique.

After the photo was taken, we packed up our gear and headed back to camp.  While my phone was still uploading a photo of a boy fishing under a large pine tree, I spent a few minutes instructing Ryan on the next step.  We were going to surprise my wife and the rest of our camp.  I told him that we need to respect the animal and that he was going to clean and then eat the fish.  Anything else would not be right and just not done.  As we walked into camp, the occupants exploded with glee at the heroic effort my son made is catching dinner.  His younger twin cousins took great joy in touching the the fish.  Once the fisherman was applauded and his feats acknowledged by all, we drove to a cleaning station where I instructed him on my least favorite part of fishing, the cleaning.

That night his fish more than filled a 12″ cast iron  skillet.  We ate very well and said good bye to a great day around a campfire just like every fisherman should.

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