Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Hiking and Fishing Monarch Lake, Sequoia National Park


The last few weeks have been pretty stressful at work and at home, it was time for a day out. My buddy David was planning on hiking up to the summit of Sawtooth in Mineral King, California and wanted to know if I would be interested in joining him. I had never been up on that side of Sequoia National Park and it sounded like a blast, but what sealed the deal was the chance to fish for mountain trout. We decided a few hours fishing would be a good rest and stop along the way up the mountain. We invited John another coworker, to come out and join the experience. He is the same guy I brought out Party Boat Fishing a few months ago (his first time fishing ever). He had never used spinning gear, caught a freshwater fish, caught a fish on a artificial lure or fished a lake or steam. It is baffling to me that people can go most their lives without fishing, I was excited to hopefully get him on his first fish and a mountain trout at that. I packed my rucksack with 2 large water bottles, snacks, a jar of pickled carrots, 2 light action spinning setups and a few boxes of tackle. I have read fishing in Sequoia is catch and release only  however most of the fish I have seen caught in fishing reports were in coolers, to play it safe i decided to make it a catch and release trip, I figured letting the fish go would be looked upon favorably by the fish Gods.

David told me he was going to pick up John at 2AM, which would have given me 15 to 20 minutes to get ready if I set my alarm to 0200. My alarm went off and right after I hit the snooze, rubbed my eyes and set my feet on the floor I got a text message from Dave "We are outside"... Great. I rushed around, my wife followed me out of the room to make sure I did not forget a vital piece of gear. She told me to be safe, kissed me and we were on the road. The trip to Three Rivers, Ca was about 55 minutes, past there is was an hour drive up a winding mountain road  barely as wide as 2 cars smashed together. It was dark when we started the hike, about 0430, winding up the first trail John stopped short and being startled by the set of glowing green eyes looking at him. We looked were his headlamp was pointed and saw another set of eyes and another. 4 sets of eyes looking at us, I figured they were deer, David took a quick flash photo and confirmed it.  We could see the lights of the towns in the central Valley peaking through the mountains, the full moon gave us a lot of light to keep good footing. We walked up to about 86,000 feet before the sun came up. A little before we rounded the side of the mountain.  

The View was amazing and well worth the price of admission.
We came across so many deer, mostly younger bucks with 4 or 6 points and a few does. There was one nice 8 point that let me get pretty close but I did not get the shot I wanted. 
The other thing in abundance were what I think were female Spruce Grouse, though I am not sure because of the lack of black and red males. Let me know if you know the ID of this bird. 
The other amazing thing about this part of the Sequoias is the landscape changes so drastically as you walk, from lush grassy meadows to barren Mars like landscapes I don't think I could get bored with what I am looking at there. We made the hike up to the lake by 8AM and it was worth the sweat and sore legs.   
We got right to fishing, John caught the first fish. It was a beauty of a little Brook Trout with it's parr marking still strong along it's sides. John's first freshwater/spinning gear/artificial lure/mountain fish. 
We arrived right during a hatch, some kind of small white midges were flying all over the water and the little trout were jumping clean out of the water to gouge themselves.  
I switched to a bobber and Power-bait worm on a small jig to sight fish the little guys. I think I could look at these little beautiful fish all day. 
Amazing little fish. 
The reds, the blues, the fainted parr marks, these fish are like little masterpieces swimming around. 
As the sun moved over head the bite died off, we decided to catch a few more and head up to the upper lake. 
It was hard leaving fish this beautiful but the camper we chatted with told us not only were there more fish in the upper lake they were bigger. Being the fools we were we fell for it. 
The view over looking Lower Monarch Lake was amazing
We made our way up to the upper lake taking the path the spill way to the dam cut through the brush and rocks, most the area was broken white and black specked granite that was blasted away to form the lake, large chunks of it were cemented together to form a dam, only a padlock prevents anyone from opening or closing the water gate and draining the lake completely. We ate Jerky and pickled Carrots, there was a lot less cover in this lake and almost no fish jumping. I suggested John switch to a heavier spinner and it paid off. 
He caught the largest and most beautiful fish of the trip, what a lucky duck. 
Another look at his Upper Monarch Brook Trout
We climbed over 3000 feet in elevation, it was hard to breath and our feet were getting pretty sore, Sawtooth summit was out of the question. It was about 1100 when we headed back down. The decent was sketchy, sliding down bare rock and loose shale, I am surprised no one twisted an ankle. 
The water was so clear and clean I will be dreaming of it for a while
Between the loose shale and steep paths that switch back and forth randomly spotted with boulders and tree roots my feet were both just a giant blister. It felt like the the path was going on forever, the sight of the car from 9,000 feet was a welcome sight even if it seemed still out of reach.  My feet were still growing heavier he last few steps stumbling towards the car, the relief of sitting in the car was beyond words. 

Thanks for reading,
Dan


http://theimpracticalfishermen.blogspot.com/2012/06/party-boat.html
http://theimpracticalfishermen.blogspot.com/2012/09/pickling-and-canning.html

19 comments:

  1. What an experience, thanks for the ride. Bet you slept well that night.

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    1. My girls were bickering, my wife had to break it up. There were a few teen-aged temper tantrums and I learned about it the next day.

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  2. I love brookies. I don't care if they're dinks or a decent size, they're just so beautiful to look at. Great pictures, that scenery is awe inspiring.

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  3. This makes me miss the west...a lot! Fantastic photos and a fine trip.

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  4. Sequoia is gorgeous. No doubt about it. I used to do that 2am climb forever to fish thing, but as you get older, you tend to fish where you can drive to the lake. By the way, the Sequoia is the only tree with all 5 vowels in the name. A little trivia question.

    Mark

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  5. Great outdoor pics. Haven't been able to backpack in some time and those pics and the little Brookies make me nostalgic! For the scenery, not the pain!

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  6. Beautiful backpacking pics. Miss doing that alot..well at least the scenery and brookies. Not the pain.

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  7. WOW That looks like an incredible day trip. Wish we had something like that here.

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  8. Wonderful shots! Great captures. I can imagine how beautiful experience you had trekking to the mountain. Sequoia is really gorgeous!

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  9. Surprising pics are describing the post. Great fishing blog.

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    1. Thank you, I think the character of the terrain came out in the photos, even though the scale of the scenery could not.

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  10. It's a very good place that you have there. Many resources and places that you can surely enjoy with your friends. I like the part that you have some fishing activity using some artificial lure to attracts fishes in that area. It's really good to have it in order for you to have a good catch.

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    1. Not a fan of spam, but after seeing the site I'll allow it this time.

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  11. Above 9,000 feet state law is enforced. Which means there is a limit of 5. For the Brook trout the limit is 10 if they are under 10 inches(this applies below interstate 80 in CA. Just thought that might be helpful. In my opinion, eat up! Those Brook trout make it hard for the Rainbow trout to flourish as they over-populate much of those lakes.

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    1. Good to know, all those guys went back. I am thinking of doing an overnight trip up there sometime. Brook trout might be on the menu. :D

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