While fishing California, my family was invited to stay at a friend’s home in Truckee, California. I instantly fell in love with the mountain village, tucked into a valley in the Sierras. I had the opportunity to share my day on the water with Dad. We woke up early on a crisp, bright day. 45-degree days in June are foreign to my South Georgia upbringing. Mom drove us west to the Tahoe National Forrest where we met up with our guide, Jay Clark, at the head of a hiking trail. Dad and I hopped into his truck and started out on our adventure, driving through beautiful ponderosa pines to a small lake called Lake Milton, “an experiment for fine fishermen.” It is a small lake fed by a local stream that has been dammed, forming a horseshoe. Where the river flows into the lake, there is a shallow shoal that can be easily waded, though it is quite silty. The lake is full of wild brown trout. These fish very eagerly feed on dries, so I was told. Unfortunately, the day we were there the bugs didn’t hatch until late in the day, so we had a rather slow morning because the few fish that were rising would not come up onto the shoal, feeding just out of reach. I needed someone with me who had a more tactical cast!
The lake makes for a unique “still water” fishery. Because of the stream that feeds it, there is a very slight flow much like a spring creek. I would make drifts from the shoal down over the deeper water, hoping to get a strike as the fly passed over a drop off. Fish love to sit on these types of transition points, be it a change in depth or current. In the morning, I was able to catch one fish that fed on a black ant (a fly that rarely fails me). It was a beautiful wild brown, covered in spots with brilliant coloring. After a slow start, it was of great relief and excitement to land one of our targets. I actually missed him the first time I got a reaction, which was particularly startling given the lack of action thus far. It definitely woke me up and prepared me when he graciously gave me a second chance. I don’t often get so lucky.
I am a big believer in taking a lunch or snack break to let the fish get going if they aren’t cooperating. It felt good to get one to the net, but a quick siesta was much needed. On the shore we crossed paths with some other anglers who were fishing the lake. Though it can sometimes be more fun and much quieter to fish in an area all alone, as well as more productive, I am always interested to talk to other people I see fishing a spot with me, both about what may be working for them as well as simply to hear their story. That afternoon we bumped into one man named Rodney from the bay area who said he fished often at the lake. He had a very loyal partner—a sweet dog who fished with him named bob, an old German shepherd. They rowed by us a little later out on the water while the fishing was still a bit slow. Jay called out saying, “what’s Bob telling you?” Rodney sarcastically replied, “He said we ne to find some fish, dad.” Obviously, Bob was right! And he must have figured out how to hold his tongue right because the bugs started to pop, primarily pale morning duns, a type of mayfly, and the fish finally turned on to the top. We landed more beautiful browns and started to sight fish to rising fish. Having never done much lake fishing before, this was special for me, especially in such a beautiful setting, tucked between the towering ponderosa pines and fierce Sierra Mountains.
Jay was a great guide—simply such a nice guy and very instructive. I believe there are a disproportionately high number of people like this in the world of fly fishing. Jay loves that he can teach people to fly fish, the sport he loves, as a guide, sharing about entomology, casting, and the entire ecosystem we were fortunate to enjoy. As he said numerous times, “the greatest part of the sport is the experience and the adventure, being with the wild fish in beautiful places.”