April 27 was the opening day of the long-awaited, 2002 California trout fishing season.
Wanna guess, where yours truly was planning to fish that day?
Well, for more years than I care to say, "Little Donnie Q" has traditionally hiked into two, backcountry lakes for that trout opener. They are known as Roosevelt and Lane Lakes.
Since about 1959-1960, they have provided me with a whole book full of camping and fishing memories.
Those two, small, interconnected lakes are located at an elevation of about 7,400 feet in the Hoover Wilderness Area, just south of the Leavitt Meadows Campground on California S.R. 108 (The Sonora Pass Highway).
They offer a great, early-season combination of hiking or backpacking, awesome scenery and darn good fishing.
That awesome scenery consists of gorgeous high-mountain meadows, scattered pine trees, groves of quaking aspen trees, rugged ridges, snow-capped mountains, the noisy and winding West Walker River, spectacular waterfalls on the mountainsides, small streams, mule deer, coyotes, geese, an occasional black bear, beautiful sunrises, sunsets, etc.
The darn good fishing consists of Lahontan cutthroat trout, up to about 24 inches in length and Eastern brook trout, up to about 18 inches.
My all-time records at these two lakes are a trophy, 22-inch cutthroat trout from Roosevelt and a trophy, 21-inch brookie from Lane (my largest brook trout ever caught anywhere). Both were caught on lures while spincasting from shore.
In addition, because they are easy to reach, Roosevelt-Lane Lakes offer a golden opportunity for an easy, early-season, hiking or backpack trip which helps to shake off the rust of the long winter months of inactivity.
The Thursday afternoon before that opener, Elaine asked me, "Are you really sure that we want to hike into Roosevelt-Lane Lakes on Saturday morning?"
Her question was prompted by the fact that we had just returned on April 20 from our 18-day trip to Southeast Asia.
Then I had left the very next afternoon to be a contestant in John Riordan's Invitational Fishing Derby, headquartered at the Topaz Lodge.
I finally got home late Tuesday night and since then, had been confronted with everything that accumulates while being gone for almost a month (suitcases to be unpacked, dirty clothes to be cleaned, bills to be paid, telephone calls to be returned, Emails from all over the country, shaggy unmowed lawns, weed-filled flower beds, groceries to be bought, dusty house, and on and on).
It was almost overwhelming.
However, the only thing in the past that had ever kept me away from Roosevelt-Lane Lakes on the opening weekend of the California season had been either deep snow drifts on the trail and ice covered lakes or bad weather.
I was bound and determined to hike on Saturday and I replied, "You bet and you're going with me!"
However, the weather was not very co-operative.
On Friday, it was snowing in the mountains, the dark clouds were nasty looking, it was cold and the wind blew real hard all night.
I got up at 3 a.m. on Saturday, peeked out the window, saw that things did not look good, said "To heck with it" and went back to bed.
When we finally got up, we regrouped and planned to try again for our hike on Sunday morning.
I got up at 4 a.m. on Sunday, peeked out the window and saw that there were no clouds, no wind and there was a full moon shining, high in the sky. Our hike was on!
We left the house at 4:30, stopped for some "goodies" at Doughnuts To Go and headed south on U.S. 395.
We arrived at the day-use parking area at Leavitt Meadows Campground at about 6:00 a.m. and were ready to being our three-mile hike into Roosevelt Lake by 6:15 a.m.
It was bitter cold! We bundled up with layered, warm clothing, wool gloves and hooded coats and began to hike.
Our two backpacks were loaded with a whole host of things including: fishing poles, fishing reels, spare reel, fishing net, small tackle box full of various lures, container of worms, Power Bait, two fishing vests, a three-man inflatable raft, oars, two life preservers, flasher blades for trolling from the raft, extra clothing, raingear, first-aid kit, salami, cheese, rolls, chicken wings, candy bars, fruit, canned pop, water and even a crossword puzzle book.
It's really amazing how fast you can go from being shivering cold to sweaty hot when you walk with those kind of loads on your back.
At 7:15, we finally reached Roosevelt Lake and gleefully discovered that there were no other fishermen at the lake. In fact, it turned out that we were the only fishermen for the entire day!
The lake looked gorgeous and the fish were already rising. Yahoo!
We quickly took off our heavy packs, rigged up our two poles with lures (Elaine had an orange/bronze striped, No. 2 TOR-P-DO lure and I had a rainbow-colored, No. 2 TOR-P-DO lure) and began to cast out into the icy cold water.
In just a few casts, BAM!
Elaine had caught the first fish of the 2002 California fishing season, a very nice, Lahontan cutthroat trout.
Shortly afterwards, I nailed a nice Eastern brook trout with my lure.
The only bad news was that it was so cold that when you reeled back in your lures, the water would freeze and form ice in the eyes of your fishing pole. So, we had to constantly dip our poles into the water to get rid of the ice, while reeling. It was cold at 7,500 feet on April 28!
We took a short "lunch" break at about 9 a.m., began to fish again and really hit the jackpot.
Between 9:30 a.m. and noon, Elaine and I caught and carefully released a total of 19 cutthroat trout, up to 18 inches in length and another 2 Eastern brook trout (13-14 inches). Not too shabby!
About noontime, it was beginning to get very cloudy, the clouds were ominously, dark-looking and the wind was really beginning to blow.
We decided that it would be prudent to load up everything and head back to the truck at the campground.
We reached the truck at about 2 p.m. and drove back to Carson City.
Most interesting of all, the fishing was so spectacular that I never took the raft out of my backpack. I carried that darn thing a total of 6 miles (roundtrip) and never used it.
But, heck who cares! It was a great start to the California fishing season.
-- Bet Your Favorite Pigeon
Bet your favorite pigeon that he can't tell you how many other fishermen were in that area on that day.
"If he responds, "There were two float tubers at Lane Lake," we must have already told him this story and you lose.