California opener was a wild, wet, windy, wacky weekend |

California opener was a wild, wet, windy, wacky weekend

Don Quilici


As stated in a previous column, Elaine and I were planning to hike into two small backcountry lakes, weather permitting, for that opener.

As I have done for many years, we were looking forward to fishing at Roosevelt-Lane Lakes (7,400′) in the Hoover Wilderness Area, near the east foot of Sonora Pass on S.R. 108.

However, the weather and the weather forecast did not look good.

It looked more like the middle of Winter rather than the end of April.

We spent most of Friday afternoon loading all of our fishing equipment (including my inflatable raft and oars), clothing, food and drinks into our backpacks, with an emphasis on being well prepared for cold and snow.

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We even took our snowshoes and ski poles because of the possibility of encountering deep snow on the trail.

Saturday, we were up at the ghastly hour of “Oh Dark Thirty,” and after a quick cup of hot coffee, on our way to the USFS Leavitt Meadows Campground, where our hike would begin.

As it gradually got lighter and lighter, we could see the sky was overcast with dark clouds and it was windy. An ominous sign, but we continued on our way.

When we reached the campground, there was a strong wind blowing and it was icy cold, but, surprisingly, not that much snow on the ground.

At the campground parking area, the decision was made to leave our snowshoes behind because of the lack of snow and also the inflatable raft because of the very windy conditions.

Elaine and I began hiking in bitter cold and windy weather at about 7 a.m., and on that hike, we encountered a number of large, deep snow drifts on the trail but easily traversed them with our hiking boots. Heck, it even snowed on us as we were hiking!

We reached Roosevelt Lake about 8:30. Both lakes were completely ice-free and looked as if they had been open for quite some time.

We quickly rigged up our fishing poles and began to cast various colors of TOR-P-DO lures. We cast and cast and cast.

There were no strikes nor any trout following our lures.

I thought “Oh oh, we hiked all the way into here, in this terrible weather, just to get skunked.”

We kept casting and finally began to get some, limited action on the old, reliable stand-by, red/white color.

We ended up catching and releasing three, small Eastern brook trout.

About 10:30, I told Elaine, “Let’s pack up, go over to Lane Lake and see if the fishing is any better there.”

We loaded everything back into our backpacks, hiked about 200 yards and began to spincast.

And, we began to catch fish!

By the time we quit for the day (about 1:30 p.m.) to return to the pickup, we had caught and released a total of 10 brookies, but nothing big.

For the day, we caught and released 13 brookies, no cutthroat and the best part was the fabulous hot shower when we got back home.


Norm Budden, Don Hettrick, Bob “Slick” McCulloch and I were at the loading dock of the Pinon Plaza Hotel at 9 a.m. to help transport food items to the Topaz Marina at Topaz Lake.

The food was for the big barbecue on Monday night for all of the contestants in the John Riordan Annual Invitational Fishing Derby, which would be held on Monday and Tuesday.

The food was loaded into Don’s big pickup and my little, red pickup and away we went for Topaz Lake.

At the Marina, once all of the items were unloaded, we took one look at the lake (it was absolutely flat with no wind) and decided, “What the heck. As long as we are here for the day, let’s troll and practice catching fish for the derby.”

We put Don’s boat in the water, began trolling and you guessed it: As soon as we did, the wind came up, and it gradually got worse and worse and worse.

In nothing flat, the lake was badly white-capped and we were forced to get off the water.

For the day, we did not catch any fish and the best part was the fabulous hot shower in our motel room.


Don and I were up at “Oh Dark Thirty” with plans to take the boat to Bridgeport Reservoir to catch derby-winning rainbows and brown trout.

One look out the motel room window gave us a big shock.

It was windy and pouring rain.

Then, it started to snow!

There was a quick change of plans, the boat was left in the parking lot and we took my little red truck to Bridgeport Reservoir to try to fish from the shore.

On the drive, we had blizzard conditions and chain controls on U.S. 395 in the Deadman Summit area.

When we arrived at the reservoir, the wind gradually got worse and worse.

The white caps were unbelievable.

It was blowing so hard that one small 10′ boat with an electric motor was blown backwards, almost capsized and was blown into our fishing poles, propped up on the shore.

Those two dumb Californians were very lucky that something bad did not happen. I guess that God takes care of everyone, even fools like them.

Don and I left those terrible weather conditions at the reservoir and drove to “The Elbow” on the East Walker River to try to catch a large rainbow or brown.

At The Elbow, all we could manage was 10 small, planter rainbows.

Then, that evening, at the barbecue, one of the highlights was the enlarged photo of “Little Donnie Q,” which was used as a dart target for donations to a number of charities. Like Rodney Dangerfield says, “I get no respect!”

For the day, the best part was the fabulous hot shower in our room.


Don and I were up at Oh Dark Thirty, with plans to take the boat to Bridgeport Reservoir to try to troll.

One look out the window changed those plans, once again.

It was windy and spitting a mix of snow and rain.

We decided to take the boat to Indian Creek Reservoir where we would be “more protected from the wind.”

When we arrived at the reservoir, the sky was overcast but not windy.

Yahoo! There was finally a fighting chance that we might catch a big, derby-winning rainbow trout.

We launched the boat and began to troll with various colored lures.

We trolled and trolled and trolled.

Nothing. No strikes. No fish.

Then, the wind began to blow harder and harder and harder.

By 2:30, we said, “Aw, to heck with it. Let’s stop fighting the wind, admit defeat and go back to the Lodge.”

And, so we did.

At the awards banquet, that night, we sadly watched while our two, crowing, smug, bragging fishing partners, Budden and McCulloch cleaned up with first, second and third place in the Cutthroat Category, with three trout caught from Walker Lake.

For the day, the best part was the fabulous hot shower.

For the four day period, we had continuous lousy weather, poor fishing conditions, pitiful fishing results and fabulous hot showers.

Heck, at least, I stayed clean!

— Bet Your Favorite Pigeon

Bet your favorite pigeon that he can’t tell you who fell out of the boat and onto the dock at Walker Lake and who broke his fishing pole, during the Riordan Derby.

If he grins and says, “Heck, it could only be Norm Budden,” he wins the Blue Ribbon Prize.