On our most recent trip to our family's bi-annual fishing debacle, my brother and I decided to take the road less traveled and search for one of California's Heritage Trout. For two years, Lahontan Cutthroat Trout had been spoken of with great admiration around the camp fire. No, not the prehistoric beasts you see being seduced from the depths of Pyramid Lake, but a small isolated population of trout in a tiny creek high in the Eastern Sierra. Word had been circulating that the Department of Fish and Game had reintroduced this rare fish to one of its native drainages less than thirty minutes from our campground.
Restrictive regulations, skinny water, and unmarked dirt roads had kept us away for far too long. Under the influence of countless fire-side cocktails, my brother and I sauntered back to our tents for the evening, determined to document the beauty of the Sierra Nevada and it's native trout the next morning.
Filled with photo opportunities, rough roads, and hunters in search of deer, the drive to the creek was an adventure in itself. Once there, I wasn't convinced that my uncles, who started this Lahontan rumor, were to be trusted. The creek these fish were to be hidden in was beyond tiny. The deepest of holes dipped a measly two feet below the surface and the water trickled between stones, barely carrying the weight of the Fall leaves.
Upon closer inspection, we noticed that the clarity of the water, coupled with its depth made for some extremely spooky little trout. Each time I saw my bushy sized 14 X-Caddis hit the surface of the water, I would see little shadows dart from the riffles to their well rehearsed hiding spots. Fine...lesson learned!
Two-weight rod in hand and a size 18 Mercer's Missing Link now fastened to my tippet, I crouched behind a fallen log. As slowly as I could, my head came up from behind the obstruction and I spotted my next target. One delicate cast and the slow, drawn out rise of a cutthroat had my heart thumping and hand ready to set the hook. A few seconds later, my first Lohontan Cutthroat was in the net. Collectively, we let out a celebratory "Whoop!". The mission had been accomplished.
That day, my brother and I fooled a handful of cutties before deciding to leave the delicate stream to its own devices. We weren't there for the numbers, or the size. We were there for the friendship, adventure, and a rare encounter with one of California's Heritage Trout.
All Photos by Logan Graff