Hot Creek Ranch is situated off Hwy. 395 – East of the Mammoth Lakes Airport. My first visit to the ranch was in Mid September 1976. After returning from my extended trip to Aspen, I had resumed my career in the entertainment industry, joining with two twin brothers to start a new public relations firm on Sunset Blvd. I needed a fly fishing fix.
We arrived on early a Thursday morning. Fall was in the air and a fresh frost covered the ground in front of our cabin. Ilse and Nadia came for leisure and horseback riding. I came for the fish.
Dry fly fishing with single barbless hooks is the code on this property. To insure adherence to this rule, a crusty old codger rode a beat up motorcycle with spongy suspension on twice-daily rounds along the trail next to the creek, monitoring every fisherman.
A small store at the ranch sold limited angling supplies and flies that were created for this water. I purchased several small dry fly patterns in sizes 18 & 20. None of my choices were particularly effective. I had tied some skating spider patterns consisting of a tail and two oversized hackles attached to a short shank dry fly hook with the convex sides of the hackles facing each other at mid hook. After giving up on the flies I had bought and increasingly frustrated by the blustery afternoon wind, I tied one of my creations (thanks Ed Hewitt) to the end of a 12 ft. knotless, 5x leader and to that attached a tippet of 18 inches ( grease this puppy!) and one of the flies in a ginger color. I began casting down stream and downwind with my Leonard.
As the leader and fly bounced up and down over the surface of the stream, I positioned myself so that the line, leader and fly lifted and dropped inches from the opposite bank. Within moments, a rocket smashed through the surface film and engulfed the offering. I watched as a hefty Brown raced downstream and cart wheeled in the air. On the strike, the fish had solidly hooked itself. I palmed the reel quickly as my line played out only then realizing that I had set my drag far too lightly. The tippet held and within a minute I brought the struggling eighteen incher to hand on the near bank. I immediately released the fish and prepared myself for what I believed was going to be an epic afternoon.
I would like to report that I caught numerous Trout of gargantuan proportions that day. However, as it played out, I raised an infinitely larger number of fish than I was able to hook. In any case, it was one of the most memorable days of my early fly-fishing experiences.
Nadia and Ilse at Hot Creek…
Nadia with Pop’s Winston Fiberglass, 7’6′, 4WT Rod, Hot Creek Ranch…