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TR: Ring around the Brewer

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TR: Ring around the Brewer

Postby Pato » Fri Aug 09, 2013 7:36 pm

This trip I knew we were in store for 3 things: 1) Big Scenery 2) Great Fishing 3) Challenging terrain. The third was more of a result of getting the first two. Even though a big focus was on fishing, I thought the report was relevant here as well as the area is a beautiful one for backpacking. I'm personally not particularly tight lipped about destinations, but I know that some are. I've opted to leave the names of the lakes out, but it shouldn't be tough to determine their locations.

Day 1:
Three of us set off from Roads End on July 31 with a good nights sleep in Fresno and ready for a big first day. I had been particularly nervous about smoke from the Aspen Fire ruining our big trip, but most of it was blowing north. There was a little haze in the canyon that morning but we never saw signs of it again. Day 1 had 13 miles of trail to cover and 4500' of elevation to gain to reach our destination lake. The miles ticked off fairly quickly and we stopped for lunch along beautiful Bubbs Creek. The crossing wasn't challenging at all in this low snow year with the water only up to our knees. We worked our way up the side canyon and we rolled into camp around 4pm and found a great campsite at the outlet of the lake. Camp was quickly set up, and fishing rods rigged so we had the majority of the evening to fish.
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Each of us caught at least 20 or so browns in the 9"-10" range with a couple of larger rainbows to maybe 12". While fishing was good, we were a bit disappointed none of us hooked into the much larger 18" rainbows that supposedly reside here. We kept 1 brown and 1 rainbow for a taste test. The rainbow won...easily.

Day2:
A leisurely start this morning had us heading up the drainage to another beautiful lake around the 10,000' level. I had read the lake had small goldens in abundance and the reports were spot on. We fished for maybe 30 minutes each pulling in a couple of fish but none of any size.
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We moved on, leaving the trail for the next 4 days and headed up the major obstacle for the day: a 12,300' tricky class III pass. Progress up the talus was fair and before we knew it we were below the loose class III chute. We took turns scrambling up the final 100' to avoid rockfall. Really, this pass has 1 difficult move and is much easier going up than it would be to descend. Once we were all at the top of the pass, my buddy asked if that was the toughest part of our trip. I hesitated.....Day 4 is not easy I said. We made our way over the pass and into the huge basin in front of us. Though incredibly dry it was beautiful and we made our way over to unnamed lake that I had heard reports held big fish.
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Once, we were at the shoreline I knew it would be good. I could see several large cruisers along the rocky shoreline. Giddy, I rigged up and BAM had a nice strike on my first cast and pulled out a nice 13" rainbow.
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We spent a good 2 hours fishing this lake where I landed 12 fish between 12"-14". The other guys did just as well. Never before had I fished a lake with such quantity and quality of fish. We nicknamed it Chernobyl Lake - after the fly that was working so well there. We somewhat reluctantly left this lake but with big smiles on our faces as we still had another mile or so to get our campsite lake located around 11,000'.
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We arrived after a long day around 7pm and set up camp on a peninsula and then fished that lake for a bit. Fishing was good for 10-11" goldens who were a little bit stunted (large head and skinny bodies). 3 were consumed for dinner.

Day 3:
This was our layover day and a chance to explore the basin. A big goal of the trip was to fish the lake at the head of the basin near the 12,000' level. We had read reports calling this lake a "storied lunker" and couldn't wait to get there. We set off with day packs and fished a bit on the way there but really wanted to get to our destination lake. After gaining about 1000' the lake appeared and I almost ran to the shoreline to start fishing. We scanned for cruisers and saw nothing. I had a spin rod because I was worried that the fish would be deep with this low water year and sent kastmaster's out as far as I could hoping for a strike.
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We fished for maybe 30 minutes and nothing. My buddy, the pure fly fisherman, headed around the east shore and then yelled out that he saw one. Moments later - Fish on! "It's a big one" he yelled as I ran over there to get a picture. Indeed...he had hooked into a beautiful 15 1/2" golden (hybrid?).
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Amazing fish and the largest golden I'd seen in the backcountry. I switched over to a fly and bubble setup and threw on a big grasshopper assuming one of those suckers had to land in the lake every once in a while. We were target fishing now, scanning the depths off shore looking for a big cruiser. It took me another 20 minutes or so but then I saw a good size fish swim away as I approached him. I quickly lobbed one out in front of him and took it! I could tell it was a good size fish but he didn't actually fight much. I reeled him in and had a nice 15" golden....my biggest to date.
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We fished the lake for another 2 hours without landing another fish (my buddy did hook into an even bigger one, but wasn't able to pull him in). Despite wanting to catch another nice golden, we were getting a little frustrated with not catching anything and decided to head back to Chernobyl. We headed across the basin back to our favorite lake and fished a couple of lakes along the way.
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My buddy pulled out the most beautiful golden I've seen. Small but gorgeous.
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Back at Chernobyl the fishing once again proved to be excellent. We each caught another 10 12" rainbows there before we called it a day and headed back to camp. Not quite a "layover" day but we were all quite happy.



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Re: TR: Ring around the Brewer

Postby Pato » Fri Aug 09, 2013 7:47 pm

Day 4:
I was worried about this day as we had 9 miles, 4,000' of elevation gain over 2 major passes - all of it off trail. I demanded we get up early which for this group meant hiking at 8am.
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Progress was good up this incredible side valley and the views were great too.
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Once we hit the head of the canyon, we worked our way quickly up the talus to the pass at over 13,000'. I was first on top and the view was incredible. I peered down the other side though and thought "uh-oh". Once the rest of the group made it to the saddle I could tell they weren't thrilled with what lay ahead. The western side of this pass was incredibly loose scree and looked nearly vertical. You couldn't even see down it as it got so steep that you didn't know if there was a cliff below or what. I have a climbing background so I was fairly comfortable over this terrain and I lead the descent. We would have to tackle it one at a time to avoid raining rocks on ourselves from above. I would descend 200' or so, find a safe gully to hide behind and yell for the next person to go. Progress was extremely slow as the boys took their time, but we all made it down the 1200' chute to the talus bowl below. This pass, while technically class II was very dangerous and just not fun for anyone. I don't think I'll ever use it again. The picture shows the general sentiment towards the pass.
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Once over this obstacle we still had to descend another 1000' of talus to the valley below. The valley was very scenic but by this time we were tired and we still had to gain another 1000' to the next pass before we finally descended our last 1000' to our destination lake. 10 hrs after we broke camp in the morning we finally rolled into our destination lake.
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It was a long day, but I was glad we pushed on as the lake and the basin we traversed above was gorgeous. As we made our way around the shoreline trying to find a campsite my buddy made the proclamation that the lake was fishless as we didn't see any evidence of fish. But just as he said that we spotted a huge 16"+ cruiser in the depths. We had to go for him and threw down our packs. 3 casts later my buddy got a huge strike but the fish spit out his fly and dove back down into the depths. "I'll get 'em tomorrow" he said. We found a great campsite near the outlet and ate dinner. That left barely enough time to fish before dark, but we did get a little fishing in as we watched the sun light up the mountains in a deep crimson red. This lake was quickly becoming a favorite of mine. A couple of 12" bows were caught but none of us had much energy to really fish that hard.

Day 5:
The day would mostly be an epic descent back to Roads End, but I wanted to get some solid fishing in at this lake. We decided we'd fish until 10am and then start the trip back to the car. I'm glad we did as the setting at this lake was just incredible and the fishing ended up being great. I caught maybe a dozen rainbows up to 13" as many were cruising the shoreline scooping up the bugs that had died over night.
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Again it was target fishing which I was enjoying immensely. A couple of the rainbows we caught were really pretty and had beautiful spotting and white tips on their fins. I've later learned that this is the Kern River Rainbow even though we weren't in the Kern River drainage.
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At 10am we reluctantly packed up and headed down the drainage in hopes of finding a trail nearly 2,000' below. After a little difficulty we did hook up with the trail (which we had last seen on Day 1) and headed up to the pass before we would pound down to Roads End. We got back at 6pm after descending 7,000' that day. Like any self respecting backcountry trip we celebrated with a couple of Racer 5's and bombed down to Fresno to find some burgers and shakes.

Overall, this was one the best trips I've taken - certainly from a fishing perspective. The terrain and mileage was challenging but the group was up for it and as the aches and pains subside only smiles have taken their place. Hope you enjoyed the account.
Last edited by Pato on Sat Aug 10, 2013 12:35 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: TR: Ring around the Brewer

Postby giantbrookie » Fri Aug 09, 2013 11:19 pm

Terrific trip and report. That is indeed an ambitious loop to do in 5 days but you were able to get in some very quality fishing time and fishing. Btw, I'm curious about what the most recent report you've heard of 18-inch 'bows in your lake no. 1. I caught an 18-inch rainbow there in 1994, but I have not been there since. It is interesting that the "reversed" size disparity still seems to exist: the rainbows there are bigger than the more numerous browns. I have never connected all three areas as you did on your trip--I have fished them on separate trips. The combo you put together is quite an attractive loop for those that enjoy rugged off trail backpacking and fishing.

The fish out of the last lake are interesting and I believe it illustrates the difference in fish coloration depending on where they are hanging out in the lake. You caught your fish surface feeding and they are heavily spotted. I caught mine running lures really deep and the fish were chrome silver with very few spots. Deepwater rainbows tend to get like this, whereas those hanging out shallower tend to be heavily spotted.

Your day 4 is simply amazing. I had all my topo maps out recreating the route. You mentioned two major passes, but it looks to me like you did 3 passes, with the 2nd one being a relatively small ascent from the south after clearing that first very high pass. Racer 5 is a fine finish to a great trip, too.
Since my fishing (etc.) website is still down, you can be distracted by geology stuff at: http://www.fresnostate.edu/csm/ees/facu ... ayshi.html
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Re: TR: Ring around the Brewer

Postby austex » Sat Aug 10, 2013 12:11 am

:thumbsup: Way-way cool thanks for getting my juices flowing! Glad you had such a great trip and worth the effort!
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Re: TR: Ring around the Brewer

Postby bluefish » Sat Aug 10, 2013 6:52 am

Really enjoyed that! Dedicated walking and fishing. Awesome.
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Re: TR: Ring around the Brewer

Postby rlown » Sat Aug 10, 2013 11:39 am

One of the prettiest TR's i've seen this year. Thanks. I've felt a bit of that "sentiment" for some places.
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Re: TR: Ring around the Brewer

Postby Fly Guy Dave » Sat Aug 10, 2013 12:20 pm

Excellent photos, interesting narrative, and written in such a way that allowed us to go along vicariously. All of that together makes for one great TR. Thanks so much for sharing.

Cheers!

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"Yeah, well, you know, that's just, like, your opinion, man." --Jeff Lebowski

Some pics of native salmonids: http://flyguydave.wordpress.com/
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Re: TR: Ring around the Brewer

Postby Pato » Sat Aug 10, 2013 12:43 pm

Thanks for the kind words. GiantBrookie...sadly the report of 18" bows was from you but I didn't realize it was almost 20 years ago that you caught that fish. I really appreciate your reports on fishing in this area which helped me immensely when planning out the trip. Based on the density of the lakes where we caught bigger fish, the lake on night 1 is much too overpopulated with browns to support rainbows that big I think. There's probably a lot of food at this lower elevation but we were catching fish nearly every cast. The biggest rainbow we saw was maybe 12"-13" in the 3' wide inlet stream on the west shore. My buddy hooked him but wasn't able to land him to verify.
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Re: TR: Ring around the Brewer

Postby lostcoyote » Sun Aug 11, 2013 6:58 pm

thanks for posting this loop.
i've been to every one of your lakes and can attest to the fishing. we actually just has sushi at lunch at LSA (big goldens if proper bait) 10 years back.
casper lake (my name on g.earth)) is a great stopping point and the vally above is mesmerizing. (Yes, that pass sucks)
.
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Re: TR: Ring around the Brewer

Postby maverick » Mon Aug 12, 2013 6:04 pm

Hi Pato,

Welcome to HST! Beautiful first post on HST! Love all those area, and the first pass of your
trips have initials MF for a reason. :D
The pictures of those beautiful trout in the UKB is just what oldranger needs to see as a
tease for next years trip!

Lostcoyote wrote:

(Yes, that pass sucks)


Its not that bad, what's wrong with a little talus LC. :)
HST= Wilderness Adventurer who knows no bounds, except for their own imagination.

Have a safer backcountry experience by using the HST ReConn Form 2.0, named after Larry Conn, a HST member: http://reconn.org
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Re: TR: Ring around the Brewer

Postby canukyea » Mon Aug 12, 2013 10:37 pm

Easily one of the most creative routes with great fishing! What part of the journey was your favorite?
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Re: TR: Ring around the Brewer

Postby lostcoyote » Tue Aug 13, 2013 4:16 pm

mixing talus & a few hours at a snails pace (down way harder than up) along with his graphic setiments:
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nuttin' wrong with it at all - it's still a b i t c h.....
(not as bad as king col tho.)

another shot from that "magnificent valley" on the other side...

Image

ps - loved his trip report
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