Yosemite 2011 Part Deux "The Sunset"
On our last visit, I had been telling you about my fishing trip into the backcountry of the Little Yosemite Valley and describing how I had managed to survive the hike and had even managed to catch a few fish the very first afternoon. So after all of the hiking and the fishing it is no surprise that I fell into a deep dreamless sleep content and happy with the world.
I woke to the sound of two of my three tent mates, through hikers who were on a 50 mile circular dash around the Yosemite back country, stirring to get their stuff packed so they could grab a quick breakfast and be off on another 10 or 12 mile stroll. I giggled to myself thinking that I could just roll back over and go back to sleep for a while and that all I had to do for the next two days was fish, rest and maybe fish some more …….. and oh yeah smoke a cigar and have a sip of bourbon while watching the wonderful scenery of Yosemite change color and texture with the various different phases of the day’s light. As I rolled over to go back to sleep, I flexed my legs and was mildly surprised that I wasn’t even all that sore. I dozed and drifted through a couple dreams of rising fish until the breakfast bell stirred me from my warm bed and sent me out to start my day.
We had decided to fish the Tuolumne River today, hoping to hike back to some of the beautiful water we had seen in yesterday’s travels. But during the course of my studying the big map on the wall of the breakfast tent I saw a small blue dot of a lake that looked like it might be close enough for my fat *** to hike into. I asked a couple of the kids who worked there about it and they couldn’t tell me anything about it……… which either meant it was a gold mine waiting to be found ……. or a bust. Well as any avid backcountry blue line angler can tell you …….. That kind of question just has to be answered. So the first order of business for the day was to find the lake. We walked slowly and peacefully, enjoying the feeling of walking without the additional weight of our packs and stretching out slightly stiff and sore legs. We thought we were lost a time or two but suddenly we rounded a bend in the trail and this lovely jewel of a lake was nestled into the curve of the valley before us. I stood for a while just letting the majesty of the scenery seep into my soul.
As you can imagine, I was entranced by the scene for a while but the appearances of numerous small rings dappling the surface of the lake soon broke through to the fisherman in me and I started to get really excited. I moved closer to the water peering deeply down looking for darting shadows and rising fish, I peered and I peered…….. but alas the rise rings were from gas bubbles exploding on the surface of the water which was extremely shallow for a mountain lake and it appeared to be devoid of any fish. We walked about halfway around looking for signs of life but ended up deciding that it was pointless without even rigging our rods. Part of me wanted to be pissed off about a hike into the woods to find a secret lake that was fishless ….. But that is a risk I have taken a lot of times over the years and to be honest I have won way more than I have lost on that same type bet. As we began our hike down the mountain side, I turned around for one last look………….And as I did I realized that the scenery alone was worth the extra hike.
Soon enough we found ourselves back at the main river with rigged rods in hand standing next to a gorgeous looking pool between two waterfalls.
We could clearly see a few fish fining in the current so we knew it was time to start fishing. We fished the pool hard and managed to catch a few little ones. We alternated with the big plunge pools and the connecting pocket water as well, picking up enough fish to feel confident but not enough to feel like we had it “dialed in” completely. The scenery was outstanding and the fishing was good so the morning passed quickly. I was so totally content with the world I couldn’t tell you how much time had passed or even a rough count of how many fish were landed …. How many ever there were………… it was “enough”…. And some days that is plenty to make me happy. The scenery was the ticket and with shots like these it is no wonder.
Some sliced beef stick and salami held the hunger off and the afternoon of fishing proceeded like the morning, catching enough fish to be satisfied and the scenery more than making up for the lack of size and obscene numbers. I was amazed at the many, many different types of terrain we fished, giant plunge pools, riffles and runs to deep long slow still water slicks.
All of which provided fish and scenery. We saw a fair number of hikers but not another fisherman….. “life was good”. Which leads me to the best way for a fisherman to depict the phrase “life was good” …………….
We strolled back into camp just in time for the dinner bell … … which is a pretty nice luxury to fish all day and hit camp in time to be served a hearty hot meal. We had time after dinner for a sip of bourbon and an illegally imported cigar… … not sure how those got in my suitcase after my Argentina trip earlier in the year but they sure hit the spot as Bernard and I sat and talked while darkness fell softly and slowly across the Yosemite valley. It is a true blessing to have friends that will actually let you talk and spill all of your troubles to them, acting like a wall to bounce ideas off without judging you. And it is a double blessing to have those same friends be able to boil and hour or two worth of rants and saga down to few lines of well tuned advice that highlighted what I was saying, called BS where required and most importantly reminding me of what I wasn’t saying. So thanks friend.
Once again I woke rested, content and ready for a long full day of fishing. Today’s plan called for us to fish up the small stream near camp as far as we could and really explore this little jewel. We headed out up a canyon filled with rushing white water falls and clear deep emerald pools. Fishing was great but the star of the morning was the scenic view around us. Scenic would be a gross understatement, gorgeous was still an understatement and the best way I can share it is with these pictures.
This was one of those streams that held fish in every likely looking spot and a few spots that didn’t look even remotely likely. We picked our way up the canyon fishing side by side. Casting in order until you landed a fish or hung up somehow and the other guy jumped in with a laugh and an insult or congrats depending on size and color or how bad the hang up or knot was. Unfortunately for me all of Bernard’s turns ended in fish and most of mine ended in trees or knots but oh well poop happens doesn’t it. We were fishing deep runs and holes that were nestled in the rocks between waterfalls and white water plunges. Each of these deep holes held 5 or 6 brightly colored wild fish of varying sizes of 8 to 11 or so inches. The strikes were exuberant attacks of a ferocious nature on my poor helpless stimulator or PMX. Sometimes so exuberant that the poor fish would miss on the way up and break out into the sparkling sunlight for a brief second only to turn and try to grab the fly on the way down. I found myself giggling at their antics even if I missed the strike. They were gorgeous, voraciously hungry and numerous and those are some of my favorite adjectives when talking about fish.
And perhaps coolest of all the final piece of my grand slam day and the biggest fish of the trip for me.
I was in such a zone it was almost a shock when we cleared the canyon and got into one of the prettiest high country meadows that I have ever fished. We split up and fished “Smokies” style building rock cairns where ever we stepped into the water so the other would know where to get out and skip up ahead building another cairn for the person behind. Except the scenery was so pretty and I was so relaxed and content that after a while I just laid down and took a quick nap lazed my way upstream not even bothering to skip up ahead of Bernard even when I saw the elaborate and creative cairns that he built for me. It was a perfect fishing afternoon, clear and sunny, with just a hint of crisp chill to the air to cool the warmth of the afternoon sun. The sky was so clear it dazzled the eyes and defied the imagination and the mind … … but it soothed the soul to say the least. I loved the sunlight beating down on the shallow meadow stream as the fish just seem to materialize as if conjured out of the stoney bottoms as they rise in darting furious slashing strikes, disappearing almost as magically when I miss the strike like I normally do. But today’s fishing was so relaxed I couldn’t even seriously make myself get to concerned or worked up about all of those missed strikes… … it was just to dang pretty.
By the time the afternoon sun began to start its downward slide I was at that marvelous point where I had caught enough fish and was as full of fish memories and scenic mental snap shots as a 300lb man after 2 thanksgiving dinners. I started my walk back to camp watching the world around me more than the trail my feet were walking, which was good for my mind and bad for my stumbling feet. I was amazed as I saw the moon in late afternoon sun appearing as if it was rising out of the top of a hill like a giant flying saucer levitating off the ground. I snapped a quick picture thinking it wouldn’t turn out but was amazed later on when it actually turned out almost as good as my memory.
Once again we rolled into camp at almost the exact time the dinner bell rang and once again a hot hearty meal spread more contentment through my stomach and my mood. I skipped dessert so I could see the sunset which was framed perfectly over the majesty of the Little Yosemite Valley. The hour or so of the sunset were one of the most beautiful and inspiring things I have ever witnessed, and yes I had a couple of sips of bourbon and a cigar while I sat in sheer silent awe watching the sublime spectacle that was slowly playing out before me. I am not a deeply religious man but I do believe strongly in God and the majesty that he brought to this world this night was one of the most awesome demonstrations of beauty that I could ever imagine let alone have the pleasure to witness. It would to me, be impossible to witness what was going on around me and not recognize God’s existence in some form or another, to say it was all cosmic chance that just happened to meld into beauty of this magnitude was simply not something my little mortal mind could believe… … and somewhere deep in my heart I knew I didn’t want to believe that either … … I wanted and needed to believe in the majesty of God and the grandeur of his world, and I needed this beauty to seep deep into my heart and settle my troubled spirit. But while I was conscious of those thoughts I really wasn’t thinking about any of that as much as I was just experiencing it as it unfolded before my eyes. These pictures trace that scenic transformation, and while I think they are beautiful they don’t even capture half of the magic of that sunset. But here they are as limited and one dimensional as they may be.
And with that, darkness descended and we retired to a roaring campfire but those last few haunting moments of sunset will stay with me my entire life as will the memories of my trip to the Little Yosemite Valley. I can’t remember when a trip served to revive me body soul and mind as much as this one did … … sometime when you are feeling your lowest… … God and nature can provide you the relief and beauty you have been searching for, so yet once again… … thank you God for the beauty of your world and for letting me experience it to this magnitude and also for giving me friends to share it with.
Thank You for sharing
Great pictures. Did you catch any Goldens?
no native goldens in the area we were although i hear they arent far away......... that is definitely on my bucket list
Some very nice images there!
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