If you missed Day I & II the TR can be found here
Kern River Headwaters
The sun came up too early on day three. Day two had been the longest I had ever walked in one day in my entire life. I was totally wrecked at the end of day, and so I thought I would sleep like a baby. Unfortunately, that was not the case as my feet were covered in blisters which forced me awake with sharp stabs of pain every time I moved. I was tossing and turning a lot too because my 0 degree bag was too warm in the 30+ degree night air… This heat wave was getting out of hand. Begrudgingly, I hauled myself out of my sleeping bag, donned my jacket (it wasn’t really cold enough for it but it kept the mosquitos off), and limped across the pine needles bare foot towards our “kitchen” next to the river.
Day I – 17 Miles
Day II – 26 miles
Day III – Projected 11 miles (but with the most elevation gain of the whole trip…)
As we hiked that morning the mosquitos got progressively worse and worse. I have been hiking in the High Sierra since I was a kid and I do not ever remember the mosquitos being as bad as they were on that day. Since there was no wind the only way to “escape” them was to rest in direct sunlight where the temps were in the high 80’s. If you stopped in the shade for any length of time you were eaten alive. We only had a small bottle of bug spray that were rationing figuring that the bugs would be really bad on Day IV when we dropped into Owens Valley.
The bugs, the heat, the blisters, and the pain were not the hardest thing to deal with on that trip though. By far the hardest thing for me was walking past amazing fishing hole after amazing fishing hole and not stopping. Just too many miles to cover and not enough days… Day two in the heart of the Kern Valley I saw countless spots that I didn’t have to guess had fish in them because I could see them from the trail! Yet I had to pass them on by. Well day three I had had enough. My buddy was keen to keep hiking so I told him I would catch up – I needed to fish for a little, even if it was just half an hour.
The fishing was so good I completely forgot I was being eaten alive. In a hundred foot section of river I caught two dozen fish and brought about half that to hand.
All the fish that I caught in that section of river were really dark Rainbow Trout. A few were almost black, I had never seen coloring like that before. It was pretty cool. Back on the trail the last mile or so was brutally steep, insanely hot, and the mosquitos did not let up one iota. When I finally crested into the high alpine valley I was greeted with the most spectacular view of peaks and lakes, it was so good I almost forgot about the heinous climb I had just conquered. I was starting to stink pretty bad so I went for a refreshing dip, pitched the tent in the shade to escape the mosquitos, and took a nap while my buddy read.
When I awoke I broke out my newish toy – a Daiwa Wisestream 45UL-3 rod mated with the Daiwa Crest 2004H reel. I had three pound nylon line on the spool and I was using Japanese Forest spoons (so far I like the light ones between 0.7g and under 3g). I had fished with her a couple times in Texas for Guadalupe Bass, but this was to be the first time since I was eight that I would fish for trout using anything other than a tenkara rod and kebari. The mosquitos were still bad but I did not care I could see countless trout swimming amongst the lake grass. They were all too far out for even my longest tenkara level line, but my Crest 2004H reel had 150m on the spool… First fish brought to hand was after a few casts – a really pretty albeit small Golden Trout. I cast to the same spot and got a solid hit, as I got the fish in closer I could tell she was a beast. Definitely would have never caught her on a tenkara rod due to the distance from the shore she was holding. I was using my heaviest spoon at 2.8 grams and I let it sink for a three count before I began the retrieve. It was nice to have the right tool for the job. I would be remiss to not give a shout out to Jun Maeda-san, Keiichi Okushi-san, and John Vettereli-san for their assistance in getting my rig dialed in. I am super happy with it. If you have not given the UltraLight spin rods a try I highly recommend you do – they are a lot of fun.
Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end and so I packed up my UL spin rod, packed up the tent, and headed down the trail. At 11,700′ my stomach which had been bothering me all afternoon called it quits and I had to make a pit stop adding dysentery to my list of ailments… Good times.