While acclimating to elevation, Vicki and I spent a day checking out Convict Lake, located in the Eastern Sierra, south of Mammoth Lakes, where I did a bit of fly fishing. Sadly, I had no luck catching a trout. This is not uncommon: Although the lake is regularly stocked, it is also heavily fished. Fishing aside, what I liked best about Convict Lake was the surrounding mountains, which were beautifully colored in reds and whites. Stunning!
We drove up the road to Convict Lake. We passed the resort, the boat ramp, and the campground, then headed left until the pavement ended along the southeastern shore. It was still early, so we got a good parking spot. And then we got the daypack ready. Our plan was to hike around the lake on the Fisherman’s Loop Trail, which was well marked and well traveled.
But first, we walked down to the sandy beach below the road. We had to take a photo, of course. Vicki posed with lovely Laurel Mountain on the far side of the lake, colorful in its red and white stone. This peak was so different from all of the gray granite we were used to seeing in the High Sierra. Quite refreshing, really.
There were many groups of people hanging out on the beach. They were sitting in comfy beach chairs for the most part, while the children were running around having fun. It was a good spot to have a picnic with the family. Meanwhile, some of the adults were fishing, mostly using bobbers, so they weren’t all that active. All you have to do when bobber fishing is cast it out there and wait, keeping an eye on the bobber to see if you get a bite. A few were using lures, and they were busily casting and reeling in the line. We didn’t see anyone catch anything. I commented to Vicki that this spot was seriously overfished. We decided to hike on, and headed down the trail.
The trail mainly stayed well above the lake shore. There were occasional paths down to obvious fishing spots on the water’s edge, and the paths were very steep. You really had to want to fish along this shore! Along the way, we met with one man who caught a huge Rainbow Trout. It was truly impressive. Later on, we saw several other lunkers swimming in the shallows along the shore. Naturally, the bushes were thick along this edge of the lake, making the shoreline inaccessible. I didn’t even bother trying. My Tenkara setup had no reel, so there was no drag setting and no extra line to pay out. The tippet on my line would have instantly broken if I hooked a fish that large.
Hiking along the southeast shore was quite pleasant in the morning. There was plenty of shade, thanks to some large pines, and the air was still cool. There was barely a breeze, and the lake was calm, creating reflections of the surrounding mountains. There were a number of stand-up paddle boarders out on the lake, and a few kayaks. Later on, motor-powered pontoon party boats came out from the resort. I think the resort rents them out, as they all looked identical. People were fishing from both kayaks and boats. Heavily fished, indeed.
We made it to the upper end of the lake and walked on boardwalks over the swampy sections where Convict Creek came down from the High Sierra valley. There were aspen trees everywhere, and the sun shining through the leaves was pretty. We passed by the trail that headed up the main valley, but Vicki said that she still didn’t feel fully acclimated to elevation, so we continued on around the lake. We met some folks riding horses, which were also for hire from the resort.
As we hiked, the trees got fewer, and soon there was no shade to be found. We looked at the northwestern shore and saw that this persisted all the way to the resort. It was getting too hot for us, so we turned around, and headed back to the shady side. Much more enjoyable. By this time there were loads more hikers, so we were saying “Hi!” every minute. We took a break on the shore, scrambling down one of those steep fishing paths, and I got out my fishing rod, even though I knew that it was hopeless. These stocked trout were not only too big, they also had no idea what a fly even was! They had been fed fish pellets their entire lives. Unsurprisingly, I didn’t get a single bite. But that was OK. What would we do with ten pounds of trout filets? It was too much to eat, and we had no freezer.
Eventually, we made it back to the sandy shore near the car. There were even more people fishing and picnicking than ever. We hung out in the shade and took in the view of Laurel Mountain across the way, and watched the daily cumulus clouds growing above the mountains.
And then we headed back to our camp along Rock Creek. We wanted to do a bit more hiking in Little Lakes Valley, just to help get Vicki further acclimated. All in all, we decided that Convict Lake was a bit more crowded than our usual excursions, but it was also a pretty fun spot, especially for families, and the scenery was spectacular.
More photos and videos can be found on my Flickr Page
A topographic map with GPS tracks can be seen on my CalTopo Page