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My Cherry Creek odyssey

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POSTED July 18, 2011 12:43 a.m.

Ordinarily, I don’t write precise directions to a good fishing spot. Under most circumstances, revealing a great fishing hole in print will inundate it with so many anglers that the fishing will be ruined. That won’t happen in this case, however, because my secret fishing hole is so difficult to get to almost no one is crazy enough to go back.

In 50 years of fishing my favorite stretch of Cherry Creek, only one guy was ever fanatic enough to go back with me a second time. But, if you are half mountain goat and half crazy, feel free to give it a try. DISCLAIMER: the trip in and back out again is exceedingly difficult, uncomfortable, and downright dangerous. You will have to traverse a wet mossy cliff face above a 30-foot waterfall, you will almost certainly get poison oak, and if you get out that night, you will be dead tired. So, don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Fishing should be fantastic. Most years my companions and I have each averaged about 50 fish a day. The best year we ever had, I caught 106 trout while my partner caught 156 trout. The trout are almost exclusively rainbows and are very unsophisticated. I usually only keep 3 or 4 fish for lunch and release all the rest unharmed. That’s pretty good for one day’s fishing. It is possible to get skunked, however; one year the weather was super cold, and we didn’t catch a single fish. Chances are pretty good that you’ll do great. Chances are equally good that you and your companions will never see another human being astream all day.

OK, if you’re crazy enough to try it here goes:

From Highway 120, approximately 4-5 miles East of Buck Meadows, take “Cherry Oil Road”, (1N07) toward Cherry Lake. Approximately 3 miles past Early Intake, on the Tuolumne River, the paved road, (still 1N07) crosses Cherry Creek. STOP! Before crossing the bridge, go back about 100 yards to a small dirt road going steeply up the hill to the right. The road immediately forks, but the left fork only goes a couple hundred yards before dead-ending at a trailhead. That trail was built by the CCC in the 1930s. It’s a beautiful trail with steel cable hand rails, and even a covered bridge under a small side stream waterfall. If you want to take a nice gentle mile and a quarter walk, then this is the trail for you. It goes to a Hetch Hetchy weir that is used to divert drinking water from the Cherry in drought years. Unfortunately, the fishing is lousy because the trail is so good and everybody fishes there.

If you want great fishing take the right fork of the road which goes up the mountain for about a mile and stops. It was a construction road for the pipeline and penstock from the upper Tuolumne that feeds the Early Intake Powerhouse. At the end of the road there is a huge talus slope from the rock generated by the construction of the tunnel. You’ll see the gated entrance to the tunnel itself right there at the end of the road. Park your car at the road end and get ready to walk.

You’ll want to head upstream in an easterly direction. Carefully traverse the head of the talus slope and work your way about halfway down the right hand edge. There is no trail, but slowly work your way upstream while maintaining your elevation. You walk level for about a mile and a half, still heading upstream and the creek will be gradually rising to meet you. The last hundred yards or so you’ll have to slide down a fairly steep slope to the creek. Fish upstream as far as the big waterfall and then back downstream to where you dropped in. Be careful not to go past your drop in point, because the canyon gets awfully steep and even a helicopter can’t get you out of there.

The walk out is just the reverse of the walk in, a steep climb for a hundred yards or so. Stay level while angling downstream while the creek drops away, and finally there’s a steep climb back up the talus slope to your car. Assuming you get out, you’ll be swearing at me for the last mile or so. If you don’t get out, you’ll probably be swearing at me for the rest of your shortened life. But chances are you’ll have had the best fishing of your life. Good Luck!

Until Next Week,

Tight Lines

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