Outdoors with Don Q: Go high to have fun, fish and stay cool

Sigh, it’s that time of the year again.

This is my annual reminder that if you’re someone like me, summer’s sweltering heat is not much fun. I do not like summer months.

I am an outdoors person who dearly loves the cold, frost, ice and snow of winter, and I absolutely and totally wilt at this time of the year.

And, especially, right now, with our record-setting temps in triple digits. I am miserable and grouchy during hot weather months.

To be honest, I dislike the weather anytime it gets past 80-85 degrees. So, when it gets hot, I either hide under shady trees in our backyard, stay indoors where it is delightfully air conditioned or go high in the Great Outdoors to avoid the miserable summer heat.

Where do I go, when I go high in the Outdoors?

Well, I’ll tell you about some of my favorite locations; and then if you also don’t like this summer heat, pick one or more of them and try to temporarily escape this awful heat.

The best news is that each day is getting shorter and shorter as we move back toward the winter. YAHOO!

Here are some suggestions for a combo of going high to have fun, fishing for trout and staying cool in the Great Outdoors for a short period of time.

Winnemucca Lake: This scenic lake is located in the nearby Mokelumne Wilderness Area of California, and it is my all-time favorite, walk-in, trout fishing destination.

Winnemucca is a large, deep, crystal-clear, ice-cold, high-mountain lake, which is reached by an easy, two-mile hike from the U.S. Forest Service parking lot at the top of Kit Carson Pass.

Photo by Elaine Quilici Frog Lake.
Photo by Elaine Quilici
Winnemucca Lake.

Be advised that you need to pay a U.S. Forest Service parking fee when you park at the Pass. That parking area is about 40 miles south of Carson City, via a combination of U.S. 395, Nev. S.R. 88 and Calif. S.R. 88.

Winnemucca Lake contains Brook Trout and Kamloop Trout, and you can quickly tell the difference between the two species when you catch one.

The Brook Trout will fight your line deep in the water, while the Kamloop Trout will jump, tail-dance and splash across the top of the water.

Shore fishing (bait, lures or flies) is normally rated as slow, but you can do very well by fishing from a float tube or inflatable raft, especially in the area on the backside of the lake between the islands and the shore. Fish in that Winnemucca Lake back area by trolling with a combination of small flasher blades and small lures or with your choice of artificial flies.

That means that you will have to carry that float tube or inflatable raft for about two miles while hiking at high altitude of about 8,500-9,000 feet, so you would be well advised to be in good physical shape.

You should plan to fish early in the morning, because when the wind comes up (almost every afternoon), it can become very fierce and you will be blown off the lake for the rest of the day.

Frog Lake: If you’re lazy and don’t want to hike all the way into Winnemucca Lake, then stop at little Frog Lake, which is only about a half-mile hike from the parking area at Kit Carson Pass.

Photo by Elaine Quilici Frog Lake.
Photo by Elaine Quilici
Frog Lake.

Don’t let its small size fool you because it contains rainbow trout that can go up to 18 inches in length (I’ve caught them that large!).

Frog Lake can be very productive for shore fishermen with bait, lures or artificial flies. We have had great success in the past by spincasting with small red/white striped lures or with red Salmon eggs on the bottom. This lake, unlike Winnemucca Lake, does not get hammered when the afternoon winds come up.

As a bonus, if you go to the side of the lake opposite the hiking trail, you can get great photos of Red Lake, down below.

Kinney Reservoir, Lower Kinney Lake and Upper Kinney Lake: These three bodies of water are located just off of California S.R. 4. Kinney Reservoir is near the top of Ebbett’s Pass.

Upper and Lower Kinney Lakes are a short walk from the reservoir. Be advised that route S.R. 4 is very narrow, steep and winding; and if you are someone who does not like that combination or if you are afraid of sheer drop-offs, you better go somewhere else.

Kinney Reservoir: It is next to the highway and contains Brook Trout and Rainbow Trout. If you want to fish from a boat, you will need a small, light boat that can be hand-launched from shore as there are no boat launching facilities. If you fish from shore, a good location is way around on the other side of the reservoir in the far corner. Bait fishermen have had good success in that area with inflated nightcrawlers or Power Bait.

If you fish from a float tube or inflatable raft, try trolling with flies or small lures, along the highway side of the reservoir, at that same far end. This reservoir is also prone to getting windy in the afternoons, so fish early, and then spend the rest of the day hiking and sightseeing in the area.

Lower Kinney Lake: This is a short and a little bit steep, half-mile hike from Kinney Reservoir. Just walk across the dam and keep going on the old dirt road. When you reach the fork in the road, the right-hand fork takes you to Lower Kinney Lake and the left-hand one takes you uphill to Upper Kinney.

At Lower Kinney, if you are a fly fisherman, use a float tube or inflatable raft for a chance at nice-sized Cutthroat Trout (up to 20 inches in length). Paddle up and down the south side for best results.

Photo by Elaine Quilici Kinney Reservoir.
Photo by Elaine Quilici
Kinney Reservoir.

Upper Kinney Lake: It is a short, steep walk from Lower Kinney Lake on the old dirt road or a very short, very steep hike along the stream that flows into Lower Kinney. If you fish from shore, try the east side and use small lures or Power Bait.

If you are a fly fisherman, take your float tube for a chance at nice-sized Cutthroat Trout (also in the 20-inch class).

As a bonus, from the dam, you have great photo opportunities of Upper Kinney, Lower Kinney Lake and the countryside way off in the distance. When you are done fishing, it is an all-downhill hike back to your vehicle.

Virginia Lakes: A complex of lakes (including Big Virginia, Little Virginia, Trumbull, Red, Blue, Cooney, Moat and Frog all connected by Virginia Creek) that is located about seven miles west of the top of Conway Summit on U.S. 395, which is approximately 15 miles south of Bridgeport, Calif.

Photo by Elaine Quilici Fishermen on Lower Virginia Lake.
Photo by Elaine Quilici
Fishermen on Lower Virginia Lake.

Be advised that you will be at very high altitude (from 9,700’ to more than 11,000’), so be sure to take it slow and easy when you are hiking.

Virginia Lakes Canyon has ten crystal-clear, alpine lakes, some containing native brook and brown trout along with stocked rainbows.

Little Virginia, Big Virginia and Trumbull Lakes are stocked with rainbows, and also have brook and brown trout.

Moat Lake has brookies and is the only lake in the drainage that has a few remaining golden trout.

Fly fishing is extremely popular in this area with the use of float tubes. For fishing or camping information, call John and Carolyn Webb of the Virginia Lakes Resort at (760) 647-6484.

There you have it: Some selected locations for staying cool during the current hot weather. Pick one or more and go have fun in the high country!

And, you don’t have to be a fisherman to enjoy the higher elevations. Just pack a picnic lunch, load everyone into the family vehicle and then spend the day enjoying the Great Outdoors. It sure beats the valley heat!

Bet Your Favorite Pigeon: Bet your favorite pigeon that he can’t tell you about a special lake between the Virginia Lakes complex and Summit Pass.

If he grins and says, “It is Burro Lake, which is reached by a very steep hike on loose shale, south of the Summit Pass Trail,” he could have been one of the persons who hiked in with me to fish for Brook Trout.

Photo by Elaine Quilici Lower Kinney.
Photo by Elaine Quilici
Lower Kinney.
Photo by Elaine Quilici Upper Kinney (foreground) and Lower Kinney.
Photo by Elaine Quilici
Upper Kinney (foreground) and Lower Kinney.

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