Wednesday, September 17, 2014
Fishing Memories: Pleasant Valley Creek
To get to Pleasant Valley Creek, you drive out of Markleeville, the tiny seat of Alpine County south of Lake Tahoe, on the county road leading to Grover Hot Springs State Park. About halfway to the park, there’s a road that leads off to the left, through a small subdivision, then over a hill and down into Pleasant Valley itself.
I first made the trip in 1983 and have been back more times than I can count. It’s a special place, and there isn’t really any one day of fishing that stands out — rather, quite a few of them. Most anglers have a creek of the heart, if you will, and this is mine.
When you come down into the valley, the dirt road runs alongside the creek. There are some primitive campgrounds alongside it: No tents, no toilets, just fire pits and a place to park a camper or pitch a tent if you are so inclined. The road then passes a ranch house, comes into a large meadow, and dead-ends a half mile or so later at a trailhead leading into the backcountry.
Starting the Day off Right
For years, whenever I was in the area, I’d make a point of getting up before dawn so I could begin the day by watching the sun rise over the mountains to the east of that great meadow. I was generally camping at the state park, and would get up, make a pot of coffee in a thermos carafe, and take it with me to the meadow. I’d pull our VW camper into a grassy area, pour a cup of coffee, have a sweet roll and put on my waders. Most of the time, I had the place to myself.
There are several large pools in the meadow, and it’s not uncommon to see quite a few fish gathering in them. When that’s the case, a halfway competent angler can have a good streak of fishing simply by drifting nymphs (Hare’s Ear, PT, stonefly imitations) through the pools.
From the meadow, the creek begins to tumble down a gorge, looping behind the ranch house, then coming back to parallel the road again. I’m getting a bit old to clamber through steep gorges like that now, but in my 30s and 40s, I did it without a second thought. Unless I was fishing next to where someone was camped, I rarely saw another person.
Two’s a Crowd
Because of its more remote location, and because it was restricted to fly fishing only with a two-fish limit, Pleasant Valley seldom attracted crowds. For someone like me, who fishes to be alone, that’s a real selling point. Over the years I’ve had a lot of good days on that stream — good not only because of the fish caught but because of the total quality of the experience.
In addition to being a favorite fishing spot, Pleasant Valley Creek also helped launch my literary career. On one of the rare days there were other people there, I was fishing the bottom of the meadow when one of the campers came over to tell me they were going to be doing a bit of target practice. When they started to blast away, the peace you look for when fishing was gone, and, so, soon, was I.
Readers of my first mystery novel The McHenryInheritance will no doubt recognize a similarity between the scene described above and Quill Gordon’s being chased off the fictional West Buchanan River in Chapter 2. It was a clear case of art imitating life, albeit with considerable embellishment.