Outdoor / Fishing

Thursday, Jun 27 2013 11:18 PM

STEVE MERLO: There's reprieve from heat in them thar hills

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    Steve Merlo

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By STEVE MERLO, Contributing columnist

Heat Wave! Summer has finally appeared, with temperatures roaring into the 100s and most people will do just about anything to stay cool.

Oh, sure, one can travel to the coast and bask on the beach or just hang out, but for our local fishing sportsmen and women, there are, believe it or not, other ways to escape. The coastal regions may be the place to be when the temps get out of hand, but, for me, unless I'm deep sea fishing or out on the surf, the obscene number of people making the trek there are just not worth the hassle.

One of my favorite things to do when the weather becomes unbearable on the valley floor is to simply escape, literally, to the hills. Higher elevations offer plenty of avenues for relaxation, and, while temperatures can soar in the high 80s or 90s during peak daytime periods, the overall comfort factor remains a lot better than anywhere else I know.

Now I'm not talking about a one-hour sojourn into the hills around the Kern River, but a two- or three-hour trek into the higher elevations to simply get away from the crowds and heat. Running up into the 5,000-8,000-foot elevations takes only a little more driving time and is well worth the effort.

One of my favorite locations to fish and explore is located on the Kern Plateau, situated directly above Isabella Lake. The actual spot is a campground named Taylor Creek, and the trip there can take nearly an hour-and-a-half from Kernville. Meandering through high country meadows, tiny, step-across Taylor Creek runs all year and is full of rainbow, golden, golden-rainbow hybrids, brown and brook trout, all eager to nab a cricket or fly drifting past their lie.

Part of the creek runs right past the camp for several hundred yards and then drops straight down into the South Fork of the Kern River --thus the existence of some nice brown trout. Serious fishermen can explore the giant holes below camp to make contact with the aggressive Loch Levan strains that live there.

I once caught a brown, brook, rainbow and golden while drifting a red worm through the same undercut bank in less than five minutes! Though most are small, they make up for their size with beauty, spunk and frying pan flavor.

Okay, so the fish aren't big, maybe 12 inches at best, but the spirit of the trip makes catching them secondary. Located only three or four miles from the Dome Land Wilderness Area, the campground has decent restrooms and even nicer people who occasionally show up there to also camp and escape. The area is also big with horse people, especially those wanting to explore the wilderness areas down the road.

The path to Taylor Creek is reasonably easy to find. I follow the highway north out of Kernville to just before the Johnsondale Bridge, then drive east toward Sherman Pass. The windy road basically follows Brush Creek until I hit the Cherry Hill Road where I turn right and head south, where eventually I'll hit Brush Creek day camp then the Poison Meadow campground.

Staying on the same road, one will eventually hit Horse Meadow and its camp ground (also a nice place to camp), then Big Meadow a few miles up the road. Continuing south on the decent dirt road, I'll follow the signs to Taylor Creek and Meadows.

Campers are warned that there are no gas stations up there, so take plenty of fuel, food, water, beverages and warm clothes for the chilly mornings.

Whiskerfish On the Prowl

Isabella Lake continues to boot out extraordinary numbers of catfish for anglers willing to put in the time. I snuck up there with a neighbor for a day's bass fishing and, after the morning bite quit, we started fishing for cats. Within a few minutes, we had several nice channels to about four pounds each and another two or three white cats in the two-pound range. I also hooked a behemoth channel cat in the fifteen-pound range that finally found refuge in a nearby tree and broke me off.

While I used pieces of frozen Tuna for bait, most anglers are making contact with store bought salmon or night crawlers. If you decide to use salmon be certain to save the receipt and packaging to prove to the local warden that you aren't using freshwater gamefish for bait. Other anglers are making excellent contact with the catfish by using hotdogs -- but don't ask me which brand ...

Bow Hunters Take Notice

Bow season along the coastal zones begins July 13 for bucks forked horn or better. The season runs through August fourth. This is a drought year, so scout accordingly.

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