Tenkara Trip Reports Trout & Char

Desolation Wilderness Tenkara

Trip Report by Nick Feller
July 30 – August 2, 2021

Day 1. 7.1 miles, 3050′ gain

We headed down to Desolation Wilderness Friday morning. It’s a fairly long drive, so we got there shortly after noon. Our intended lakeside camp was quickly forgotten when we laid eyes on the creek nearby. This is what dreams are made of. Fairly steep granite slides and waterfalls led to plunge pools loaded with eager brook trout. There were a few times where it was every cast. These were some of the most beautiful brookies I’ve ever seen. Vibrant colors and incredible parr makings. We watched the sunset and called it a night. Excited to see what the rest of the trip had in store.

Day 2. 11.8 miles, 3160′ gain

We woke up Saturday morning about 6 (sleeping in by some standards), broke camp, had a little breakfast and were on the trail by 7:30. This second day we were basically going to relive the route we followed through Desolation along the Tahoe Rim Trail, last year. We made our way past Lake Aloha, over Dicks Pass (9390′), and found camp near a smaller lake in the basin below.

I fished a few spots along the way, and I lost what I believe would have been my only rainbow trout of the trip. A fellow tenkara angler I met on the trail told me of a nearby creek with a pool loaded with 16″+ brookies. I found what I thought was the place he described but didn’t find the giants. However, I was more than pleased to catch another dozen smaller, beautiful brook trout. After being rained on every day in Desolation Wilderness last year, and not catching any fish… I’d say this trip was going muuuuch better!

Day 3. 12.4 miles, 2300′ gain

Woke up on Sunday around the same time as the day before and headed out. This was the day we altered our intended route the most. Instead of looping off to check out a few more lakes, we opted to spend almost the whole day following the Rubicon River. It was definitely low, as we are in a drought, but I found some nice pockets that were holding fish. All beautiful brook trout again, varying in size but rich in color.

After lunch, we made our way over Mosquito Pass (8428′) and back down to Lake Aloha. The most unique thing about climbing Mosquito Pass to me was seeing Clyde Lake, the headwaters of the Rubicon River. We got to Aloha a bit earlier than intended though, so we decided to push to a much smaller, remote lake nearby. It appeared to be fishless, but I can’t be too greedy. I had caught too many fish this trip to be upset about much of anything. I crashed out early, ready for one last day of fun before heading home.

Day 4. 5.6 miles, 1360′ gain

Ah, Monday morning. The bittersweet feeling of waking up on the last morning of a trip. We knew we had an easy day today, so we really took our time getting up and getting ready. We weren’t going by any other creeks or lakes after leaving camp, so the fishing was over for this trip. However, we decided to bag Ralston Peak (9209′) on the way out, as it was only an additional 400′ from where we were anyway.

The extra climb rewarded us with breathing views of the entirety of Desolation Wilderness. It was surreal to look down on everywhere we’d been the last three days. While the gain was minimal, the decent this day was 3040′ down. Knee brace kind of day for me. I ended up breaking a trekking pole, but I only use one most of the time, so it’s not a big deal.

All in all, this is one of my favorite trips Maddie and I have done. 10/10, will do again.

Gear Notes:

“For probably 90% of that trip I used The Yari from Tenkara Rod Co., 10′ of their level line, 4ish’ of 6x tippet, and one of my “go-to” kebari.”


Nick Feller found tenkara while going down the rabbit hole of ultralight backpacking and fell in love. Follow Nick’s tenkara adventures on Instagram @norcaltenkara.

This article originally appeared in the Winter 2021-22 issue of Tenkara Angler magazine.

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