Hot Creek Ranch offers fishing on the fly

One of Hollywood’s top lawyers yearns to outwit a fish.

“Fly fishing is a thinking-man’s sport,” says attorney Skip Brittenham, who has dedicated an entire room of his home to paraphernalia that includes rods, reels, vests, waders and a fly-fishing library. “Even after 30 years of fly fishing, I’m still learning.”

Veteran fly fishermen might nod their heads in agreement. For everyone else who might wonder why catching a trout is such a big deal, consider Hot Creek Ranch.

Hot Creek offers nine rustic cabins against the backdrop of snow-covered Mammoth Mountain. The resort’s titular creek is fed by a dozen springs, including a boiling cauldron of volcanic heated water.

However, what makes Hot Creek impressive isn’t just the water (although it is pristine), but the fish who swim in it. Smart fish.

The ranch’s two miles of private stream has been catch-and-release for half a century. That means many Hot Creek fish achieve trophy-sized proportions and, more importantly, are fly-fishing experts. Having seen every artificial fly imaginable, they are very challenging to catch.

Furthermore, the ranch permits only dry-fly fishing, in which the fly floats on the water’s surface; it’s considered the sport’s purest form. To look natural (read: like fish food), fishermen must make near-perfect casts. And think like a fish.

Hot Creek fishermen check rocks for aquatic larvae, clues to which insects might show up later in the day — and which flies might seem most appealing. They keep this information in dedicated journals, noting water temperatures and hatches. Some crawl on all fours to the stream’s edge, the better to observe feeding behavior and the world of the trout.

That behavior doesn’t come cheap.

As a teenager, this writer tried to buy a fly rod; the owner asked for a budget. Faced with a row of gleaming mahogany display cases, the answer was $100.

He could have said good rods start at $700. Instead, he avoided the embarrassment. “I recommend you save your money,” he said, peering over his fly-tying vise.

Steve Ellis of the Fishermen’s Spot in Sherman Oaks knew an actor whose manager tried to control his spending with $150 allowance checks.

It worked, sort of: He saved them to buy $3,000 in gear at a time.

And really, what does a fly buy? The adrenaline rush of delivering a perfect cast, followed by a blazing strike? The knowledge that you have succeeded — at least for a moment — in outwitting a trout? Damn straight.

Hot Creek Ranch, Hot Creek Hatchery Road, Mammoth Lakes, Calif. (888) 695-0774; Hotcreekranch.com

Angling high for gear

photos/vlifeweekend/play_rod_02.jpg” border=”0″ alt=”Bamboo rods handcrafted by master rod builder Ron White”> 'Zero Gravity' rod
Africa's Zambezi River
You can’t put a price on love, but that doesn’t stop fishermen from trying. In honor of Orvis’ 150th anniversary, the sporting goods outlet released 49 bamboo rods handcrafted by master rod builder Ron White. The reel seat’s hoods, sleeves, ferrules and snake guides were crafted in burnished nickel silver and hand-etched with scrollwork by master gunsmiths; no detail was spared. The price? $4,150 each. Elapsed time to sell out: Two weeks. An engineering degree can come in handy when shopping for a fly rod. Orvis’ new “Zero Gravity” rod is made from “graphite composites with thermoplastic-enriched thermoset resins” — otherwise known as the same technology used in the blades of the U.S. Army’s Black Hawk helicopter. $600-$700 Africa’s Zambezi River offers elephants and hippos in addition to stellar fishing for tigerfish and bream. After the sun goes down, guests bunk down in tents lighted by a silenced generator and sleep in a four-poster bed — all of which is tended by a personal butler. $500-$1,000 per day, excluding airfare.

Orvis 150th Anniversary canoe Vortex VO2 fly reel
To get where the fish are, paddle the Orvis 150th Anniversary canoe handmade from native cedar in Canada. $4,000 (with paddles), plus shipping. If you’re after big game fish, the Vortex VO2 fly reel is for you. It’s machined from corrosion-resistant aerospace-grade aluminum to stand up to harsh saltwater conditions. $500-$700

*All of the above available through Orvis.com.

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