Humphreys Basin-Eastern Sierra

Humphreys Basin

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Humphreys Basin

Suggested Flies for the Humphreys Basin Area:
Eastern Sierra Hatch Selection

Prince Nymph
Hare's Ear Nymph

Thunder Thigh Hopper #12-13
Perfect Ant #12-16

Olive Caddis
Parachute Adams
Royal Wulff #16-18
Renegade #16-18
Griffiths Gnat #18-20


Humphreys Basin  Directions

North Lake can be reached from Bishop on Hwy 395; take W. Line St. (Hwy 168) west, go 15 miles to South Lake turnoff, just below Intake II; Continue 2 miles to North Lake turnoff just below Lake Sabrina. The backcountry behind Piute Pass from North Lake is known as the Humphreys Basin.

Notes:Humphrey Basin
The Humphreys Basin is accessed from the North Lake campground, 20 miles southwest of Bishop. It is a high elevation glacial basin mostly over 11,000 feet in elevation. The basin also serves as the headwaters of Piute Creek. The Humphreys Basin was historically fishless prior to 1880 but had introductions of Rainbows and Brookies in the early 1900's. Aerial planting of Goldens took place in the 1950's and 60's with most of the lakes being stocked with trout. Stocking these lakes was discontinued in the early 2000's with a number of them unable to sustain trout and are now fishless. The Goldens that are currently present are Golden/Rainbow hybrids. The basin is named after Brigadier General Andrew A. Humphreys, who was the Chief Engineer of the US Army. He was also the grandson of Joshua Humphreys, who is considered the father of the U.S. Navy and designed the USS Constitution (Old Ironsides). Humphreys Basin is within the John Muir Wilderness and wilderness permits are required for overnight camping. Trails are usually open from mid-June through November, although snowfall can occur in October. A 5 wt rod will provide enough force to push through the winds while fishing the lakes with a floating or sink tip fly line. Use a 5x leader and tippet. At this altitude, hatches are not prevalent but late summer has good numbers of terrestrials that get blown in by the wind. Use attractor patterns like Parachute Adams and Royal Wulffs. Terrestrials such as Foam bodied Hoppers, Beetles, and Ants work well.

North Lake (13 acres) is a small body of water at 9,500 feet with Brookies and Rainbows. It is an excellent lake to float tube as the lake is shallow and too small for the boaters who frequent nearby Lake Sabrina. Two campgrounds are nearby and the lake does get a lot of pressure. To escape the crowds, you might find better opportunites within the backcountry.

There are two trails out of North Lake. One takes you up to Piute Pass into the Humphreys Basin area, the other trail forks to the south and brings you into the Lamarack Lakes area. Starting with the Lamarck Lakes Trail you can encounter:
Grass Lake: A small lake at 9,800 feet elevation with Brookies about 1 mile from the trailhead at North Lake
Lower Lamarck Lake: About 1.5 miles from the trailhead at 10,600 feet. Consists of Brookies and Rainbows.
Upper Lamarck Lake: 2.0 miles from trailhead. Trail continues another 2 miles to Lamarck Col. Lake is at 10,900 feet and a relatively shallow tarn. Consists of Brookies and Rainbows, 7-8 inches.
Wonder Lakes: At Lower Lamarck Lake, go along the northern shore and follow the creek up to Wonder Lakes. The first lake will be about 2.0 miles from the trailhead. There are about a dozen lakes over a two mile stretch starting at 10,800 feet and going up to 11,600 feet, consisting of small brookies.

The Piute Pass Trail takes you to the following areas:
Loch Leven Lake: (10.85 acres) About 2 miles from the trailhead at 10,700 feet. Consists of Rainbows and Brookies, averaging 8-9 inches. There may be some Browns.
Piute Lake: One mile further past a number of small ponds (all containing Brookies) is Piute Lake at 11,000 feet. Consists of both Rainbows and Brookies.
Emerson Lake: Can be reached by going south up the ridge just below Piute Lake. At 11,200 feet, it consists of Brookies and is about 3 miles from the trailhead.
Muriel Lake: Going over 11,400 foot Piute Pass, you can take the south fork and drop into Muriel Lake about 4.6 miles from the trailhead. Muriel is at 11, 300 feet and consists of Brookies in the 10-12 inch class and Goldens about 7-8 inches.
Goethe Lakes: Going around the northwestern shoreline of Muriel follow the inlet creek up to Goethe, about .8 miles from the end of the trail at Muriel. There are two lakes at 11,500 feet. The lake is stocked every two years on the even year. Consists of Goldens.
Lost Lakes: Taking the eastern shoreline of Muriel to the south , you can reach the Lost Lakes within about .6 miles. Lost Lakes consist of 4 lakes at 11,800 feet to 11,900 feet. Last stocking was in 2001. From the latest survey in 2006, it was determined by DFG that Lost Lakes has a self-sustaining population of Goldens averaging 14".
Summit Lake: Taking the western fork of the trail over Piute Pass, Summit Lake is at 11,300 feet about 4.4 miles from the trailhead. Consists of Goldens in the 7-8 inch class.

At five miles from the trailhead, the trail forks to the north to Desolation Lake area within the Humphreys Basin.
Piute Creek : The creek covers about 12 miles with an elevation of 8400 to 12,400 feet. It drains all of the Humphreys Basin and is generally a small cascading stream. The stream has good productivity and excellent spawning. It contains both Goldens and Brookies.
Lower Desolation Lake: About 6.2 miles from the trailhead at 11,150 feet. 28.6 acres with a 21 foot depth. The lake has a low fertility and poor spawning but sufficient for a self-sustaining population of Goldens. Most are in the 8 inch range.
Desolation Lake: Trail ends here about 7.5 miles from the trailhead at 11,380 feet. 220 acres with a 65 foot depth. Like the lower lake, this lake has a low fertility and poor spawning but sufficient for a self-sustaining population of Goldens. These Goldens are usually up to 14 inches with a few lunkers up to 20 inches.
Forsaken Lake: Go crosscountry to the east of the Desolation Lake about .5 miles at the end of the trail. Forsaken is at 11,500 feet, it is only 3 acres and a 10 foot depth.Consists of Goldens up to 12 inches. The last stocking was in 1996 and the last survey by DFG was in 1995. Determined to be a self-sustaining population at that time.
Humphreys Lakes Four lakes sitting from 11,800 to 12,000 feet elevation. You need to go crosscountry about 1 mile northeast of Lower Desolation Lake. Humphreys Lake #1 at 11,800 feet is 12 acres with a 50 depth. Goldens have been planted over the years but have not been successfull due to the heavy Brookie population. Humphreys Lake #2 at 11,827 feet is 5 acres with a 15 foot depth. It has also been planted with Goldens but have not been successfull in competition with the Brookies. Humphreys Lake #3 at 12,000 elevation is 6 acres with a 25 foot depth. Again, dominated by Brookies.
Cony Lake: Cony is about .7 miles off the trail below Lower Desolation Lake at 11,475 feet. It is about 3 acres with a 15 foot depth. In the 1960's, Cony Lake consisted of Goldens and Brookies. It went through a chemical treatment in 1959 to remove the Brookies and replant Golden fingerlings. Now it has been determined by DFG to be fishless.
Marmot Lake: Marmot Lake is between Cony and Humphrey Lakes. It is 8.6 acres with a 25 foot depth. Fair food productivity but poor spawning. Like Cony, it went through a chemical treatment in 1969 to remove the Brookies and replant with Goldens. Now, it has been determined by DFG to be fishless.

Taking the western fork from the five mile mark of the trail below Summit Lake you go to the Golden Trout Lakes.
Upper Golden Trout Lake: About 1 mile from the fork or 6 miles from the trailhead. At 10,800 feet, this 4.4 acre has a 15 foot depth. It is highly productive with excellent spawning.Consisting of (guess what?) Goldens about 8 inches in size..
Lower Golden Trout Lake: A quarter mile downhill is the much larger Lower Golden at 10,780 feet. It is 23.8 acres with a 26 foot depth. There is good food and excellent spawning. Consists of Goldens in the 9 inch range. Very good fishing for Goldens on Piute Creek below this lake..
Wahoo Lakes: About .75 miles south of Upper Golden are the three Wahoo Lakes. Follow the creek from where it enters Upper Golden Trout Lake along the southern shore.The first lake, Wahoo #1, is at 11,180 feet and is 12 acres with a 30 foot depth. The lake has fair productivity but poor spawning for Goldens. It consists of Brookies up to 11 inches. The other two lakes, Wahoo #2 and Wahoo #3 are above at about 11,300 feet and are 5.5 and 4.5 acres respectively. Wahoo #2 is 15 feet deep but has no spawning. It was barren until planted with Goldens in 1960. Since then, it has gone back to being barren. Wahoo #3 is so shallow that fish are subject to winter kill. Both lakes are determined by DFG to be fishless.
Packsaddle Lake: About 7.6 miles from the trailhead at 10, 600 feet elevation. Take a crosscountry route for about .75 miles at the end of the trail below Lower Golden Trout Creek. The last stocking of Goldens was in 1975 and a 1996 survey by DFG determined that the population was self-sustaining.
Paine Lake: At an elevation of 11,020 feet, this 10.6 acre lake has a depth of 60 feet. It has fair productivity but sparse spawning. Stocked with Goldens every two years on the even year. The Goldens are about 9 inches in size.

Just above Upper Golden Trout Lake, the trail will fork to the north following a higher level along Piute Creek. Going north crosscountry from this trail, you can reach four major lakes:
Tomahawk Lake: At 11,145 feet elevation about .5 miles off the trail. It is 33 acres and a 30 foot depth. The lake is fairly productive with fair spawning. Initially planted with Goldens in 1955. It consists of Goldens and Brookies with some Brookies reaching a large size..
Square lake: Small lake, 4.2 acres, at 11,350 feet about 1 mile north of the trail. It has a depth of 30 feet with good food but poor spawning. Once consisted of Goldens, planted in 1961, but is now considered fishless.
Mesa Lake: At 11,300 feet about 1.3 miles north of the trail. Consists of Goldens, averaging 8-10 inches. Last surveyed in 2006 and determined to be self-sustaining population.
Wedge Lake: Small lake, 4 acres, at 10,900 feet above the western shore of Desolation Lake. The lake has a 25 foot depth with fair productivity. It was barren in 1963 but now consists of Brookies.

Fishing Regulations (Effective March 1st, 2021)

Lakes within Humphreys Basin:

Open all year. No restrictions. 5 trout per day. 10 trout in possession

Sabrina Lake:

Last Saturday in Apr. through Nov. 15. No restrictions. 5 trout per day. 10 trout in possession

All creeks and tributaries:

From the last Saturday in April through November 15, 5 trout daily bag limit, 10 trout in possession; and, from November 16 through the Friday preceding the last Saturday in April, 0 trout bag limit, artificial lures with barbless hooks only and trout must be released unharmed and not removed from the water.


© 2021 Steve Schalla
This page is not to be copied without my explicit permission.
Upper Lamarck Lake Lower Lamarck Lake Lower Goethe Lake Muriel Lake Lower Golden Trout Lake Piute Lake Humphreys Basin Middle Wonder Lake Loch Leven Lake Sabrina Lake Desolation Lake Tomahawk Lake Lower Desolation Lake Humphreys Lake Piute Canyon Bishop Creek Pine Creek Canyon Evolution Valley