The Allure of Lake Mamie

There has long been debate about how Lake Mamie got her name.

One theory says that Mamie’s big sister upstream, Lake Mary, was named after Queen Mary of England, with the smaller lake just up the hill, George, being named after her husband, the King. Then when the outlet beneath Lake Mary was dammed up to make a second, much smaller lake, it was named Mamie, since Mamie is often used as a nickname for Mary or grandma.

While that theory adds some royalty to the region, it does ignore the Lakes Basin’s more rowdy and rugged past of boom and bust mining towns. That’s why the other theory holds that Mamie and Mary were actually named after local dancehall good-time girls.

The lakes are as impressive and awe-inspiring as royalty sitting upon the throne, they also still have a twinkle of Wild West still in them. That’s why it’s always fun to cast a day upon Lake Mamie, especially since it’s one of the most beautiful drive-to fishing lakes you’ll ever find.

“Lake Mamie has perhaps one of the best views … of any lake in the world.” Jack Holder, from “Secrets of Sierra Fishing.”

Jack Holder’s words ring true. And it’s not just because he’s a legendary Eastern Sierra angler and talented writer, but simply because the small, 19-acre lake has a quaint kind of magic to it.

Mamie’s inlet is fed from Lake Mary and flows in through a canopy of evergreens. The streaming start of the lake is a popular place for local critters like coyotes, deer and bear to come by for a drink.

The outlet is dammed, and then feeds the waterfall that leads to Twin Lakes far below. Just above the dam, the road crosses Lake Mamie and it a popular spot to take photos with the Crystal Crag and the Sierra Crest hovering above the gin-clear, alpine waters of Lake Mamie.

Reid Linnastruth was raised in Mammoth Lakes and grew up angling all over the Eastern Sierra with his dad, who first put a fly rod in Reid’s hand when he was just seven years old. A couple decades later, Reid is all grown up and now makes his living from fly fishing—guiding and working at Rick’s Sports in Mammoth.

“My dad showed me the ropes, and after I broke a few Shakespeare rods, he finally got me a nice one and I knew to take care of that one,” Reid fondly recalled. “Every Sunday was ‘Church Day’ for us, so we went out fishing. That was our church.”

Their Sunday excursions would take the Linnastruths to places like the Mammoth Lakes Basin, the June Lake Loop and the Golden Trout Wilderness in the mountains above the Owens Lake. While he’s a big fan of Hot Creek, McLeod, Crowley and Convict lakes, Reid’s favorite local fishery is Lake Mamie.

“I just have so many great memories of stripping streamers and float tubing on Mamie. I always have a good time up there,” Reid said.

Even though Lake Mary and Lake George may be more popular fishing spots in the basin, Lake Mamie has its own quaint and quiet appeal. No motorboats are allowed, just float tubes, canoes and the occasional rowboat rentals from Wildyrie Lodge are the only things you’ll ever see floating on the lake.

It doesn’t take much to make Mamie feel crowded, but besides the popular bank fishing spot along the road and the inlet, Mamie’s half-mile of shoreline is often bare of people. So it’s not unusual to hop on the lake on a cool afternoon and feel like you’ve got the whole thing to yourself.

“It doesn’t ever seem to get too crowded,” Reid agreed.

“Being out there on a float tube it’s easy to get around. The water is so clear and it’s just so nice to be in that pristine natural environment. With the serenity and the good fishing, it’s always a good time at Lake Mamie.”

Indeed it is.

Mike McKenna

Award-winning author and journalist Mike McKenna is the writer behind the new book Casting Around the Eastern Sierra, which was recently awarded runner-up in the Outdoor Writers Association of California's Best Outdoor Guidebook category. The book focuses on fishing in Mammoth Lakes and the surrounding area, with tips and tricks from local experts.

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