Casting Perfect Loops in June Lake

There are a lot of wonderful places to fish in the Eastern Sierra, but none of them feel as familial—or as homey—as the June Lake Loop. The only thing that seems to change in “the Loop” each year is the water level depending on the winter’s snowpack.

There is nothing that speaks to the timeless and family appeal of June Lake better than Ernie’s Tackle and Ski Shop in the heart of town. Founded by Ernie Felkins in 1932, the shop has been in John Logue’s family since 1960, when his grandparents bought the place from Ernie.

John’s parents purchased the shop from his grandparents in 1972 and he began working in it when he was about 12. John fondly recalls having to stuff boxes full of hooks before he could go off and play with his friends. His sons and grandkids help out in the shop now, too. Often stocking the shelves before they can go off on adventures of the own. John believes that the slow-paced, family feel of June Lake has always been a big part of its appeal.

“You’ll find a lot of family-owned businesses and you’ll find generation after generation coming here. I’ve seen lots of kids grow up and bring their own kids here. Just the other day a guy said he’d been coming up fishing here since the `40s,” said John, whose family also owns the Sierra Inn Restaurant next door. “June Lake is just that way.”

With just over 600 hardy souls calling June Lake home year-round, things tend to stay pretty quiet—at least they do outside of the June Lake Brewery and the Tiger Bar! The lack of much to do inside is another aspect of sleepy June Lake that families find appealing.

“The community is more low key, more keyed towards the natural surroundings and family time. We just don’t have all the distractions,” John said, about the entire June Lake Loop. “It’s about spending time with family and nature.”

It’s also about spending time fishing for trout in the “Switzerland of the Sierra.”

“It’s pretty tough to find a better place than this is if you love to fish,” said Jeremy Ross, who has long helped his stepdad run Ernie’s. “You can fly fish a creek, float tube, troll or shore cast several different lakes and pretty much any method you want to fish will work. Even first-timers have a pretty darn good chance of catching fish here on the June Lake Loop. Heck, the whole loop is basically 20-plus miles of incredible fishing.”

The four lakes and the creeks that connect the June Lake Loop all offer great fishing in the summer months. John explained that whether you want to cast a fly rod, hang worms under bobbers, or troll the deep lakes in the Loop for monster trout, it’s pretty easy for the crew at Ernie’s to point you in the right direction.

John recommends Lower Rush Creek for seasoned fly fishers or Grant Lake for those new to the sport, as it affords lots of room to back cast. For those who love to troll, John says lead-core line works well and doesn’t require down riggers. Tasmanian Devils have been the troller’s go-to in June Lake for a while now.

Thomas Buoyant in gold/red blends have long been the #1 selling lure at Ernie’s. For those looking for more of an adventure, John recommends heading up Tioga Pass to Ellery Lake—his favorite—or the 20 Lakes Basin and taking the water taxi across Saddlebag Lake. He also said the late summer/autumn pack trips in search of golden trout in the backcountry with Frontier Pack Trips are always fun, too.

After more than a half-century casting around June Lake, it’s tough for John to pick out his favorite story. He still enjoys the simple pleasures of helping folks, like the many Europeans who come through town each summer and are inspired to try fishing for the first time, get out there and have some fun. After gearing them up with a quick lessons and some bait, John often sends newbies off to the Fisherman’s Trail at Gull Lake.

And though they often come back with terribly tangled lines, they usually come back happy. “They enjoy the mountain scenery and the experience,” he said. “They are always very inspired by it.”

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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