This isn't one of those cushy Fish-Carltons like those über-expensive Montana trout resorts. Hot Creek Ranch in Mammoth Lakes has nine no-frills cabins whose biggest amenity is one of the sweetest spring-fed creeks you'll ever see, right out your front door. You and other guests will have a two-mile stretch of it all to yourselves. Isn't that the ultimate VIP perk, anyway? Plus, it's an easy five-hour drive from L.A.
As noted, nothing fancy. The two-room cabins come in various configurations, but most sleep four if you include sleeper-couches. There is plenty of room for two, but it's tighter for three or four. The nightly fee covers two anglers; additional guests are charged $105 a night. A comfortable porch overlooks the stream and mountains.
There are no restaurants on the premises. The cabins come with fully equipped kitchens and kettle barbecues on the porch. (Bring your own charcoal.) Town is less than 10 minutes away, with Mammoth's bounty of mostly mediocre restaurants. My suggestion: Pop some potatoes in the oven, throw some steaks on the grill and watch the sun fade over the San Joaquin Ridge.
Brown and rainbow trout in the prettiest paint jobs nature offers. The rules: fly fishing only, no wading, catch and release, barbless hooks. Basically, this requires tickling the fish ashore. But the water is pristine, the fish plentiful; 12- to 13-inch fish are standard. The setting, with Mammoth Mountain as your backdrop, is about as good as it gets in the Eastern Sierra. Don't be intimidated by experts tricked out in their $500 vests. Manager/guide Kevin Peterson will help you find the right fly. There is enough space for you to go off to practice your fly-fishing technique out of sight of others. And the creek is easy enough to cast across for even the rankest beginner.
No matter how hard we pretend, trout are far more tuned into nature than we'll ever be. They feel your footsteps; they see your shadow.
Weeknights are $225 for two people, with a two-night minimum. Minimum weekend, Friday-Monday, $705 for two people. A full week, Monday-Monday, is $1,325. additional guests are $105 a night. And there is a 12% tax [85 Hot Creek Hatchery Road, Mammoth Lakes; (888) 695-0774, Hot Creek Ranch]. Book early, for this popular resort fills up fast. If you're counting your pennies, make your way farther down the creek to the public areas, then overnight someplace in Mammoth (summer rates start at around $100). Same creek, same beautiful trout.