A Mono Basin summer: Foam, phalaropes, and fishAugust 30th, 2012 by Nick, Project Specialist
I was lucky enough to spend the summers of 2007 and 2008 Lee Vining volunteering and interning with the Mono Lake Committee, but this summer is exceptionally memorable. During a cold and windy morning of interpretive training down at South Tufa early this summer, we were amazed to see the most foam any of us had ever witnessed at Mono Lake.
Foam can appear on the shoreline because the lake’s unique chemical composition includes natural surfactants that reduce the surface tension necessary to hold bubbles together. In layman’s terms, Mono Lake’s soapy-feeling water acts like soap and can bubble up considerably when mixed, such as when 30-mile-an-hour gusts reach the normally calm shoreline.
For years I’ve heard of the immense flocks of phalaropes that grace Mono Lake with their synchronized flocks. This summer, our canoe and walking tours were exceptionally special because of a few thousand special guests at South Tufa and Navy Beach. For one reason or another the phalaropes picked this year to venture beyond their usual summer stomping grounds on the north and eastern shorelines of Mono Lake—no complaints here. Words can’t adequately describe the experience of a flock of thousands of phalaropes soaring a few feet over your canoe.
Finally, the fishing has been excellent this year (except in Mono Lake itself). Maybe I’ve picked up a few skills in the years since I last fished the Mono Basin, including the 2010 fly fishing field seminar, or maybe the trout are more active after such an early start to their summer. Whatever the reasons may be, this year has been my most fruitful yet. I’ve caught and released numerous rainbow, brook, and brown trout already and even had a nice little fish fry with the rest of the summer staff. Whether you love the backcountry or drive to lakes or streams, there are plenty of fish waiting for you out here in Mono Lake’s tributaries. As a fisherman I cannot give away my secret spots for everyone to hear, but stop by the bookstore or come along on a tour and I just might mention some of our special spots where the fishing matches the incredible scenery in the Mono Basin.