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BISHOP— Despite heavy rains and even record snowpack at higher elevations the Lower Owens ran gin-clear just below the Pleasant Valley Reservoir. The stretch of water was devoid of anglers due to crisp, cold 34-degree temperatures, but with broken clouds and still air, the day looked to be perfect fly fishing conditions.
The drive up to Bishop had flown by in six-hours flat, and other than constant distractions of changing scenery, the trip was uneventful. Leaving the less-than-attractive high desert of Palmdale, passing the airplane graveyard at Mojave, and finally catching sight of the huge Cinder Cones alongside highway 395 as it climbs toward the mountains, cares of the work-a-day world simply slipped away along the road.
Roadside signs pointed out the Hollywood Museum at Lone Pine, celebrating the rich film history of the area. Many of the hills along the way have been the backdrop for westerns shot on location nearby. Further up the road between the old towns of Lone Pine and Independence, is the travesty that was Manzanar, where 10,000 Japanese citizens were held during WW2. Now a national historical site the grounds and buildings are being restored in hopes of bringing enlightenment to future generations and perhaps a warning about the miss-use of government powers.
Those distractions had to wait for another day, perhaps when we return to Bishop in April for the Outdoor Writers Association of California spring conference.
Some great little motels await in Bishop and the folks at the Chamber of Commerce had recommended the newly remodeled Holiday Inn Express. The fresh décor and friendly staff really made getting in from the road a pleasure.
Finding the motel to be right down the street from the best damn BBQ, Holy Smoke Texas BBQ, I made a beeline for the dry-rubbed ribs and chicken.
With sunrise came the realization that the day was going to be bright and lovely. The fortunate chance that news having report exaggerated the incoming weather might have played into anglers not showing up along the river. Whatever the reason, the short drive north to the foot of the reservoir was easy and full of anticipation.
Local guide, Gary Gunsolley, had spent some time with me, giving tips on the Czech Nymph-no-indicator technique used most commonly along the Lower Owens. Simply a matter of wadering-up and getting into the shallow water of the river, then high-sticking the fly-rod, while searching the line for a tremble or change of direction. Nothing to it.
Two-hours after stepping into the knee-deep, frigid water I at last saw the tell-tale tremble and struck for the first fish of the day. This brown decided it would show me what L.O. trout are about and quickly I found the need to push up river, regaining some of the rapidly disappearing backer being ripped from my reel.
As I glanced around I was amazed to not see a single angler anywhere up or down the river. There’d be no help with this one. Gingerly stepping along the river bottom as fast as was prudent in such a chill, with the rod held high and constantly grinding the old Ross reel on my Sage, the line came in and at last, so did the 18-inch-plus fish.
Getting photos and releasing fish on your own is an art and every artist knows the difficulties of achieving desired results. The fish flipped out of the net and recovered very nicely before even one picture could be taken.
But lessons learned early in the day paid dividends as the day drew on. A few more fish at a few more spots though the tranquil afternoon were more than enough for any report and soon it was time to call it a day.
The ease of getting to this stretch of water and the lack of competition for spots and likely layups, makes winter fishing the Lower Owens a go-to option for this fly-guy’s next trip. Surely, I won’t wait till April before the road and the river call upon me to make the short drive up to Bishop and these beautiful waters once again.
As a general principle, do you want to travel toward a population center when looking for a place to fish? My opinion had been that we should be heading away from an urban area trying to find good fishing. Based on this idea I have not fished Folsom Lake in the decades I have been living in the Foothills. Recently I had my opinion changed.
In May, I attended an Outdoor Writers Association of California convention in Placer County. I was invited to fish Folsom Lake with bass fishing guide Don Paganelli. I was excited to go and find out what I had been missing. I have had reports from bass tournament anglers that there were some good fish in the lake.
The drought hit Folsom Lake especially hard. The water level had dropped to 116 feet below full. The dam at Folsom is much lower that Oroville and the water stored had dropped well below 25 percent of capacity. It seemed logical to me that the fish population would have suffered with the small remaining volume of water. We were going to be fishing the lake at close to full condition. Would there be enough fish to provide good sport?
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What does a city girl know about fun fishing and farm ponds? You might be surprised. Country folks just walk behind their house or to the neighbors to fish a pond. To get to a river, stream or bigger pond, they can take a horse and get there and back in a short time. Okay, I know they have trucks and can get to a nearby lake but it takes a little more effort for us city dwellers to engage in such activities. In my territory we have wheels on everything. In my Ford 150 on an 8 lane freeway I can be at a lake in less than an hour, okay, two hours with traffic. City kids have bicycles and skateboards and can zip a few miles and get to their fishing spots. I remember in the old days when my boys jumped on their two wheelers and rode to a nearby private lake, jumped the fence and fished. When I tried to do it, jumping the fence wasn’t a good thing.
Out west we have aqueducts. We have lots of them if you can get to one and fishing is allowed. In years past, our family would sit on the bank of an aqueduct and fish for hours because there are huge catfish and stripers lurking about and we caught us some. It would be important for you to know that most aqueducts have slippery, mossy sides that I found out about the hard way. One nice afternoon while we were fishing my hat flew into the water. I stepped just an inch into the water to get it and quickly slid all the way in. Did I mention there is usually a fast current as well? My family burst into laughter until they realized mom was in a panic and quickly heading down stream and reached out with a net to save me!
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Malcolm Hardy took his dad, Lester, fishing at Clear Lake. It was Malcolm’s sixth bass adventure guided by Bob Myskey. This trip produced Malcolm’s personal best 8.4-pound largemouth bass. He is one of my favorite and most dedicated young St. Helena anglers. Have a look at Bob’s informative website at FishClearLake.com.
And you thought they were designed to catch fish … I fished with Rick Tietz, owner of Blade-Runner Tackle Co. and their lure designer at the Spring Conference of the Outdoor Writers Association of California (OWAC) in late May in Auburn. He showed us some of the beautiful new bass lures they produce. I always said that lures were designed to catch people — because not many fish go to tackle stores. Well, Blade-Runner’s latest items proved me wrong and helped us catch 16 nice Folsom Lake bass on a beautiful day in Placer County where VisitPlacer.com hosted our three-day get-together.
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Western Outdoor News Staff Writer
Point Loma—The annual 2.5-day Western Outdoor News charter aboard the 80-foot sportfisher Sea Adventure 80 ran long and hard to explore the waters around San Clemente Island. Known for its great yellowtail and calico bass action, SCI had recently shown signs of schoolie-sized yellowfin offshore and bigger model YFT close-in.
The 30-anglers, all guys, scheduled for this trip loaded up early and began stowing gear and getting settled. As of the 8:00 p.m. departure fall weather had yet to come to Southern California with tuna and warm water still coming across the border from Mexico in a never ending flood.
The usual deck-talk began with concerns as to where night driver and second Captain, Paul Panello, might run overnight. A call from Captain Harbour over the p.a. outlined the plan.
“We’ll go out and get bait and while we are there at the receiver I’ll fill you guys in on where we are headed,” came the announcement as SA80 pulled away from the H&M docks. While the grey light of morning was still hours away anglers considered where the charter was headed when reports of limit-style tuna bites south of the border had been all the news in recent weeks.
The answer came shortly as everyone gathered into the roomy galley salon for the briefing by the skipper and deckhand, Roman Rodriquez.
My name is Lara Kaylor and I have worked as a journalist for more than a decade covering everything from the outdoors to small town politics. I joined OWAC in 2007.