I didn’t mean to fall in love with fishing.
Sure, we dated on and off over the years. I did some casting along the North Atlantic as a kid. I threw some lures in the Rocky Mountains and the rivers of the Northwest when I was a young man. But it was never more than casual dating.
Until I moved to Mammoth and the mighty Eastern Sierra, and then everything changed.
It began simply enough. I was asked to write a newspaper story about fishing with an old trolling guide on Crowley Lake. That story went well and was followed by an offer from a guide to go fly fishing on the Lower Owens River. Soon another guide asked me to go throw spinners on Lake Mary and another to pull streamers through June Lake. Before I knew it, my dance card was filled with offers to write fishing stories.
Like the trout we caught, the guides weren’t all the same ages or colors or size. Some of them were native Californians, some were transplants. But they all had one thing in common: they loved to fish, especially for trout, and also loved to share their passions for it.
These stories caught on, in large part because—unlike most fishing stories—they weren’t first-person, ego-strokers about landing fish the size of pony kegs. The stories were simply about the joys of connecting with beautiful browns and goldens and rainbows. They were about the drop-dead gorgeous places trout live. They were about dates on the water, chaperoned by guides who know what real passion is all about.
Before I knew what had happened to me, I had fallen for trout fishing. It’s a feeling I still have and it’s big reason I’ll always be thankful for life leading me to the Eastside of the High Sierra.
There is real magic in the waters of that region.
I love the curves of the Upper Owens River. I love the sense of anticipation as I slowly pull on my gear to float tube around the Lakes Basin. I love the way the red slash of a cutthroat looks like fresh makeup put on for date night. I love the way a high mountain lake full of brook trout will make me giggle like a twitterpated teenager. I love figuring out what will attract a trout to bite and the challenge of not coming on so strong you scare it away. I love that trout don’t care what ethnicity, gender or age you are, only that you can entice them to play. I love the feel of the rod bouncing and the line tugging because it’s connected to another feisty and beautiful being. I love capturing that magical moment in a photo and then the feel of a strong, slick trout swimming out of my hands and back to its wild places.
I especially love how I feel after spending a day chasing trout. They do live in the best places.
Despite fishing on and off for most of my life, I didn’t really know or care much about the pastime until the trout of the Eastern Sierra got a hold of me. I didn’t know much when I first started casting for them, and nearly 20 years later, I still really don’t. I just know I love it and I want to spend the rest of my life in a relationship with trout.
Mike McKenna is an award-winning author and journalist. His popular second book, ‘Casting Around the Eastern Sierra,” is available at bookstores and tackle shops throughout the Eastern Sierra as well as online at: