Flyfishing the Sierra Blog
Monday, 14 April 2014
Tenkara Fly Fishing
Topic: General Flyfishing
Tenkara Fishing with Yvon Chouinard

Yvon Chouinard, founder and owner of Patagonia, with his tenkara rod at Foster Park in Ventura, Calif.

Yvon Chouinard is a fellow Sespe Fly Fisher member and has presented us an introduction to Tenkara Fishing at a recent meeting. The following is an article written by Peter Bohler for the Wall Street Journal.

FOR SOMEONE WITH a vested interest in selling goods for exploring the great outdoors, Yvon Chouinard, the owner and founder of the outdoor-apparel company Patagonia, takes a surprisingly stripped-down approach to one of his favorite pastimes. "Heaven knows we fly fishers are suckers for every new gizmo we think will give us a leg up on catching fish," he writes in "Simple Fly Fishing: Techniques for Tenkara and Rod & Reel," to be published by Patagonia Books on Monday. With what could safely be described as ornery skepticism, Mr. Chouinard, along with his co-authors, Craig Mathews and Mauro Mazzo, questions the rise of $1,000 fishing rods and tackle boxes overflowing with flies. "I would offer," Mr. Chouinard continues, "that this proliferation of gear is supported by busy people who lack for nothing in their lives except time."

Therein lies the book's charm. Part straightforward how-to, part back-to-basics manifesto, the volume is also a bit of a sermon that seeks to spread the good word about a centuries-old Japanese technique known as "tenkara"—which calls for a long, flexible, reel-free rod—that Mr. Chouinard believes is the hands-down easiest and most pleasurable way to fish.

"Some people say, 'I don't fish because I don't have patience,' " Mr. Chouinard said by telephone from Patagonia's headquarters in Ventura, Calif. "Well, it takes no patience whatsoever to fly fish. It's not like sitting in a boat and dangling a worm down below and waiting for a bite," he said. "It's proactive. It's like dragging a toy mouse across the floor for your cat. If you just drag it, the cat just looks at it. But you stop it and give it a little twist, the cat pounces on it."

Granted, Patagonia does stand to profit from a surge of interest in tenkara; the book is part of a kit they're selling—complete with a rod, lines and flies. But a portion of the proceeds from the book, which can be purchased separately, will be donated to various conservation organizations. And Patagonia stores around the U.S. will offer free clinics on the technique. We asked Mr. Chouinard to highlight beginner-friendly techniques from the book.

The Gear




 The Tenkara Rod

One problem with a traditional fishing rod, explained Mr. Chouinard, is that it's stiff: "It's just a dead stick." Giving movement to the fly is essential, he said, which is where a tenkara rod excels. Long, thin and flexible, tenkara rods are traditionally used by market fishers in Japan. Mr. Chouinard's favorite is a telescopic 10½-foot soft-hackle model from Temple Fork Outfitters (shown collapsed at left; ). Using a tenkara rod also makes it harder to cast your fly too far past the fish's actual location, he said. "Everyone's been making fly rods as if you need to cast 100 feet to catch a trout, when in reality the trout are at your feet, practically."

The Essential Fly

"If I was to use only one fly for trout fishing for the rest of my life, it would be a 'partridge and pheasant-tail' soft hackle," said Mr. Chouinard, specifying a size 14. Known as a "wet" fly because it's intended to float beneath the surface of the water, the partridge and pheasant-tail imitates insects that are part of the trout's diet. "It's an all-purpose fly," he said. "You could probably go out with this one fly and outfish anybody."



The Beginner's Knot

To secure the fly, Mr. Chouinard's go-to knot is the nonslip loop. Here's how to tie it.

The Beginner's Knot

1. Start by forming a basic overhand knot.

2. Thread one end of the line through the fly, then send the end back through the loop of the overhand knot.

3. Wind the end around the line four or five times, then thread it back through the overhand knot again. Pull to tighten.





The Basic Cast

For beginners, the technique known as the Belgian Cast is the easiest to master, according to Mr. Chouinard. The key is not to bend your wrist; otherwise "you lose all your power in the stroke," he said.

The Basic Cast

1. Stand a bit sideways to your target and throw the rod behind you, keeping the rod tilted at a 35-degree angle from the vertical.

2. Throw the rod forward, keeping the rod at a 10-degree angle from the vertical.

3. On the back cast, the rod goes to about a 2 o'clock position; on the forward cast, about 10 o'clock.

4. The line should make a small oval as it travels; there are no abrupt stops.

Fishing Technique

Trout are masters at expending as little energy as possible to gather food, Mr. Chouinard explains in the book. It doesn't pay for fish to swim up to the water's surface from four feet down to nab a tiny fly. When feeding on small insects, they need a large quantity (a hatch) to make it worth their while, but a trout can be enticed to fall for an artificial fly if the fly is close enough that the trout only has to move a little and open its mouth.

Fishing Technique

1. Cast the line at about a 45-degree angle downstream.

2. As soon as the fly is in the water, lift the loose part of your line and place it across your body. This mending upstream slows down the drift of the fly and prevents the loose line from getting caught in the current and swinging your fly at an unnaturally fast speed.

3. When the line comes tight, twitch the tip of the rod by squeezing the bottom fingers of the hand holding the rod. (Your goal is to imitate the emerging and swimming stages of the caddiefly and mayfly.) The rod itself should hardly move. Almost everyone who tries this overdoes it at first. Here's the rule: If you think you're not moving the fly enough, move it less.

Posted by stevenojai at 9:21 AM EDT
Saturday, 1 June 2013
Marshall caught his first fish
Topic: General Flyfishing

My grandson, Marshall, has just turned 3 years in March. He's all boy with a sense of adventure and inquisitive of his surroundings. I bought him a picture book of Construction Equipment for his birthday and, based upon the cover, he identified "Excavator" rather than "Tractor". Then, he proceeded to show me the "Backhoe" and the "Loader". Coming from a family of contractors, I should have knowned that he had all that figured out.

We got the family together for Memorial Day at our cabin in the Southern Sierra. As with any cabin, there are the work details to complete like sweeping pine needles and clearing the underbrush. With the light snowpack this year, we got an early start. However, every work detail has to be followed by a little recreation and we figured that it was just the time for Marshall to experience catching his first trout on a fly rod.

We live at just over 7000' elevation near the headwaters of the Little Kern River and there are a number of Forest roads available to head for small creeks. Since these are the headwaters of the Little Kern River, our choice of trout would be the Little Kern Golden.

We parked the truck near the trailhead and walked about a 1/4 mile to a meadow. Within this meadow was a small tributary about 2 feet wide and 2-3 feet deep. The banks are lush with grass and the bottom structure is dark with woody material mixed into the gravel. This is the home of the Little Kern Golden and here was the last vestage of hope from extinction when invasive species were allowed into their sanctuary during most of the 1900's within the waters downstream.  In the 1980's, Calif. Fish and Game personnel were able to eliminate these invasive species above the natural waterfall barrier on the Little Kern and repopulate those waters with these fish. Fortunately, there is a shift away from widescale planting of hatchery trout and an appreciation of our native trout to continue to flourish within the waters that they have inhabited for over 20,000 years.

  These streams are deceptively deep, even for a bird dog like, Star. The banks are undercut and there is no foothold, so he needs an assist. Point out these dangers to your kids as well.


Small Goldens are much like small kids, they are eager and active. We have to walk quietly and not get too close to the bank. Once they make your presence, they head for cover and remain. If they don't make your precence, you will have non-stop action with a dry fly. I tied on a size 18 BWO with a barbless hook and used a 7' 3 wt rod. It would have a 7 foot 5x leader with a 2 foot section of 7x tippet. We brought the kids up to the stream's amazing how the kid's understand quiet when they want to. We positioned ourselves so that we could reach the water surface by extending the rod tip and allowing the wind to cast for us. Dropping the rod tip brought the fly to the surface and then the action would begin.


Most of the time, there would be a flash of water and nothing on the hook. Learning a proper hook set might take some time. But the kids are totally tuned-in. After 10 or more "hits", you finally get that "take". Forget the fish, take a look at the expression of the kid. Total concentration and exhilliration of something alive pulling on the line. Keeping tension on the line is the only hope of keeping that fish attached and this doesn't happen often. But when it does, you have your first trout.




 The next lesson is to appreciate catch and release. We enjoy eating trout but we only keep those trout that we intend to feast upon that day. On most days, we never keep our catch. When you are in a lovely meadow as we are and you recognize that this is the home of a living creature that has given you the opportunity to enjoy an exhilirating experience, it is easy to understand the release of that trout will allow you and many other families to experience the same feelings in the future.


The beauty of the Golden trout is not only it's coloration but the delicate features it has. It is small, eager, and loves it's surroundings. Much like my grandson, Marshall

Posted by stevenojai at 7:22 AM EDT
Saturday, 9 March 2013
lower kings blown out
i went to fish the lower kings and found the river was blown out so i vant fish it. i should have checked the flows.

Posted by garypullings at 11:03 AM EST
Thursday, 4 August 2011
Hike to Big McGee Lake
Topic: Destination Hikes

Just above Lake Crowley is a road along McGee Creek. This road will take you up to the McGee Creek campground, past the McGee Creek Pack Station, and end at the McGee Creek Trailhead. The trailhead has a main trail that used to be a road to the Scheelore Tungsten mine. So, for the first 4 miles it's an easy grade along the creek with ample areas to fish for brookies and rainbows. The trail goes onto Big McGee Lake which lays within a glacial cirque bowl at the end of the canyon. The trail runs past Little McGee Lake and reaches McGee Pass which drops you across the Sierra crest into Fish Creek and Cascade Valley.

During the 2011 season in early August, McGee Creek was still raging and was unfishable with a flyrod. The wildflowers were in full blossom and I knew there would be fishable water up at the headwaters, so I decided to take a day hike to Big McGee Lake and enjoy the 65 degree weather. I've numbered the locations on the map where certain photos were taken.




It's about 7 miles to Big McGee Lake, so I started early at 7:00am. The Trail starts due west directly in front of Mt. Aggie (11,561') with Mt. Morrison (12,268') just to the right. These peaks contain some of the oldest rocks in the Sierra dating to Pre-Cambrian. The summit of Mt. Morrison, a pendant, is comprised of Dolomite and Marble, a metamorphoism of limestone.



This westerly walk goes for about 3/4 of a mile along a fairly level terrain. The silvery gray shrubs along the trail are Artemisia tridentata aka Sagebrush. These shrubs are very common on the eastside Sierra.  The colorful rock face below Mt Aggie and Mt Morrison is the result of volcanic intrusions over the original sedimentary layers that existed when the Sierra was a sea bottom. Pressures folded these layers resulting in metamorphic formations with different colorations coming from these variable layers. Most of these rocks could be referred to as limestone.  Usually McGee Creek, which is just to the left, is very fishable within this area but not today.




As you reach the end of the westerly stretch, you start to view the valley as it wraps towards the south. Mt Baldwin (12,592') starts to show itself from behind an unnamed peak. The Tungsten Mine is just behind Mt. Baldwin. 




3/4 mile from the Trailhead you reach the boundary of the John Muir Wilderness.




Along the next 1/4 mile you will be within a Sierran Meadow filled with a number of wildflowers such as Mule Ears (Wyethia) which is related to the Sunflower.





And a few Cow Parsnips.

Just about to enter a timber stand, you look down the southerly valley and see Mt Crocker (12,458') which forms one of the back walls of this glacial cirque valley.



Before leaving this meadow, there were a couple more wildflower shots that had to taken. The Indian Paintbrush... these tended to be a distinct pink coloration.

and Sulphur Buckwheat. 


Next in view was Horsetail Falls flowing from the eastern slopes of Mt. Baldwin.


The stream from Horsetail Falls crosses the trail for the first stream crossing at 1.5 miles from the trailhead.


Looking down the slope through the Aspen Trees, you can see that McGee Creek is still a raging torrent....very difficult to fish.

The trail follows the western side of the creek through a number of Aspen Groves and other hardwoods.  From a clearing, you can look down the McGee Creek Valley southerly and see a saddle which is about halfway between Mt. Crocker and Mt. Stanford.  Below this saddle is Steelhead Lake.


A couple clearings provide the sunlight for some addtional wildfowers, Indian Paintbrush and Coyote Mint.

As well as Indian Paint Brush and Lavender Gilia (Ipomopsis tenuituba).

Reached the second stream crossing 2.3 miles from the Trailhead where the pack animals cross. Difficult crossing since water was up to my mid-thighs (breaking my wading stick mid-stream did not help, either!). The bridge above the crossing was busted but I took it instead on the trek back.



Walking along the eastern side of McGee Creek, the trail remains wide from the road that was built to the Tungsten Mine. The valley levels out and the creek meanders through this area, 3.0 miles from the trailhead. This is a good area to flyfish, however, the beavers flooded the valley to the extent that reaching the creek channels was not possible.



Still on the eastern side of McGee Creek, the signs of Winter avalanches were evident on a grove of Aspen.

At 3.4 miles you make your third stream crossing ( the second across McGee Creek). This one is not too bad and there are some nearby logs to walk across for the dexterious. Once on the western side the trail goes through some timber stands and brings you into a clearing of Lodgepole Pine that were downed by another avalanche.


Lightning Fires have also destroyed some of the trees, with winds leaning the dead trees against alive trees.  Definitely a hazard to look out for.


The woody material that does fall to the ground provides a nice organic matter for the Red Penstemons.

At 3.5 miles, the trail starts to gain some altitude with a series of switchbacks up a rock fall slope.


Then, at 3.6 miles the trail splits to a higher elevation route or a route along the creek. Since the water was raging, I chose the higher route.


The two trails meet once again at the end of a large brushy meadow about 4.3 miles from the trailhead.


At 4.7 miles from the trailhead, the trail gradually turns towards the west. You can see McGee Creek downslope to the left and focus on the nearby granite rockcropping that the trail will traverse on the right side.


5.3 miles from the trailhead, the trail approaches the creek once again with some small meadows with meandering brooks. It has the feeling of Alpine, so fishable water will be close-by.


When you reach 10,000 feet elevation, one of the indicator species for this region is the Mountain Hemlock. To recognize this tree, look for the drooping tops and short needles.

It's the 4th of August and I'm still dealing with snow at 10,000 feet. Take care when crossing these snow banks. Streams can flow under them and they will not support your weight.


At 5.7 miles from the trailhead, I can tell I'm getting close to Big McGee Lake. From here I can see the westerly side of this glacial cirque. Big McGee Lake will be at the base of that slope.

Nearby was a stand of Shooting Star wildflowers. These tend to grow in very wet, moist places. My dog is actually named after these, "Dodecatheon of Bishop Creek" but I just call him "Star".



Numerous small ponds are found near the trail. McGee Creek is just below me to the left.


McGee Creek below Big McGee Lake. Now....that's fishable water!

And it was....plenty of brookies taking the dries.


My last little meadow prior to reaching the lake. Shortly after this photo was taken, the McGee Packers came up with a scouting team. They left the pack at this snow bank while they scouted an impassible icefield that blocked access to Little McGee Lake and McGee Pass.


We reached the lake just in time for lunch. The lake was a light blue color with snow and ice along most of it's edges. There were no sign of rising trout.


My dog, Star, found this spot to his liking.

After lunch, we decided to fish just below the lake. A waterfall from an adjacent stream fed into McGee Creek about 1/2 mile below the lake. I wanted to try that area.

Wow!  What a place.  Caught a dozen brookies and had a hoot.


It was a Thursday. Outside of the packers, I only saw two others come into the canyon around the same time as me. On they way out, I encountered 6 more. All geared for overnight stays.  I reached trailhead by 5:30 pm. The fun thing about day hikes is you can travel light and enjoy your surroundings. Get away from the crowds and seek fishable water. There's not much better than McGee Creek.

Posted by stevenojai at 12:30 PM EDT
Updated: Tuesday, 23 August 2011 10:26 AM EDT
Thursday, 12 May 2011
June Lake 2011
Topic: Spring Openers

Spring Opener in the Eastern Sierra is the last Saturday of April. This is the "general" opening day that has many exceptions. For instance, the Owens River and Hot Creek is open year-round. Inyo County opens their creeks about a month earlier stocking trout within creeks such as Big Pine Creek, Taboose Creek, Lone Pine Creek, and Diaz Lake. Locals like to fish the "Sand Traps where the creeks are intercepted by the L.A. Aquaduct that flows to the City of Los Angeles.

The opener was a cold, windy day. Snow levels were down to 8000 feet elevation. The upper elevation lakes such as Virginia Lake, Rock Creek Lake, and Sabrina Lake still had 2 feet of ice on their surface. Crowley Lake and Bridgeport Resevoir were open but the lake operators were draining the lakes in anticipation of the Spring run-off. This scattered the resident trout and fishing these areas was slow. A temperate condition occurred prior to "opener' for about a 2 week period and stimulated the resident rainbows of many lakes to migrate into the tributaries for spawning. 

The "opener" is also a time when Fly Fishermen, Bait Fishermen, and Spinner Fishermen all have an equal chance at the same water. Often, it's like mixing Democrats. Libertarians, and Republicans. It can get ugly! Fortunately, there's plenty of water to get away and do your thing without being "offensive".

DFG (Dept of Fish and Game) have designated many tributary areas for "No Fishing" and this gives the trout an opportunity to get away also. Some of these areas are a great scene to see large rainbows, up to 11 lbs, doing their spawning within the gravel beds. This also gives us a good indication of what the trout are doing and where they might be. Large Browns will also follow the Rainbow trout upstream in hopes to feed on dislodged eggs and prey on some smaller rainbows.



We started our "opener" a day after, arriving on Sunday. It was windy and cool but the weather outlook was for milder days and much less wind. We had days in the mid-70's allowing us to wear shorts and T-shirts. Our destination was a lodge within June Lake. This gave us a resonable access to the East Walker River, Robinson Creek, Rush Creek, Lee Vining Creek, Convict Creek, McGee Creek, Upper Owens River and Hot Creek.

Rush Creek was a 5 minute drive and had some of the best fishing we've had in years. Large Rainbows migrated up from Grant Lake, followed by large Browns. Fishing pressure was marginal and we could spend the day catching trout on streamers, nymphs, and dries. 

 We fished a couple of days around the confluence of McGee Creek and Convict Creek above Crowley Lake. A lot more fishermen were there, as well as guides with clients. With more fishing pressure, proper fishing "etiquette" becomes quite important. Remember, that this is an important area for the Rainbows to do their spawn. Keep out of the gravel beds. Fish the undercut banks and deep pools. Give your fellow fishermen some space and do not disturb the water that they are working towards.

Posted by stevenojai at 12:13 AM EDT
Updated: Thursday, 12 May 2011 1:08 AM EDT
Sunday, 3 April 2011
Pacific Fisher
Topic: Wildlife


Last Summer (2010), my friend Roger and I were driving out of the Forks of the Kern on Forest Road 22S82. It was low light and as we looked ahead a rather large animal with a long bushy tail came scrambling down the embankment to the road. It turned to look at us and we starred at each other for a few moments. The animal turned around and headed back into the brush. It looked like a weasel but so much larger. The body was about 3 feet long as was the tail. And, the body appeared to stand about 15 inches high.


Roger recognized it immediately, "That's a Pacific Fisher!!". I replied, "It looks like a giant weasel." Roger said, "It's related to the Pine Martin and it's the largest species within the weasel family. Let's look it up when we get back to the cabin."

So, we went on the internet and found out that the Pacific Fisher  has a resident population within the Southern Sierra. It has also been the subject to a great debate over the last few years concerning Endangered Species protection, the Calif. Dept of Fish and Game, and Forest Management concerns.

The Pacific Fisher once inhabited an area from the Southern Sierra to British Columbia. The animal were so heavily trapped during the 1800's and early 1900's that a major study undertaken by UC Berkeley researchers, Grinnel et al., in 1937, helped to prohibit all trapping of these animals after 1946. Grinnel had inferred that most of the reduction in Pacific Fisher numbers were due to trapping but that loss of habitat through logging had also played a role.



Today, the Pacific Fisher is found within two distinct groups, a Northern California population and a Southern Sierra population. There is a 270 mile separation between these two groups. This distribution has not changed since the 1920's and natural recolonization of their historic range has not occurred.


The Center for Biological Diversity, Sierra Forest Legacy and other groups first petitioned to have the Pacific Fisher protected under the Endangered Species Act in 2001. In 2004, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service determined that the Pacific Fisher warrants protection as a threatened or endangered species under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) but refused to finalize such protection.  On March 2010, The California Fish and Game denied an endangered designation of the species as being "unwarranted". Based upon the study conducted in 2008 by the California Dept of Fish and Game, the California Fish and Game Commission voted 3-1 on June 23, 2010 in favor of California DFG's decision not to list the Pacific Fisher. The States of Oregon and Washington did put the Pacific Fisher on their Endangered List as the actual numbers of Fishers is very small.

The Pacific Fisher prefers late succession Forests, sometimes referred to as Old Growth Forests. They feed on birds, snowshoe hares, squirrels, mice, shrews, voles, porcupines, reptiles, insects, carrion, vegetation, and fruit. They are solitary mammals with a low reproductive capacity. They will roam an area of 50-150 sq. miles and will live to about ten years of age.

Recent studies have shown that the population of Pacific Fishers has remained stable, yet at risk, within the Southern Sierra but that the rest of the Sierra has become devoid of the animal. Trapping remains prohibited but development of the Sierra through roads, housing, and human activity have kept the Fisher from repopulating these areas. The Southern Sierra is unique in that development has been very restricted due to terrain. It's a wild area that allows a wonderful animal such as the Pacific Fisher to find a home. If you're flyfishing the Southern Sierra, keep your eye out for an elusive bushy tail.


Posted by stevenojai at 2:13 PM EDT
Updated: Sunday, 3 April 2011 6:15 PM EDT
Thursday, 25 November 2010
Get Your Kids Started Young!
Topic: General Flyfishing

I was fishing the Truckee River just before season end. My daughter, Petra, joined me and brought my Grandson, Marshall, along. It wasn't long before Petra put a fly rod into Marshall's hand which is kind of a feat in itself since Marshall is only 8 months hold. However, he handled that rod like a Pro with a smile on his face.

I've got four kids and they have all been introduced to flyfishing. Petra got her start on Hat Creek when she was about 9 yrs old. As I recall she had as much fun out-fishing her brother as she had hooking the trout. She offered to show her brother, Eric, how it's done but Eric got a little obstinate at her suggestions and doggedly worked that stream without getting the same results. She still kids him about that.

Petra is married to a great son-in-law, Steve. They met in Junior College within a group of students that enjoyed lunch together. Steve overheard Petra talk about her recent Flyfishing trip with Dad (We fished Eagle Lake in the Mineral King area) and immediately took interest. Petra phoned me shortly afterwards to tell me about the great guy she just met and how flyfishing was a common interest. Eight years later, they got married and are both structural engineers. My grandson, Marshall, is a result of that marriage and I think he's going to be a superb flyfisher.

Posted by stevenojai at 12:41 PM EST
Updated: Thursday, 25 November 2010 1:18 PM EST
Saturday, 26 June 2010
Long Valley Caldera
Topic: Geology

Late in the Spring, I was camping at McGee Campground above Crowley Lake. I like this campground since it does not have the crowds of Convict Lake and the sites are wider. There's a nearby trailhead that takes you to McGee Pass and drops into Fish Creek and Cascade Valley. It's great scenery as well as great fishing. A caravan of white vans came into the campground, filled with students from Pomona College. The instructor had the group gathered around for a lecture on the geology of the area as he pointed to distant features of the mountains nearby. I recalled being with a similar group of botanists from UCSB when we toured California many, many moons ago.

Fortunately, I found a site on the internet that details the field trip  I encountered.

This entire area is the basin of a giant volcano, known as the Long Valley Caldera. Within this caldera are many of the volcanic features that we see as we fish but never knew the background information as to how it came to pass. We do know that there are more fish per mile on Hot Creek than any other stream in California. And volcanism plays a major role in creating the conditions for the weed growth and organisms that inhabit that stream, as well as provide food and shelter for a great number of fish. Crowley Lake is another powerhouse for fish growth, often attributed to the alkaline soils that surround the lake which provide nourishment for Chironomids, scuds, and other trout forage. The Upper Owens River is another destination spot for many of us to fish in "Spring Creek" conditions, year-round. The river originates from the waters that spring forth from the lava layers at Big Springs and run continuously throughout the year. The deep undercut banks holding large Browns often will collapse huge sections of ash-laden banks into the water during the Spring run-off as it meanders through Long Valley. All of these great fishing areas are within the Long Valley Caldera.

This caldera was formed about 760,000 years ago when an eruption that was 2,500 times larger than Mt. St. Helens took place. (I was at St. Helens when it erupted and it's very difficult to imagine something 2,500 times greater than that!). The eruption partially emptied the magna chamber within Long Valley and it collapsed on itself creating a caldera 10 miles long and 20 miles wide.


Posted by stevenojai at 12:03 AM EDT
Updated: Monday, 4 April 2011 9:17 PM EDT
Saturday, 12 June 2010
Murphy Group
Topic: Spring Openers

I belong to a group of Flyfishermen known as the Murphy Group. It's a group that has been around for about 40 years. Murphy, the originator of the group, died many years ago and is buried on Bald Mountain overlooking the old Alpers Owens River Ranch. We always get together on the Tuesday after the Saturday opener and fish together until the following Sunday. It's always understood by the Alpers that we would return at this date, so we never had need to make reservations or submit a deposit. Most of the group can't wait, so they end up fishing the 3-4 days prior to Tuesday by tent camping along some of the local streams. However, on Tuesday, at 2:00pm, we could move our gear into Cabin 7 on Alpers Ranch.



This was an old log cabin situated right on the Owens River. The cabin had no heat, except for a wood stove, no phone, no cable, and no internet. It did have a wonderful gas burner stove in the kitchen that Tim's dad bought from a defunct restaurant in Bishop. We could sleep about nine people with beds along the walls of the great room. There were few rules for the group: No women, poker every night, and mandatory attendance. If you couldn't make it one year, you are out of the group! Needless to say, everyone always showed up. Fishing was always excellent on the ranch. The Owens River had large numbers of Rainbows that would come upriver from Crowley Lake to spawn. There would also be the resident Rainbows and Browns that inhabited the cut banks. Sometime around 2002, Crowley Lake was taking Lahonton Cutthroat plants about 12". By 2006, these Lahontans were getting to 18-20" and coming upriver to the ranch during the spawn. A dam that was constructed on the river, at a time when you could do such as thing. A hydroelectric generator was installed to generate electricity for the ranch as it did not have any from an outside source. Fortunately, the dam was only about 7 feet high and had a ledge about halfway up that fish would reach. It might take about 10 attempts but by the tenth leap the trout would reach that ledge and then make another leap for the upper pool. Once, they got to the upper pool, it was an easy swim up to Big Springs and beyond. Big Springs is considered the headwaters of the Owens River but there is a small amount of water that connects to Deadman Creek above it. At Big Springs, there could be as many as 50 large trout congregating within the waters for the spawn. They were so intent on mating, you could take underwater pics of them without any spooking. If you went further upstream into Deadman Creek, you could find many more spawners that did not have the fishing pressure of the areas downstream. It was trout heaven. Currently, there is a discussion going on within Mammoth and Inyo County to procure much of the water of Deadman Creek to alleviate water needs due to their recent expansion. This might compromise the water that is available to make this fish migration from Big Springs  into Deadman Creek, many additional miles of a prime spawning stream.

Posted by stevenojai at 4:54 PM EDT
Updated: Saturday, 26 June 2010 1:26 AM EDT

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