The author and his catch
I’ve told the story three hundred times. Only because I’ve been asked as much. It’s the answer to a question doled out over small talk while standing creekside in muddy wading boots, the trademark inquiry one angler asks the next, “So, what got ya into fly fishin’?” We all have that story to tell. Mine? It’s a fun fish tale to share, and an appropriate one for the inaugural 2012 Sheet fish report.
I moved to Mammoth in August 2004. The tipping point in my decision? Chair 23.
All I knew about Mammoth before getting hired by the school district was that the skiing and riding just rips. The winter prior, I had friends from Switzerland out visiting California. We had seven days of incredible riding that winter of 2003/2004.
I was only returning a favor. I had lived in Europe and rode the Alps, so it was only appropriate I play the host to my European copmrades and return the favor. Doubtless, they flew back across the Atlantic towards home, after an ecstatic few days, in absolute disbelief, of the quality of skiing in a state better known for blockbuster Hollywood productions, and sandy toes with surf, than knee-deep powder. California glissade snowboarding at its best. Yep, we all know how good the skiing truly is here.
’04-’05 was my first year as a resident, and led to a 500% increase in number of ski days per season. And, yes, I got plenty of laps in on Chair 23. So, come that April of ‘05, I asked myself, “Now what?
I counted the fishing outfitters in town, took note of fishing guides, glanced at the Inyo National Forest Map with a shocking alarm of the number of high country lakes and mountain streams in the area, and I was quickly hit with the epiphany that the number of trout in this region clearly outnumbers the human population, by the millions. Not having cast a fishing rod since middle school years, I began bait and spin fishing again, and became immediately drugged with the sensation which the human body feels standing next to a moving water for three or four hours. Every afternoon, after school, I would beeline it down to Warm Springs in Bishop with telescoping bait rod, canister of Powerbait, hip waders, polarized sunglasses, and the goodhearted intension of feeling the sunlight reflect directly off the rippling water, feeding my skin with Vitamin D, therapeutically calming every nerve in the body, as I listened to the constant sound of water running over rock bed as it heads downstream. At the time, I was killing trout every excursion, eating fresh baked fish for dinner nightly. I will never forget one Period Four AVID class when students Mara and Sarai looked up at me, when I was delivering some academic assistance of sorts, and one of the girls said, “Eeeewww. Mr. Leonard, you smell like fish.” I did. My loving mother hinted to me that I should change jeans between fishing and teaching. Advice I have yet to put into actual practice.
One afternoon on the water in Bishop, a mallard landed at my feet. I looked at the two trout on the stringer in the water, glanced at the bird on water, looked again at the trout in the river, and then decided I was going to duck hunt the next season. Coming from an anti-NRA family, I got plenty of blank looks from other family members when I announced that I was going to get a shotgun and start blasting innocent birds. That first hunting season was great.
So another winter came and went, this one filled with face shots off Drop Out and widgeon folding mid-flight above the river after filling them with steel shot. Hence, the natural transition from spin fishing to duck hunting to fly fishing took its course. Truth is, fly fishing has more in common with duck hunting than it does with spin or bait fishing, since fly fishing is essentially “hunting” trout. You aren’t standing on the corner of a creek pumping holding waters full of size-2 steel shot from the Remington pump action (though this thought has sickly crossed my mind), but you are presenting trout with a decoy species of a natural food source, hoping they hit. It is what a duck slayer would call, “Dec(oy) ‘em in.” I’m gonna call it “cross-season training.” One thing led to another. The jump to start fly fishing was such a large leap, I began taking the local youth out with me after school, and with the help of a dozen guides in town, I learned the ropes of fly fishing.
That brings us to today. This Saturday is Fishmas 2012. If my math is correct, this begins my seventh (maybe eighth?) season of fly fishing, with a hopeful fifty to go still. That’s a lot of trout beached and released since the day that mallard landed at my feet.
For you fly anglers, Hot Creek has been fishing very, very well. Tiny nymph patterns are your best bet. Run size-22 or 24 WD-40’s or Flashback PT’s through holding waters. For dries, continue to go small. BWO’s, Parachute Adams, E.C. Caddis. The Lower Owens has been on fire when the air temps are warm, and the wind is low. “Migrating Caddis,” is the talk of those lucky enough to be there when the bite is turned on. The East Walker has been crazy fun all winter, and it is only going to get better.
Spin and bait anglers, be thankful. There are hundreds of thousands of hungry trout in Crowley Lake waiting for your worms. Better than that, weather looks very promising for the weekend, and it is going to be a glorious opener on Crowley. One of the few when it doesn’t snow. Grant Lake is another stillwater which I’m willing to bet is worth hitting this weekend. For that matter, any of the lakes in The June Lake Loop. Lots of trout in those waters. On the moving waters, go with Salmon Eggs. Mammoth Creek in our part of Mono County, Rush Creek in June Lake.
Hence, we are off and running with the start of another fishing season. It’s going to be a great one.
A more detailed report can be found at http://kittredgesports.com/fishing_report.php. Leonard guides for Kittredge Sports. Call 760.934.7566.