The Godfather of Eastern Sierra fishing guides talks shop
Fred Rowe is the Godfather of fly fishing in the Eastern Sierra. Nearly every local fly fishing guide can trace their guiding roots back to him.
Rowe has been guiding on the Eastside since 1982 and fishing since he was 5 or 6. Many would recognize Rowe from Vons, where he worked for 36 years. He has a notable sense of humor and a raspy voice. Now retired, he spends most of his time tying flies or casting them in the water. He considers landing 20-40 fish a good day of fishing and assists with California Department of Fish and Wildlife’s Trout in the Classroom Program, teaching local 7th graders about trout and fly fishing.
The Sheet caught up with Rowe this week at his home in Bishop.
Rowe sat at a cluttered table, stacked with boxes of hooks and tied flies, piles of thread and feathers, and a small vise and said, “There are two kinds of flies: impressionistic and realistic.” As an example, Rowe procured a hand-tied fly wrapped with a shiny red line and pheasant feathers. “An impressionistic fly looks kind of like a bug. The realistic [fly] looks [just] like a bug,” said Rowe.
Rowe explained the metamorphosis of a caddis fly and how an angler’s use of dry flies and wet flies can be used to mimic an insect’s life cycle. According to Rowe, some bugs, depending on the phase of their life cycle, live under water and are best mimicked using a wet fly. Other bugs are on the surface or rise to the surface and are best mimicked by a dry fly. This is an abbreviated account of the complexities of fly fishing. Rowe’s knowledge of the nuances of this topic was so extensive that he was able to elaborate for nearly two hours.
Local 7th graders get the full lesson from Rowe with the Trout in the Classroom Program. The students get to watch fish grow in a tank in the classroom from fingerlings until they’re big enough to be released into natural waters. They also learn to identify insects.
According to Rowe, identifying those insects and whatever else the fish are eating is crucial to catching them. When he fishes, Rowe brings a small turkey baster that he uses to suck out the contents of a fish’s stomach to see what exactly it’s eating. He then picks his flies accordingly. Rowe also said that weather plays just as big a role in an angler’s ability to catch fish as the food source.“A holistic approach to trout is the essence of fly fishing.”