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Bishop trip worth the long trek

Bruce Ajari

Prior to the opening day of trout season, I took a trip down Highway 395 to Bishop to fish a section of water I had been meaning to explore for some time.

The Owens River below Crowley Lake runs through a very deep gorge to Pleasant Valley Reservoir, about nine miles north of Bishop.

This piece of Owens River had no water in it, due to diversions by the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (DWP). After a long legal battle, the court declared that the licenses to DWP were invalid. Water started flowing back into the gorge around 1993.

With the guidance of a longtime local resident and fly fisherman, a friend and I made the trek into the gorge at a point above Pleasant Valley Reservoir.

The Owens River Gorge is open to fishing all year, which makes it a popular site during the winter months.

Even with the difficult hike to get in, many people are now fishing there.

We saw only one fisherman, but were told the area we fished had received considerable pressure the past several weeks.

After picking up our guide at the family ranch, we preceded back north on 395 and turned off on the Pleasant Valley Reservoir Power Plant road. After traveling a while along the water diversion pipeline, we turned onto a dirt road which crossed over the pipeline and come to the edge of the gorge.

Looking down into the depths of the gorge, you could see the Owens River far below. It looked extremely small from the rim of the gorge. When someone takes in a sight like this, the first thing that comes to mind is that the climb out will be tough. This trip is certainly not for the faint at heart.

After collecting our gear, we made our way down the steep trail to get to the river.

It did not take us long to get down – about 20 minutes and another 10 or 15 minutes downstream to get to the point where we would begin to fish.

We began fishing back upstream since there was more water to fish without having to break too much brush in that direction.

This is a little stream; only 26 cubic feet per second flow through it.

There are some beautiful pools and some runs among willows and other streamside vegetation.

The nettles are the least favorite items of fishermen that fish in this region of the Sierra.

They seem to catch any fly line that you do not have control over. With their sharp needles, they are always tough to handle. A simple tangle can turn into a really painful experience.

While the fishing was tough according to out guide, we managed to catch a fair number of fish on a variety of patterns.

Simple, dry attractors like the Royal Wulff, Coachman or Humpy seemed to work well. A small Adams in about a No. 16 also worked well.

Nymphs also worked well and the larger fish are typically taken on them. Fishing the dry fly is the most fun, so we did not do much nymph fishing.

My first series of casts with a Royal Humpy was rewarded with a scrappy 11-inch brown trout; a nice size fish for this water.

Fish are typically small, 8 to 12 inches, but fish to 16 inches can be caught. We saw a couple of larger fish, but did not catch any. Brown trout and an occasional brook trout can be caught, I am told.

Wet wading or a pair of hip waders is all that is necessary if you plan to make this trek into the gorge. You will need to wade because access can be limited to one side of the river or the other, depending on the terrain.

A four- to six-weight rod, seven to eight and a half feet in length, is probably best to deal with the conditions you may face

The wind can blow briskly in the gorge, so your choice should be made accordingly.

A floating line is all that you will need.

I took a seven and a half-foot four-weight rod and it performed fine.

A longer rod could have been better in some areas, but a shorter rod was a must in some areas.

If you are going to hike into the gorge, don’t forget to take some water and snacks, as it is a long trip from the bottom of the canyon. The trip out took us about 20 to 25 minutes to get back to the car.

We had an extremely rewarding first trip. The scenery, hike, fishing and friends all made for a memorable day on the Owens River.

I know I will return to fish this spot again.

The town of Bishop is a great place to stay; it is a friendly tourist-based community with all the services you need at a price to fit most any pocketbook.


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