NorCal misses ‘opener’ mystique |

NorCal misses ‘opener’ mystique

Last week, business took me down the east side of the Sierra on Highway 395. I went as far south as Bishop and got a good preview of the opening of trout season in Mono County.The Eastern Sierra in general, but Mono County in particular, have a strong tradition about The Opener. It heralds the end of the winter sports and the start of summer pursuits. It has a feel similar to the first day of baseball season, even though you can still go to a basketball game.In my way of thinking, Mono County is where the Los Angelinos go to trout fish. I grew up in LA County, and Mammoth Lakes is the only place in the Golden State where I knew to fish for trout. It was a seven-hour drive to get there and The Opener was a big deal. I finally wised up and moved north where you can fish for something year-round.I think that our year-round fishing takes away some of the mystique of The Opener. Sure, the streams above Highway 49 are now open but we have been fishing for trout throughout the winter on the Sacramento, Feather and Yuba Rivers, if we wanted to. This past winter a number of Sierra rivers have opened to year-round angling, with catch and release being the rules for the formerly closed season. All this takes away from the excitement that is contagious on the east side.In Bishop, the motels and restaurants all feature Welcome Fishermen signs. You will not be able to rent a boat or get a camp site with hook-ups at Crowley Lake. If there is still some ice at Convict Lake a week before the opener, the resort owner will put five or six guys on a boat, run it up onto the ice and have the crew jump up and down in unison to try and break the ice up a crude form of an icebreaker. In the town of Mammoth, a number of shops convert from skiing to fishing the third week of April. In all, it is nice to see traditions continue.From a practical fishing perspective, the first week of trout season is far from the peak of catching. We are still in the early season that features cold water and trout that have yet to reach the peak of their feeding cycle. On the North Yuba the water flows have been rising as the warm weather has been thawing what snow is left in the high country. Peak flows a week ago were 800 cubic feet per second and Monday they were 1,400 cfs. I spoke with Ralph Wood of the C&R Guide Service and he said fishing has become more difficult with the higher flows. The warmer air temps have brought out the ants a few weeks ahead of schedule. Ralph also noted that there were a few golden stones flying near the water.Over on the East Carson River south of Lake Tahoe the weekend started with moderate flows. The fishing was good with trout up to 7 pounds being taken on Mepps spinners. On Sunday, the river took on some color and by Monday the river was a muddy brown with a foot of visibility as the river rose due to the snow melt.This is a typical May pattern, a little ahead of time, but predictable. The big change this year will be how soon the snow melt will subside due to lack of snow.The best stream action came from the low elevation creeks that have ideal water temps but small fish. Many of our local creeks have good action now but will slow down with the heat of summer. If you wish to catch trout in flowing water on dry flies, waters on the wesern slope of the Sierra are in their prime.If I gave out names and places I would not be welcome in some quarters. Get a good topo map and do some exploring.Reports from Pyramid Lake complain of poor fishing during bluebird weather. My sources have fished on warm sunny days with no wind and few fish. They have gone off shore in float tubes and seen good numbers of fish staging near The Nets. But getting them to bite has been tough. The fishing has been OK under low light or breezy conditions.Denis Peirce writes a weekly fishing column for The Union, the Suns sister paper in Grass Valley. He can be reached at

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