California Day 12: A Quiet Day Fishing The Owens River by Bill Pike

IMG_1711Fishing was the first piece of business on the docket for Friday, August 17. Art and I were heading to the Owens River this morning.

The drive out to the Owens is pretty simple. The tricky part is picking an access point from the numerous dirt roads that will put you on the banks of the river.

Once Art found us a good stopping place, we had a nice posted notice from the state of California. 

The Owens had tested positive for the invasive species, the New Zealand Mud snail. Fortunately, the posting date had expired, but anglers were given careful instructions about how to clean waders and other fishing gear to slow the spread of the New Zealand Mud snail. One option was to freeze your waders for six to eight hours. I’m sure many wives were startled when they opened their freezers to take out dinner only to find frozen waders.

As Art prepared the fly rods, I took in the scenery. The first time we fished the Owens, we had a guide with us from a local company. Doug, the guide, had the patience of Job with me. He refreshed me on very basic casting techniques and advised as I practiced. 

But for me, the most amazing skill that Doug possessed was reading the water. He could tell be where to cast, and after several casts to that spot, a trout would usually hit. I’m sure the ability to read the water came from working with his fellow guides, but also from all of the experiences of working with challenging anglers like me.

I am so thankful for the teachers who taught me how to read. That important life skill allows me to read the newspaper or become lost in a book. However, I think I overlook how we are exposed to other types of reading in our daily lives.

With the rods ready, we start walking toward the Owens. Art is looking for spots were casting is easy from the banks without too many obstacles along the river’s edge. Often, I am much more skilled at catching the limb of a shrub than a trout.

The first spot, we had good access, and the focus here was to get the line out into the current, and let the current take the fly downstream. This also meant figuring out good points for casting so the fly could slip through areas shadowed from the sun. Sometime still sleepy trout gather in these out of sunlight pockets.

For a pretty good period of time, we fished this section, but we had no luck.

Moving to the next spot wasn’t difficult. I always look down as some of the land around the Owens is used for cattle grazing and the last thing I want to do is slip on a fresh cow pie.

Art sets me up in an ideal spot. We step off the bank on to a point of sand where the water runs through at a good pace and depth. I can cast a short distance upstream to my right, and my fly will float by me into a deeper pool. 

Art decides to work further down stream from me. But, before he leaves, I cast out. My fly is taken by the current and scuttles downstream. As I’m reeling the line back in, I feel a slight tug. It disappears, then appears again. I reel some more, and I see my hook grazed the side of a small trout. I pick him up off the rocky bottom and return him to his freedom.

Sadly, that was the only action for the time we spent on the Owens. Still, it is one of my favorite places to fish. I feel like I’m nestled in my on little world for a while. It is quiet. The water barely makes a sound as it carries my fly downstream. The real world seems far, far away.

We walked back to the car. Slid off the waders and our boots, and drove back to the condo. Abby and Betsy were taking it easy, a recovery day from the Sherwin Lake hike.

Later in the afternoon, we took a walk into town for chips and margaritas at Gomez’s. We also checked out some of the shops before catching the trolley back to the condo.

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