We’re counting down the days this week to Saturday’s statewide trout opener with a different story that’s running in our April issue. Today: Celebrate Fishmas Day with a look back at a great Bishop trip for one SoCal angler.
By Lance Sawa
We left at midnight to head north. My then girlfriend –now wife– Yumi and I were headed to the Bishop area to fish in October before the trout waters closed for the year. Granted, it was mostly my idea and I had only asked her just after dinner, but she was up for the trip.
The amount of fishing equipment on hand was limited, as I borrowed most of it from my dad, but we had enough to go. We packed the car and left.
It was a four-hour drive from the Southern California apartment we were renting at the time. With only a stop in Mojave to get gas, we continued on our way and drove through the night, talking so we could stay awake.
This was the first trip we took together to Bishop. Yumi had been to Mammoth Mountain to snowboard, but never to fish. I was excited to show her around an area that I grew up fishing.
THE MORNING LIGHT
By around 4 a.m. we got to the outskirts of Bishop and were both tired. We turned before reaching the town
proper and reached the Bishop Creek canal, where I knew it would be quiet. We slept for just a few hours before the sun rising over the mountains woke us up. We were unable to fall back to sleep, so we decided to go into town to get some breakfast.
Just as I turned on the car we could see eyes staring back at us. There were hundreds of rabbits; perhaps they had been drinking out of the canal.
Soon they scattered away from the car. As we drove along the canal back to the road the rabbits hopped and ran from us At one point it looked like a moving sea of rabbits blanketing the road.
Safely in Bishop, we ate breakfast before talking about where to go that day. Yumi was there for the ride and was up for anything. I realized that while she didn’t care one bit about fishing, she did want to see the scenery. I also wanted her to have fun, but also for me not to stress out.
I chose to hit the old tried-and-true spots that I knew well. Also, I picked places that were easy to get to and offered the highest chance of success. Schat’s, the area’s famous bakery, caught her eye as we drove through town and I promised to get her breakfast there the next day since it was packed by that time.
The local bait shop had opened, so I bought some worms and crickets. This was the first time Yumi had heard that crickets could be used for bait, which piqued her interest. Her enthusiasm quickly faded once she actually saw how many I was getting and how much noise they made – even more so when it was too cold for them in the car overnight, so they had to come into the room with us. She didn’t even want to see the worms – not even the container.
TIME TO FISH
We headed west out of town toward North Lake. The drive up the mountains was wonderful, even if we had missed the turning of the leaves. The colors and leaves make the drive memorable. But getting to the North Lake parking lot is a bit scary – to say the least – if you are not used to it. Rather than scare my future wife, I decided to stay by the bridge over Middle Fork Bishop Creek. It seemed perfect for her to walk around enjoying nature while I fished the waters there.
The bait I had bought didn’t seem to be working, so I tried a fly with a bubble float, which landed me my first trout of the trip. The fish promptly went back into the water before too long; this surprised Yumi but I had lip-hooked it and the hook came right out. This went on for a while until lunchtime rolled around. We went back down the mountain to get a hotel for the night.
We unloaded the car and then ate, but there was just enough time to hit one more spot close by. Just east of Bishop is a group of ponds that hold bass, bluegill and trout. I used the crickets to show Yumi that they indeed could catch fish, and quickly
I hooked a few bluegill through the weeds and tule reeds. She watched as the crickets would float on the water but then disappear as a fish would suck them in. This was also the first time she had seen a bluegill.
After a day that started at midnight we skipped dinner and went straight to bed early that night, sharing the accommodations with my bait.
ONE LAST CAST
Early the next morning I went to get fresh baked bread for breakfast before waking Yumi up. Hitting Schat’s Bakkery became a bit of a tradition that we had to get at least once during our trips to Bishop – most of the time right before we left so that we could snack on it on the ride home. Slowly, we packed up the car and made our way out of town on Highway 395 for the return to the Southland.
But I still had some bait left and knew of one more quick place we could stop at. It was an easy drive straight off 395 and down the road straight to the Owens River, where we could park right next to the water and fish. It is a popular spot and gets fished a lot, so I was not expecting to catch much of anything. Boy, was I in for a surprise!
It seemed that the fish were in a frenzy. Everything I threw into the water got a bite and I quickly used all the extra bait I had. Worms and crickets were gone in a flash. Old PowerBait that barely stayed on the hook was eaten happily. Every scrap of leftover anything got thrown to those fish, and it all got bit.
In the end I was using lures until it was time to leave. It was a great, short trip full of memories and something I think about frequently as the Eastern Sierra prepares for the trout opener this month.
And to this day, 17 years later and living on the other side of the Pacific in Japan, Yumi and I still talk about that morning with all those rabbits. CS