Dreaming of a white Fishmas? Those who headed to the Eastern Sierra over the weekend for the trout opener certainly experienced the effects of the snowy winter that left lots of usually fishable spots less likely late April destinations due to the conditions. Still, the show went on. Our pal Jeff Simpson, economic development director of Mono County Tourism, made it to his usual Fishmas destination of Bridgeport Reservoir, which was one of the more accessible options and provided some scenes from opening day courtesy of Mono County.
Regardless of the weather, this was going to be a special opener for Simpson and his family after a health scare this winter. We wrote about in our April issue:
Fishmas will really feel like Christmas for many Eastern Sierra residents who have endured quite a snowy winter. “Many people at many times, including myself here at Bridgeport, were cut off from the world,” Mono County Tourism economic development director Jeff Simpson told me in March to preview the April 29 trout opener (page 15).
“All the roads were closed for many days throughout this winter. We were out of power for eight days due to an avalanche. (Highway) 395 has been closed for over a month now … We haven’t gotten normal winter traffic and all the businesses are really struggling – not only with the lack of business on 395, but having to get the snow swept out or paying people to shove it off the roofs. So I think people here are looking forward to returning to normal.”
And the Fishmas tradition of families fishing together will be even more cathartic for Simpson himself and his sons, James, 7 and 3-year-old Parker.
“I think this is the first year that both of my boys are ready to do it. I’m officially retired from just catching fish for them and letting them do it themselves. That’s the plan, to take them out, and we’ll probably be on Bridgeport Reservoir on a boat,” Simpson says. “Just trying to get those kids to catch a fish. I’ll tell you what: They ask me every single week – multiple times a week – to go fishing, and they just can’t understand the concept of the fishing ‘season.’”
It was also a stressful winter for the Simpson family. James, who has asthma, contracted pneumonia early last month, as did younger brother Parker. But there was more concern for James, who also fell seriously ill two years ago during the Covid pandemic. Fortunately, he’s recovered both times after some anxious moments for the family.
“I put my wife (Jessica) and kids up at a hotel in Carson City for two weeks so they can have access to healthcare,” Simpson said. “If we got stuck down here with his pneumonia and he had to go to the ER, you can’t. It’s scary.”
I hope the Simpsons have a wonderful day in their boat when they take their traditional opening-day trip. And after the snow shut down so many locals, the thought of a beautiful sunny Fishmas day, more family fishing outings and thousands of tourists flocking to the Eastern Sierra sounds delightful.
“Looking forward to just relaxing and getting out of the city,” Simpson said when I asked him about what everyone could take out of the opening of the trout and tourist season in his neck of the woods.
“Most people get up here to escape the hustle and bustle and enjoy the mountains. And catch some fish.” -Chris Cocoles