PART I -- THE LAKES
Lake fishing has not been good to me this summer. My young friend who lives across the way here at J-Diamond took me fishing for my birthday in July. We rented a rowboat on Lake Sabrina at the head waters of Bishop Creek canyon. The oars were set for a man's shoulders, so we both had to hold the oars out of the oarlocks into the middle of the boat while rowing, and it was an awkward slog, although less so for her since she is in rock-climber good shape. We rowed to a rocky inlet and dropped anchor. An hour went by and we didn't hook any fish. We were floating crickets and I saw, with mine own eyes, a trout leap out of the water and flip OVER my floating cricket in a perfect little shining arch! Not even a nibble at my bait. Morgan did better, but at least three got away from her, slipping off the hook at boatside, once her knot came undone. Then we pulled up at a sandy shore to go pee. I tried to step out into shallow water, misjudged its depth, fell in and soaked my jeans. Later Morgan finally hung on to one trout big enough to eat, and I caught one too small and let it go. Then the line on my reel fouled in big loops, and by the time I unwound it, I was down to the splice with heavier line used to pack the reel. But the sporting goods store had used something like tennis racket wire -- I couldn't fish with it -- anyways it was time to go. When we reached the boat ramp, there was a guy sitting there at the edge of the water on a comfy chair under a huge sombrero, angling right off the beach and catching one every ten minutes -- innocently adding insult to injury. Nevertheless, it was a very pretty, fresh morning on the water and Morgan is delightful company.
I began driving up to Intake II, the next hydroelectric lake in the canyon down from Sabrina. First time there I snagged four foot-long inch fish on salmon eggs, so exactly alike I called them Clonefish -- musta been right after a plant. I took them home and fried them as usual, but they were inedible, tasting like butcher paper chewed in with freezer-burned cold cuts. After that all I did was scratch. One night Intake II was unexpectedly down about 3 feet, and I saw people leaving, shaking their heads and muttering "We can see 'em, but they ain't biting." Nor did they bite for me. The next time the water levels were normal but early on my line fouled badly and since it was just a patch from a leader spool, I didn't have enough to pull out the tangle. Disgraceful lack of preparedness on my part.
So I Googled: "How to load line on a fishing reel" and got some instructions, bought some spooled line and loaded my reel myself. And I must have done it right, because since then I haven't had the looping problems I had with the "professional" load. Live and Learn by the light of community-minded information sharers on the Internet!
I also got skunked at Lake George, Rock Creek Lake (several times), and Convict Lake. I did hook two large trout at Intake II one day, but couldn't land 'em. I know they were large because they both leapt high into the air when hooked. One crashed down on my bobber tackle and weights, and broke the line, making off with my hook and leader; the other splashed lots while I brought it to shore, but thrashing around in the shoreline rocks it yanked the knot out--it slowly swam away with another hook, big fat thing, and I couldn't reach it with the net. So much for the lakes.
Fish and Game declared August 8, 2012 to be a "Free Fishing Day" -- folks can fish in California without a license. A friend of mine took advantage of this dispensation and sent me the following report:
I did fish and what an experience that was. I was by myself since my companion was visiting relatives. I decided to go back to Lake George. With no tackle except the hook and weights already on the pole, I decided I'd scavenge from the shoreline, which produced a few hooks and some weights. [note: the pole had been scavenged from an abandoned campsite at an earlier time, it is hot pink and black and from its labeling appears to have been a prize in a fundraiser for breast cancer] I also purchased night crawlers from the little shack there. I headed for the beach spot but it was occupied so I continued on the trail around to the back part of the lake, a private serene little spot, not including the loud talking that seems to echo over the lake. I cast my line in and settled in to look for tackle and then do some reading. Not long and I had some bites but not strong enough to do the "give a little slack and then a slight jerk" technique my brother taught. After the nibbles I reeled in and put on another worm. About six worms later I caught my fish, an average size and since I had no tackle to take the hook out or cut the line I decided the best thing to do was get my mouth as close to the fishes, saving as much line as I could since I was on a budget, and bite the line off. The fish lived in my little blue bucket for quite a while, which I felt very sorry for, of course. An hour or so later some boys quickly walking past notified me of a bear that was over by where they were just fishing. I thought "Oh yeah, a bear. Yeah they're around the area. I'll just sit here in my nice spot and not go over that way". But then one of them said "Look it's on its way over this way!" Of course I wasted no time in smashing everything into the bags I had and reeled my line in as fast as I could. They offered to help carry some stuff which I of course accepted. We all took off at an even quicker pace around the lake and toward the parking lot. We all made it safe and sound and the bear showed up about ten minutes later having cleared out all of the fisher people on one side of the lake. After the excitement and everyone taking pictures I found out that the same bear had done this the day before also. He/she is a fish snatcher. I wasn't going to argue. I almost left mine there for him/her but decided the hook might hurt the bear. That's just me. Lastly, my one average sized catch grew to four and the three I acquired were quite a bit larger than mine. I had tried to pawn my one fish off on a man I saw with a string of three because I didn't want to clean just one. The man wanted to get rid of his fish so I consented to take them off his hands. I did the dirty work and had trout for dinner. So no swimming, but I would have, had I not been rescued. I had a great day!
PART II -- THE CANAL
Driving 4000 to 6000 feet higher in elevation to the lakes in summer gets me out of the heat but burns more gas than cruising to the Canal. Actually a North Fork of Bishop Creek, it is stocked by Fish and Game and runs parallel to Hanby and along the bottom edge of Shady Rest Trailer Paradise where I used to live before J-Diamond. Recently the DWP mowed its banks and now there's no thickets to tangle up the tackle, so this September I've been fishing the canal in the cooler evenings. The trough is semi-clogged with weeds and reeds: prime trout habitat, and these past few weeks I have seen lots more and bigger fish there than last year. They slip out from hiding under the dark mats of weed and tread water, heads into the stream, then flit away, flickering like mossy shadows against tan patches of sand on the bottom.
Drop the barbed and stinking dough-bait over by the reeds and try to wait patiently for the electric bobbling tug of a fish mouthing the blob. One hit is usually a miss, a continued pull and jerking means time to start reeling in the wriggling, leaping life form at the end of the line. A canal fish will zig-zag and zoom around down in the bottom of the canal, so that I can't see them while my line is zinging out of my reel; as it tires, it works to the surface and I try to pull it towards a place on the bank where I can get ahold of it. If I can hold it with one hand, I remove the hook and put it back in the water, if I need two hands, I take it home for dinner. I have caught many fish this fall in the Canal, at various points along its course -- it goes on for quite a while before turning into the Owens River.
Probably the best time to fish the canal is early morning, but I have been going in the afternoon and evening. There is about an hour, the hour of the dogs, when off-leash pets bark at me, splash in the water and spook the fish, and head for my tackle box. I try to keep it closed so some dumb pup won't try to lick my hooks. Mostly it is quiet -- few townsfolk fish the canal, I think it is considered to be the low-status domain of kids and drunks -- "Oh, I wouldn't eat fish from the canal!" But the many fish I have cooked from the Canal all taste better than those fish I got from Intake II, and they are plumper and the tails and fins are long and scarf-like and unchewed. I always imagine I would like to sit by the canal and read as I wait for fish to bite, but I find I am restless and must walk up and down, constantly moving my bucket and tackle, chasing the most recent fish signs, casting and re-baiting far oftener than you're supposed to with dough-bait. But it seems to me that either the fish take the dough-bait almost as soon as it drops, or they ignore it; I get a bite right after the cast, or I stand around while my tackle gets tangled in the weeds. I have seen little floating foam spider "flies" for sale in the fishing section at Vons, maybe I should try dropping some of those on the eddies by the reeds.
Fish seem to favor hiding in a stand of reeds, or maybe reeds hide the fisherwoman. As evening deepens, fish leap at bugs hovering over the water, bats and birds swoop the bugs, and the bugs bite the fisherwoman. The fish splash down, usually just a gloop!, but big ones really smack the water and make waves. Part of the thrill of fishing at evening is the sudden irruption of a wriggling, robust life form out of the dark mass of the water, which is flowing along pretty quickly, its surface reflecting blue, then silver, then metal gray light from the sky. Cottonwoods stand dark against the lingering skylight above the Sierra silhouette to the west, and sometimes there is a cloudy, coral and magenta sunset, reflected in the stream. I fish until I cannot see my tackle, which is too late really, since the fish can't see the bugs either and stop leaping. One night I looked up to see that the only light in the night around me was coming from the crime lights at the back of the Vons and KMart shopping center. I had to drag my self away like a too-tired kid.