The Buckley Ponds
On a Monday morning, allured by the legend of secret waters full of strange fish to catch, I took an exploratory drive into the middle of the valley east of Bishop to check out a rumor of old reed-choked ponds being restored. The Buckley Ponds are a string of four small ponds/lakes parallel to a stretch of Owens River east of Bishop between Line Street and Warm Springs Road (you can see them on Google Maps satellite view). They are slated for restoration, a successful joint effort of the LADWP and volunteers from the community. They had to drain the first lake, burn the tules, then dig up the tule/reeds "mat", several feet thick, dry it out so it would burn some more. Then they bulldozed it. Then they let it refill with water and restocked it with non-trout fishes such as croppie, blue gill and fresh water bass. Now coots splash around in its fresh blue beauty. Signs beg fisherman to not fish or at least to throw it back for another year until the fish population rebounds. The other ponds are still impenetrable marshes, now flaming all shades of gold and ruddy colors for autumn. I can find very little information about these ponds--I will go to the library and verify if they are storage/purification pits for DWP (one story) or artesian spring-fed clean already (another). I stopped at the last, dinky pond on the way out (#5?) where an old handicapped fishing ramp has been built at the side of the dirt road. I looked over the rail into the water and saw lots of fish lazing around--most of them NOT trout. I tried to catch one--zip, not even curious. When I showed this place to Kristie, she said the water is too cold to be late summer standing pond water and probably is artesian. She proposed that next spring we could go to Big Five and get some kind of cheap inflatable "craft" and paddle slowly around through the reeds and water plants, like kids.
All rambles through the valley eventually find the Owens River, and once there I just had to drop a line. While I was tying a hook, two noisy guys in a drift boat pulled up to where they had stashed the boat trailer, "The Trout Dude" painted on its high prow. The Trout Dude hires out himself as guide and his boat to fly fisherman. He asked me to move my truck so he could pull-out his boat. I moved on down the road to another site, where I parked by a memorial tree planted and hung with a rosary, many little faded American flags, and an empty box that had held a Harmonica (contents probably filched by an irreverant opportunist). The little tree had died, since the soil is saline and it had been planted in the shade. This is one of several memorials I have come across out here by the waters; one in Baker Creek informed me that this spot was where Sam had loved to fish. I caught a large trout at the Un-named Soldier's favorite site, probably an "Alpers Trout", since the flesh was orange popsicle orange and it cooked to a pastel salmon pink. A gentleman at the Senior Center told me: "that kind of trout's a cantaloupe, they call that a cantaloupe." Whenever I fish the River, I think of Bruce Springsteen's song, it's that kind of place for the locals. In the summer folks get old semi-trailer-tire inner tubes and do "floats" down the river -- put in together at point A, and get picked up by friends at point B. Sounds like fun, but that water is always cold enough for trout and moving fast in a deep central channel.
The Big Ones, Update on the Canal
Brenda showed up early and we drove down and unloaded our tackle beside the canal and dropped our baits in the stream. Nothing. And no fishes jumping--usually they jump for bugs morning and evening. Brenda was patient and still, calling me "Busy, Busy..." because I kept restlessly walking up and down the canal path and casting. Then I saw them again, the Big Ones. I don't think Brenda had believed me about "really big fish in the canal!" until she saw one. She grabbed my arm and shook me and squealed--most gratifying. Actually, a small school appears to swim up and down in about 250 feet of canal. All our lovely worms, doughs and crickets were utterly ignored. They will hang motionlessly in the water over a sand patch and sun themselves. I have tried several times to hook one and watched as fly fisherman failed to get a bit. One evening I saw a frustrated young fisherman strip off his shirt and jump into the canal with his net to try and scoop them up. I am beginning to wonder if they are pets and someone feeds them expensive catfood at dawn so they turn up their snouts at bait, like cats. We had to leave at eleven when she goes to work. I had caught one ordinary trout and gave it to her to mollify her home-care client for being a little late to work.