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Tight Lines: Fishing places and partners

June 13, 2014

Rowe’s mentoree Ardie Wagoner shows off his catch at Saddle Bag Creek last year. Photo submitted

It’s time to wrap up my list of fishing waters I want to explore during this season.
Making memories with fishing partners is a big part of fishing. Most of the time we fish in solitude, to be shared on the walk back to the vehicle or on the ride home.
Saddle Bag Creek reminds me of the small creeks in Southern California where I learned to fly fish.
Last season I had the opportunity to mentor Ardie Wagoner, a college student at California State University, Chico, on fly fishing. The first place we fished together was Saddle Bag Creek at the State Route 120 crossing to Ellery Lake. Like Purple Lake, this one holds special memories, except this time I actually spent time on the water with my father.
The first time I fished this spot was in the early 1970s on a YMCA trip. My father was one of the leaders. We had hiked into Yosemite and were driving back toward Mammoth when we stopped at the Ellery Lake campground to fish. I fished for a while, but as a kid just playing and running around in the mountains was great.
I left my father at the big pool just below the crossing. When I came back he pulled up the metal stringer to show me about eight or nine really big rainbows and browns. The biggest was a couple of pounds. He had landed all these and a few he had released while bouncing a worm through the hole.
I’ve been back several times and caught lots of fish here, but never the size of that first trip. I love fishing here at least once a year. Now that I fly fish, this is a great little creek to drift dry flies and nymphs for wild browns, rainbows and the occasional brookie. One of the treats of fishing this spot is a stop on the way home to eat the fine cuisine of Whoa Nellie Delli. Fish tacos – and a mango margarita if I’m not driving – is a great way to end a day of fishing.
I’m hoping that Ardie comes back to the Eastern Sierra this summer so we can make more memories of fishing on one of my favorite creeks. We will need to fish this spot early in the year, as it will just be a trickle in late fall.
Another spot Ardie and I fished last year that I hope to fish again is Buckley Ponds. This is a place that I can fish in the summer evenings after work. The mosquitoes can be thick at times but insect repellent keeps the bugs off. The ponds are inhabited with blue gill and bass. There are lots of both species to be caught.
Dick Noles and his band of volunteers have been doing restoration work on the ponds. They are making them easier to access for anglers and installing handicap fishing platforms. They are in the middle of restoring all the ponds and should be done in a couple of years.
Another warm-water species I would like to pursue is carp. Catching one on the fly would be new for me. There are a few bodies of water around the Sierra that have good populations of this fish. Jarret Coons, a fly fishing guide from Big Pine, has been getting out and catching some big carp on the fly rod.
Coons has invited me to come out and fish with him. This just might be the year I get my first carp on a fly rod.
This fantasy list of waters to fish would not be complete without a few exotics thrown in.
Fly fishing in the surf of Southern California can be real fun. Catching barred surf perch, halibut and corbina while wading in the surf zone is a totally different experience than fly fishing for trout in the waters of the Sierra.
I have some time off from Vons in September that I plan to use to pursue steelhead in the Trinity River/Klamath Basin area. It has been over 30 years since I’ve been steelhead fishing. I have fond memories of fishing these waters while going to college at Humboldt State in Arcata. Now that I’m a proficient fly fisher I would like to return to these waters and see how successful I can be.
This list of waters to fish in a season is always changing. Some waters get fished and are done for the year. Other spots or species will have to wait until next year. The fun part of this exercise is the opportunity to get out and go fishing. So as I finish this column, it’s time for me to go out and go. I just need to decide which water to pursue today.

Fred Rowe owns Sierra Bright Dot Fly Fishing Specailty. He teaches fly fishing and fly tying, is one of the original fly fishing guides in the Eastern Sierra. When he’s not working at Vons, he is out fishing the waters of the Eastern Sierra from Bishop to Bridgeport. He is an avid hunter who loves to hunt birds, especially waterfowl. Fred can be reached at (760) 920-8325 or at

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