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DOUBLE HAUL IN THE FALL BIG CROWLEY TOURNAMENT BRINGS FISHERMEN TOGETHER.

Byline: Bill Becher Special to the Daily News

I've just landed a beautiful 17 1/2-inch rainbow trout at Crowley Lake and I'm disappointed. No, I'm not greedy, it's just that I'm fishing at the Double Haul in the Fall catch-and-release float tube fly-fishing tournament sponsored by Western Outdoor News.

Only fish measuring at least 18 inches count. This is the ninth year self-propelled fly-fishing anglers have competed on Crowley for prizes donated by local fly shops such as the Trout Fly and Wilderness Outfitters, as well as manufacturers including G. Loomis, Cortland, Scientific Anglers, Wood River and Abel. Much of the prize list of over $30,000 in trips and merchandise will go to winners in the individual angler, two-person team and longest fish categories.

But my only chance for a prize will be in the raffle at the barbecue held at Mammoth Mountain's Canyon Lodge following the tournament, where the loot will be handed out.

This year's individual winner, Mitch Green of Riverside, manages to land six fish over 18 inches. He scores one 18-inch brown, four 19-inch rainbows and a 21-inch brown trout, all caught on a fly of his own design. Green is not a newcomer to the Double Haul; he was fifth two years ago and third last year. Green and his fishing partner, Terry Anderson of Sparks, Nev., also take top team honors. Green wins the longest fish category with his 21-inch brown for a fly-fishing hat trick.

Altogether, 69 anglers at this year's Double Haul catch 102 trout 18 inches or larger. Eight are brown trout, the rest are rainbows. Statistics from the Department of Fish and Game show that typically only about five percent of the fish caught at Crowley are 18 or 19 inches, and the 20-inch- plus fish are fewer than three percent of the total catch for anglers surveyed.

``Our feeling is that this is meant to be a fun tournament for everybody to come out and enjoy the fishing,'' tournament director Rod Halperin says. ``Most people think of fly fishing as a solitary activity. The Double Haul is the one day of the year people willingly fish in a crowd and enjoy the camaraderie of their fellow anglers. Often friendships are made during the tournament.'

The Double Haul might be the largest fly-fishing tournament in the world. It has grown from 60 anglers nine years ago to this year's 380 entrants. The rules are fairly simple. You have to be fishing from a float tube or personal pontoon boat and use a fly line. No fish-finding electronics are permitted. If you land a fish you think will go 18 inches, you wave a flag to catch the attention of a judge in a powerboat. He hands you a fish measuring board and records the size of the fish from the tip of the nose to the tip of the tail. Then all fish must be released into the lake.

DFG regulations at Crowley specify that from Aug. 1 to the end of the season only artificial lures or flies with barbless hooks may be used. Although DFG regulations at this time of year allow keeping two fish over 18 inches, if you keep a fish, you can't score it in the tournament.

I see a number of family teams - fathers and sons, husbands and wives - enjoying the mild Sierra morning on the water. Fishing starts at 7 a.m., is scheduled to end at 2 p.m. This year, as in 1994, the tournament is called early at about 12:30 because of safety concerns over the winds that are kicking up whitecaps on parts of the lake. One angler has to be rescued by a judge boat when his float tube springs a leak. He receives a new Wood River tube at the awards, where his tale reminds anglers of the wisdom of carrying a PFD when float tubing.

Anglers seem to be divided between those who fish using the traditional method of stripping nymphs and streamers on full sink or sink tip lines and those who use the indicator midge technique popularized by Tom Loe of Sierra Drifters Guide Service. Loe, whose house overlooks Crowley, guides about 150 days a year on the lake.

``The key to fishing Crowley is locating fish,'' Loe says. ``A good tip for anglers is to pull streamers until you locate fish, then key in with midge imitations.

``Like at any lake, fish need food, oxygen, and cover,'' says Loe, who donated a guided trip on the lake to this year's prize list. ``These are usually found near the mouth of a tributary and near weed beds.''

This turns out to be accurate advice, as many of the top placers fish McGee Bay, where the creek empties into the lake. Other winners fish at Leighton Springs. Surprisingly, most of the top finishers are not Sierra locals but fly anglers from Southern California.

Crowley Lake, formed in 1941 by damming Hilton Creek, McGee Creek and the Owens River, is part of the water system that supplies Los Angeles. It's managed by the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power. The lake depth varies depending on water needs in Los Angeles. Much of the lake is fairly shallow, and most anglers at the Double Haul fish water from about 6- to 12-feet deep. This time of year the water is a greenish pea soup of algae and daphnia that requires you clean your fly on almost every cast. But this is the base of the plentiful biomass that supports the large number of big trout, who eat perch fry and the midges that hatch in profusion almost every day.

I've marked down the date of next year's tournament: September 21, 2002. Information will be available in Western Outdoor News publications, at local fly shops or you can call Rod Halperin at (714) 546-4370, ext. 31.

CAPTION(S):

3 photos

Photo:

(1 -- color) Fly fishermen launch their float tubes at Crowley Lake on Saturday in preparation for the Double Haul in the Fall tournament.

(2 -- color) Mike Kearns of Agoura Hills, in tube, measures a rainbow trout during the Double Haul in the Fall tournament at Crowley Lake.

(3) Inland Empire fisherman Mitch Green emerged as the overall winner in the tournament.

Bill Becher/Special to the Daily News
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Article Details
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Title Annotation:Sports
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Sep 27, 2001
Words:1055
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