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THE SECRET SEASON FEW KNOW LOWER OWENS IS STILL OPEN TO FLY FISHING.

Byline: Randy van Vliet Special to the Daily News

It started out innocently enough. I was already dreading the holiday season - shopping malls, parking-lot traffic, the mere thought of the strain on the budget from buying Christmas presents.

Foul weather and high winds had put a damper on going fly fishing at the end of the trout season at Crowley Lake. A man could end up on the wrong side of the lake in his float tube in that kind of weather.

Trout season had closed and I'd missed it. Or had I?

I'd heard rumors about fishing the Owens River before Thanksgiving. Not just any portion but specifically the Lower Owens. A check on the regulations confirmed that, indeed, you could fish in one small portion of Mono County. The Owens Gorge, below Crowley Lake was still fair game. So was Pleasant Valley Reservoir, the Wild Trout Catch and Release section of the Lower Owns and the bait-dunking section near Bishop down to the south end of Inyo County, where the water ran into Haiwee Reservoir.

I didn't measure it, but it looked to be close 100 miles of Owens River still open.

I decided I had to go fly fishing in November.

A check with local fishing guides indicated that business was picking up for drift-boat trips the combine fly fishing and duck hunting. These ``Cast and Blast'' trips consisted of guide service on a drift boat with duck hunting at day break and fishing when the trout warm up enough to start feeding on nymphs, larva, emergers or big streamers.

I was more interested in fishing near the entrance of the river into Pleasant Valley Reservoir, near the Department of Water and Power generator plant. The plant is about 12 miles northeast of Bishop off of U.S. 395. Water flows usually affect where I like to fish on the inlet, so I knocked on the door of the office near the bridge to see what the flows were.

Unfortunately, they weren't what I'd hoped, considering I was planning on fishing with midge pattern flies. But I did get a tour of the plant. I'm fascinated with electricity even after it almost killed me when I was 3 and stuck a couple of paper clips, one in each hand, into a wall socket simultaneously.

With the flows below what I'd wanted to fish the wild-trout section of the Lower Owens for the past several days, I decided to pass on the inlet to Pleasant Valley Reservoir and head for the campsites below the bridge. There, I saw only one other fly fisherman.

Archie Richardson had driven more than 1,000 miles from his home in Grand Junction, Colo., to rock climb in the Owens Gorge. Richardson said the rock climbing in the Gorge is world renowned, but the fly fishing is a secret.

The wild brown trout were more than willing to take my size 18 flashback Pheasant trailed nymph, but my nerves were shot and I missed many takes. Still, the water was easily wadeable at the flow level and the cottonwoods were in a rainbow of fall colors, neatly framing a freshly snow-dusted Mt. Tom with a crown of pure white. The temperature had dropped to 28 degrees at night in Bishop, but on this day it was in the high 60s and a T-shirt and vest was perfect. My breathable waders, however, needed a heavy fleece liner to keep me warm from the cold water flowing from the bottom of Pleasant Valley Reservoir.

I don't know how long the fall colors will last on the trees or the balmy weather will stick around, but the wild-trout section of the Lower Owens fishes well for three season of the year - fall, winter and spring. I guess I can afford to wait for the holidays to get here as long as I can go camping and fishing around Pleasant Valley Reservoir in the high Sierras.

CAPTION(S):

photo, map

Photo: A fly fisherman enjoys the solitude of November fishing on the Lower Owens, where the season stretches beyond the Oct. 31 trout closing for most areas.

Randy van Vliet/Special to the Daily News

Map: OWENS RIVER WILD TROUT AREA REGULATIONS
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Title Annotation:Sports
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Nov 9, 2000
Words:705
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