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Eastern Sierra fishing odyssey thrilling despite a slow bite

June 1, 2009 | 10:53 am

Ron Obray of Auburn, Calif., displays a brown trout caught on a Broke Back Gillie at Crowley Lake.

Some anglers have all the luck. Ron Obray of Auburn, Calif., caught and released the impressive brown trout in the accompanying photo while on a recent Crowley Lake excursion with Sierra Drifters guide service.

Guide Tom Loe shared the image in an e-mail delivered this morning. But the fish undoubtedly was caught before my brother and I rolled into the Eastern Sierra region Friday afternoon, along with massive clouds that produced booming thunder, lightning, hail, rain and even snow atop the higher peaks.

At one point Saturday, while on a remote section of Bishop Creek's upper South  Fork, we ran 100 yards through a lumpy meadow and dodged towering pines to escape pelting rain and hail. While sitting in my SUV waiting out the downpour, we witnessed amid the grayness a neon-white bolt strike a large rock close to where we'd been standing.

But there were dry periods during which we fished hard, learning first-hand that hatchery-planted rainbows -- the dumb fish, easy to catch -- had been all but eliminated by large crowds during the previous Memorial Day weekend.

The wild and far more warier brown trout were numerous and easy to spot through polarized sunglasses. But they were incredibly difficult to fool with mini-jigs and spinners, which we chose as our only arsenal, and we caught none worthy of photos.

Sunday fishing was even slower but the weather improved and the scenery was spectacular, with cotton-colored clouds floating amid the peaks and contrasting a brilliant-blue sky. We acknowledged that fishing in this region is secondary to its splendor and agreed that the only bad thing about an Eastern Sierra weekend getaway is returning home to congested freeways and the eye-sore that is a crowded city landscape.

But there's always another weekend.

-- Pete Thomas

Photo: Ron Obray of Auburn, Calif., displays a brown trout caught on a Broke Back Gillie at Crowley Lake. Credit: Sierra Drifters guide service