Posts Tagged ‘Fly Fishing Story’

Dad and Mom before she hit the ejection button…

… was this. Dad would ride with me, early in the morning, to a spot on the Madison or Firehole in the park, drop me off and return to pick me up at dusk.

On the first morning, Dad left me where we had parked the day before. It was clear; the temps were in the low 60’s as I watched a flock of Canadian Geese course up the river as I set up my Leonard. I waded into the current and placed several casts of the miniscule yellow mayfly along a center streambed of moss.

PT, Fly Fishing the Firehole River, in Yellowstone National Park, October, 1977…

Around my third drift, a good fish rose to my offering and pushed upstream. I attempted to turn what was now a very heavy fish before it made the safety of the moss. “Damn”, I muttered as it dove into the vegetation. I had not positioned myself properly to turn my prey away from its safe haven. I spent the next five minutes moving up and down the bank pressuring the fish. I let the line go slack. With a rush, the fish turned down river. I couldn’t stop him. I panicked. The fish was into my backing. At that moment, the fish gave a headshake and the tippet popped. “Maybe five pounds”, I said to myself.

Working a dry fly around the weed beds…

I spent the rest of the day thrashing about with two small Browns to hand. Late in the afternoon, I walked down the road along the Firehole to a large pool I had seen when my Dad and I came up in the morning. I cut back my leader to 3x and tied on a wet Royal Coachman streamer, size # 6 . I clipped its wing to a stub (a trick Frank Arcularius used on the upper Owens River) and proceeded to cast, quartering downstream.




ROYAL COACHMAN STREAMER – (un-clipped wing)

I used a hand twist retrieve initially as the fly swung below me. Then, sped up the speed on subsequent casts. When I had the fly moving at about 4-6 inches per second, the first of a series of small Browns pounced. I was releasing the sixth fish when I heard a horn honk and turned to the road to see my Dad pulling off the road to pick me up. It was almost dark.

There is a nice fish in that net!!!…

On the way back to West Yellowstone, Father reported his exploits at a new town watering hole. My Dad was 65. He was handsome, charming and a good storyteller. It seems a bevy of babes at the local leather sewer had warmed up to him. He insisted that I accompany him back to HQ and meet them. He was right; they were BABES and all in their twenties. They wouldn’t give ME the time of day…
The Story continues here:

2.The Big Freeze

3. On Being an Obstruction

4. South to Bridgeport

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There are five stories that make up this trip with my Father. When I started this BLOG, I never connected them. Links are now placed to the following story at the bottom of each story…1.3.10

It was early October 1977. The guys I worked with knew I needed a vacation. I asked my Dad to accompany me on this ten-day trip. He had given me the impression, through the years, that he was familiar with fly-fishing and had, at sometime, actually done it. My experiences with him were limited to the streams in the Owens Valley although, when my brother Greg and I were about eleven, we had taken a trip with him to Great Falls, MT. to deliver a “pink” Cadillac El Dorado to a female friend who wanted him to drive her and her new car to Denver.


My Dad ( Actor – Jess Barker )in the Owens Valley fronting the Sierra Nevada Mountains near Lone Pine,CA… 1973…

On that road trip, we had fished in Yellowstone Lake off a Chris Craft Cruiser for cutthroat and lake trout. I remember when we went ashore on a small island; I took a spinning outfit and attached a gob of night crawlers to the treble hook on a Mepps spinner. My Dad told me emphatically, “You’re not going to catch a damn thing!” Hmmm…I knew better and within a half hour I had eight good-sized cutts stringered and lying on the beach.

I picked my Dad up a 6am and headed up the 14 freeway out of the San Fernando Valley towards Bishop, CA., We had breakfast at Jack’s Waffle House around 10:30. As we pulled out of the parking lot, my Dad asked me to stop at a liquor store so he could make a purchase. Well, when he got back in the car, he had a fifth of Cutty and a fifth of Cognac – untreated Alanon meter spikes to ten. Immediately, I envision that it is going to be THAT kind of a trip.

We got as far as Fallon, NV when Dad asked ME if I wanted a beer. “ Not really”, I responded. “ Well I do”, he shot back. So I pull into this dumpy little tavern with tumbleweeds blowing through the parking lot. Now I have a vision of “Bad Day at Black Rock” in my head. We stayed for his two and made for Battle Mountain. A replay occurred in Battle Mountain, Elko, Wells and almost in Jackpot. When Dad repeated the mantra as we approached Jackpot on the Idaho border, I looked over at him and said, “ If there was an ejection button on this console between my seats I would be jumping up and down on it RIGHT NOW! This is a fly fishing trip, not one of my ATO trips (of which I did many while attending Auburn) to Panama City!”

With that, we rode in silence to Idaho Falls where we spent the night.

The next morning was overcast, cold and drizzling. I made my way up through Ashton, Island Park and into West Yellowstone. We arrived around noon, checked into a motel/cabin and I went to a local shop to buy some waders and to ask for fly suggestions. My Dad went elsewhere.

We had a great prime rib dinner at a restaurant next to a pub where my Dad had spent the majority of the afternoon and early evening. The next morning was crisp and cold. I wanted to fish the Firehole River in the Park so we paralleled the Madison and following the road to the river. I found a nice parking spot just off the road next to the Firehole. I started to rig my rod and was prepared to set one up for Dad. As I came around to the passenger side of the car, I noticed my Dad had the fifth of cognac between his legs and was reading the Wall Street Journal (he did not own any stocks).” Hey Dad, I said, which rod do you want to use.” It was at this moment that he chose to tell me that he had never fly fished in his life and did not intend to do so now. “ Great, I exclaimed, so what do you want to do? “ “Well, replied my father, I’m going to sit in the car, read my paper and watch you fish and when it gets cold I’ll turn on the heater – so leave the keys!”

Fuming, I slid into the water and began casting the Leonard with a #22 yellow mayfly imitation upstream…

This story continues here:

1. The Arrangment
2.The Big Freeze

4. On Being an Obstruction

5. South to Bridgeport


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Robinson Creek lies just East and North of Bridgeport, CA. August 1977 was the first opportunity I had to go fly-fishing again since the visit to Hot Creek Ranch. I had spent the previous year building a new business and starting a divorce. I had been told that Robinson Creek held a substantial number of large Brown trout that had run up from Bridgeport Reservoir. Robinson creek flows out of Lower Twin Lake nestled high in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. In its lower section it twists and meanders through a big meadow just below Doc and Al’s Resort.


The first section of the stream encountered ran swiftly through a pine grove. The bottom of the waterway was covered with grapefruit and fist sized smoothed out boulders. In some places, larger boulders broke the current. It was mid afternoon. The sky was overcast and I could see darkening rain clouds moving eastward out of the mountains toward Nevada. I anticipated that a squall would reach me within the hour. I quickly rigged my Leonard and tied a # 16 Royal Wulff Coachman to my tippet (a good searching pattern) and hurried to the stream.

ROBINSON CREEK…below Doc and Al’s…5.24.2011…

My first few casts along the edges produced two small Rainbows. I moved further down the watercourse through the grove to a pool about fifteen feet in length and eighteen to twenty feet across. I chose a midstream position in direct line with a large rock that broke the current into two sections about ten feet above me. After placing three or four drifts along the edge of the left side of the rock, I took two steps to my right and placed the Royal Wulff two feet above the right side of the rock.

The fly disappeared as a great shadow raced forward from under the rock. I saw the fish’s back as it rapidly moved upstream towards a large pile of deadwood and debris in the run above. I pressured the rod and palmed the reel to turn the fish before it reached the pile and certain break off. The rod bent deeply into the butt as I applied more pressure. Suddenly I heard a loud bang and saw a great puff of powdered graphite in front of my face – the rod shattered at the ferrule. I stood in disbelief as the tip section of the rod slid into the water and hung on the line as the fish entered the tangled brush. I threw what was left of the rod and reel, grabbed the line and dashed in pursuit of the fish. It reached the safety of tangles before I even got close. I spent the next half hour attempting to follow the line and leader into the maze of branches, roots and other assorted flotsam to extricate my trophy. No way.

ROBINSON CREEK…before the meadow…5.24.2011…where the big fish story took place…

I finally admitted defeat when the first claps of thunder and loud crashes of lightening cascaded from above. I had a long, wet walk back to my car.

PT and Michael at Robinson Creek…5.12…

Down in the meadow…

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Hot Creek Ranch is situated off Hwy. 395 – East of the Mammoth Lakes Airport. My first visit to the ranch was in Mid September 1976. After returning from my extended trip to Aspen, I had resumed my career in the entertainment industry, joining with two twin brothers to start a new public relations firm on Sunset Blvd. I needed a fly fishing fix.


June 2018…

Hot Creek at sunset…

We arrived on early a Thursday morning. Fall was in the air and a fresh frost covered the ground in front of our cabin. Ilse and Nadia came for leisure and horseback riding. I came for the fish.

Dry fly fishing with single barbless hooks is the code on this property. To insure adherence to this rule, a crusty old codger rode a beat up motorcycle with spongy suspension on twice-daily rounds along the trail next to the creek, monitoring every fisherman.

A small store at the ranch sold limited angling supplies and flies that were created for this water. I purchased several small dry fly patterns in sizes 18 & 20. None of my choices were particularly effective. I had tied some skating spider patterns consisting of a tail and two oversized hackles attached to a short shank dry fly hook with the convex sides of the hackles facing each other at mid hook. After giving up on the flies I had bought and increasingly frustrated by the blustery afternoon wind, I tied one of my creations (thanks Ed Hewitt) to the end of a 12 ft. knotless, 5x leader and to that attached a tippet of 18 inches ( grease this puppy!) and one of the flies in a ginger color. I began casting down stream and downwind with my Leonard.

Some Dry Flies I have collected and tied through the years for Hot Creek…

As the leader and fly bounced up and down over the surface of the stream, I positioned myself so that the line, leader and fly lifted and dropped inches from the opposite bank. Within moments, a rocket smashed through the surface film and engulfed the offering. I watched as a hefty Brown raced downstream and cart wheeled in the air. On the strike, the fish had solidly hooked itself. I palmed the reel quickly as my line played out only then realizing that I had set my drag far too lightly. The tippet held and within a minute I brought the struggling eighteen incher to hand on the near bank. I immediately released the fish and prepared myself for what I believed was going to be an epic afternoon.

I would like to report that I caught numerous Trout of gargantuan proportions that day. However, as it played out, I raised an infinitely larger number of fish than I was able to hook. In any case, it was one of the most memorable days of my early fly-fishing experiences.

Another view of the Ranch at Hot Creek…

When the wind is blowing on moving water anywhere, I generally spend some quality time with the spider. …(or Hewitt’s Neversink Skater)

Nadia and Ilse at Hot Creek…


Nadia with Pop’s Winston Fiberglass, 7’6′, 4WT Rod, Hot Creek Ranch…

Looking down the Creek towards the canyon where the public water is located…


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The Mt. Whitney fish hatchery is one of those places that I return to again and again. I first visited it in 1951 with my twin brother Greg when my Mother was filming the “Lusty Men” in and around the Owens Valley. We stayed in Lone Pine and a room cost $6.00 in that far off time. I watched my Dad kill a rattlesnake on the bank of Shepherds Creek the same day I went to the hatchery.

Mt. Whitney Fish Hatchery, around 1930…it was built in 1917…

The Mt. Whitney Fish Hatchery…Today…


Ally at a holding pen, 1995

It is a place of respite and solitude in the summer’s scorching heat. I have seen Kamloops trout fry and Tiger trout reared in its’ tanks. All my kids have trekked there to toss small brown feed pellets to the hefty brooders in the front pond. Although these were not wild trout being reared, they provided hours of fun and enjoyment when we were young boys. The limit was 25 fish per person and I still remember my brother and I struggling to hold up a day’s catch on a stringer at the Frontier Motel.


Michael, checking out the Brook Trout, 1986

I resolved many years ago to only kill a few trout. I chose to do this knowing that enjoyment is in the pursuit not the head count and maybe, because the following had something to do with it.


Dad and Michael, brood pond, Mt. Whitney Fish Hatchery, 1986…oh, PINKY too…

Ally and Michael,on yet, another visit to the hatchery…

A large Rainbow rises for the 5 cent “pellet” fly in the brood stock pond…

Ally getting ready to cast a load of pellets into the pond…

MT WHITNEY FH -5-Brood stock Rainbows in the pond…

I visited here again on 8.1.2015 … Scroll down for the photos on this post… 


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Arcularius Ranch

Arcularius Ranch

Owens River Ranch

Owens River Ranch

I stayed in the Aspen area through mid-September. mostly fishing the Frying Pan and watching the leaves begin to turn. My interest in Ray Bergman’s “ Trout” compelled me to stop at the headwaters of the Owens River on my return to Los Angeles. I decided to drive straight through to Mammoth Lakes, CA then retrace my path for a short distance and head East along the road that parallels the upper Owens to the Arcularius Ranch where Bergman had fished.

Ilse and Nadia flew back to Los Angeles the day before I left. I traveled West through Glenwood Springs and Grand Junction into Utah through Green River, Salina and Delta.
The Eagles “ Lying Eyes” was in heavy rotation I must have heard it fifty times. It was dusk as I drove through Ely, NV and South to Austin . In Austin, which at one time had been a mining town I stopped and ate at the only restaurant open at 9:00PM. I had one of the best Chinese meals ever, was introduced to the proprietor’s youngest # 1 son, George and continued on my journey.
As I made my way towards Hawthorne, the radio reported the arrest of Patty Hearst. I arrived in Mammoth Lakes.CA at 6:30 AM and had breakfast at Andersen’s ( since closed). I bought groceries and backtracked to the Owens River Road just North of the June Lake Loop`

The Arcularius Ranch was full so I went back up the road to the Owens River Ranch and checked in for five days. I began fishing with my Winston since the headwaters are rather narrow. I took a number of smaller fish on a dry renegade # 18. That evening, while entering the cabin without breaking down the rod, I managed to snap off the rod’s tip when the door slammed shut. This wasn’t the first time I would do the same with all kinds of doors. I’m still learning….


Owens River Ranch, 1975

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“The Castles” section of the Frying Pan River holds some deep pools and big fish. I was taking my daughter Nadia, who was about 3-½ fishing with me and stopped in Basalt, CO where the Frying Pan enters The Roaring Fork. I picked up a container of worms (yes, worms) and intended on rigging a short leader to the fly line attached to a #20 treble hook. Driving up the road towards Ruedi Dam, my daughter looked forward to her fishing experience with mixed emotions. I asked her to sit on the bank and hold the worm container while I aired out a couple of casts up and to the side of a mid-stream boulder. On my third cast, a large rainbow surged over my Rat Faced and submerged as I started to lift the rod, I noticed, out of the corner of my left eye, Nadia dumping the entire contents of the worm container into the river.

By the time I had my rod tip almost vertical, the rainbow rushed upstream, separating the 5x tippet. At that moment a howl escaped my throat,” Nadia, WTF are you doing?” She looked up at me with her big green eyes, a smile stretched across her face, “I’m feeding the fish daddy!” An unarguable point…

Fish on the Frying Pan, 1975

I went back to that same spot on three more occasions, hooking what I believed to be that same fish twice. Each time that character either dove under or around that same boulder it occupied as a feeding station and broke me off. Some fish are just NOT in the celestial cards.

Leonard Graphtek and Frying Pan fish, 1975…

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