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SPORTS WEEKEND | OUTDOORS / PETE THOMAS

The Angling Memories of Saturday Are Covered With Dust a Day Later

May 02, 1997|PETE THOMAS

It was truly an opener to remember last Saturday at Crowley Lake. . . .

Thousands of fishermen setting out at first light, eager to get their hooks into their first trout of a new season in the Eastern Sierra. . . .

Experiencing the thrill of that first strike, then another and still another. . . .

Toting to the tables a full stringer by noon, then resting and going out for more. . . .

Yes, it was an exciting opening day at Crowley. But it was nothing compared to Sunday.

With dawn came a similar assault as more than 500 boats fanned out over a surface so smooth and glassy it mirrored the flame-colored sky. Again, the splashing of fish on the hook was almost immediate.

But by noon, nobody was hauling stringers of fish up the banks. They were hauling for cover to avoid being swallowed by clouds of blowing dust.

Those still on the lake were trying their best to get off it, rocking and splashing their way slowly back to the launch ramp, trying to stay afloat on the turbulent waves.

The same wind that had raged through the Owens Valley at speeds of up to 90 mph in the days before the opener--stopping, graciously enough, for opening day--had whipped back up as suddenly as it had disappeared.

When the red flag went up warning boaters to get off the lake, everyone set a course for the docks at once. A mad scramble resulted in gridlock.

"It was just a comedy watching them try to get their boats in," said John Fredrickson, president of Crowley Lake Fish Camp. "Having 2,000 people trying to get off a six-boat launch ramp is pretty interesting.

"It stayed fairly well organized, though, because we moved the whole crew down there, but I saw two guys with trailers driving in reverse [toward one opening at the ramp] at a very high speed.

"And Jon Sweeny, our local fire chief, and I realized that they were both going for the same spot. . . . They were playing chicken with each other, and one of them finally stopped. I can chuckle about it now, but for a minute we were terrified that one of them wouldn't stop and they would crash into each other.

"Patience was getting tight, but the sheriff and our patrol boats managed to get everyone off the lake without anyone capsizing or getting hurt."

Truly an opener to remember.

BY THE NUMBERS

Wind or no wind, there's no doubt that Crowley anglers did a number on fish that had been minding their own business in the quiet months before opening day.

Curtis Milliron, a Department of Fish and Game biologist, said opening-day anglers caught an average of 0.86 trout per hour and by day's end an average of 4.2 trout per person.

Since about 5,000 anglers dropped a line into Crowley's nutrient-rich depths, more than 20,000 trout--mostly rainbows averaging a little more than a pound--were caught on opening day alone.

Maybe the wind was Mother Nature's way of giving the fish a break.

TWIN JEWELS

The most productive lakes for big fish this past week were scenic Upper and Lower Twin in the Bridgeport area.

In Upper Twin, the following trophies have been reeled: a 7-pound 6-ounce German brown, a 7-5 brown, a 7-0 rainbow, a 4-6 brown, a 4-3 brown and a 4-0 brown. "We had one guy go out and catch 22 fish in just a few hours, including three small browns," said Kent Monroe, manager of the Mono Village boathouse. "So there are lots of limits of smaller fish being caught."

Lower Twin produced the top fish on opening day, a 13-pound 10-ounce brown.

END OF AN ERA

With the recent passing of Frank Pachmayr, founder of Pachmayr Gun Works in El Monte, the sporting world lost much more than a pioneer gunsmith and craftsman. It lost "a legend who was internationally known by all the big gun houses," said Nick Misciagna, 70, a longtime friend of Pachmayr's who now lives in Cody, Wyo.

Pachmayr died last week after a long illness at his home in Cheviot Hills. He was 91.

A lifelong Los Angeles-area resident, he came from a long line of gunsmiths. His father, like his father before him, was a gun maker before and after moving here from Germany.

At one point, while a child, Frank Pachmayr developed an interest in music and began secretly taking lessons. His father found out and sternly informed the youngster, "No son of mine is going to be a music player. You will be a gunsmith."

Frank not only became one, he became one of the best, eventually being granted more than 200 patents for his guns and modifications.

"He was also a gun-maker for the stars," Misciagna said. "He made guns for Clark Gable, Robert Stack and Gary Cooper. . . . You name them, they were all his customers. Jimmy Stewart was one of his favorites. He had photos of all of them in his house. . . .

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