I drive a lot in the process of producing the Fred Hall Shows. I can put 40,000 miles a year on my vehicle. There are many long drives that I have to make repeatedly during the year, some drives I like and some drives I don’t. The one I like the best is the trek, from my home in Camarillo, up the 395 to Crowley Lake, Convict Lake, Mammoth Lakes and the June Loop. I love the geography that supports Highway 395. One time my brother-in-law, Carey Hart, who has a masters degree in Geology, and discovered the largest gold mine in US history, drove with me. It was the greatest trip I ever made along that route. He explained all of the geography and all of the old volcanic activity that formed that giant valley north of China Lake. Once you know that information the panorama of that area speaks to you while you drive.
It is always exciting as you approach Bishop from the south. You’ve been driving through the high desert for a long time and every now and then civilization pops up. First it’s Lone Pine, a nice town that has two of my favorite restaurants in it (Seasons-for fine dining- and the Alabama Hills Café & Bakery for breakfast and lunch), then comes Independence, the County Capital, but still just a town (also with some good restaurants), finally there is Big Pine and if you haven’t stopped at the Copper Top Bar-B-Que on HWY 395 yet, then you have to next time through town (they won the Taste of Home award for the best Bar-B-Que in the state).
Then you can feel it in the air…a big city is near by. You start to see the “suburbs” popping up on the local hills to the West and then there it is….Bishop. It starts with Bishop Country Club (a really good “track”) which is right next to Brown’s Town Campground. Then, on the right side of the road, is the Welcome to Bishop sign, next comes the Gas station and car wash on the right, the DMV on the left and the city in front of you.
Bishop is a fishing city. The population is consistently just below 4000 people and they have five quality fishing tackle stores in town: Culver’s, Mac’s, High Sierra Tackle, Reagan’s ,and Sierra Trout Magnet Fly Shop. That’s a quality tackle store for every 800 people. And why not, there are so many places to fish in the Bishop “region”. There are the obvious bodies of water like the Lower Owens River, that runs through the city, the legendary Bishop Creek and the extremely productive Pleasant Valley Reservoir. But most people don’t realize that you can fish bass as well as trout in the Bishop area. Just south of Bishop at the Tinemaha Reservoir you can catch largemouth bass and catfish. It is not unusual to catch bass to five pounds. Below the reservoir, in the stream and the small lakes, anglers target both largemouth and smallmouth bass. Several years ago there were some improvements to the river that provide around 60 miles of additional bass fishing opportunities. If you are the adventurous sort there are several small lakes in the southern Owens Valley, east of the 395, that offer bass and respectable size bluegill.
In late spring, summer and fall I make trips specifically designed to fish around Bishop. Pleasant Valley Reservoir, the Lower Owens and Bishop Creek are my usual targets. Sometimes I use the folks from Adventure in camping to put a trailer on the creek near Pleasant Valley Reservoir. Just show up, unpack and start fishing.
There are so many choices of where to stay in the Bishop area. You can park your self right downtown in any number of good motels and take off fishing the entire region. Within 30 minutes of Bishop you can find dozens of great fishing spots. Sometimes I head on up Bishop Creek and stay at Bishop Creek Lodge or Cardinal Village Resort. I usually work my way up to South Lake from Lower Intake or I work my way down from South Lake. Bishop Creek is a jewel. I once caught a 3-pound rainbow under the bridge in the park in Bishop.
All of the resorts on Bishop Creek have great food. But, every now and then, you might want a change. That’s when you head down into Bishop. There are some eclectic choices; including Schatts Bakkery or their new Bar-B-que and burger restaurant called Aaron Schatt’s Roadhouse. The bowling alley serves great food. Yes I said the bowling alley. They are famous for their food and especially the prime rib. Whiskey Creek Restaurant has been back for a while. The small chain “went under” but some local businessmen revived the restaurant which is smack dab in the middle of town just across the street from Mac’s Sporting Goods. Their motto is “fine dining is back in Bishop”. There are many good diners, Mexican, Italian and even Japanese restaurants in Bishop. You can eat well there. However, my favorite restaurant is Sage. Sage is an upscale eatery that specializes in locally fresh American food. The chef came from a top restaurant in Mammoth. I can’t wait to get there and eat my next great meal.
Ginny and I have gone to the movies in the now, almost, historic movie theater. We play golf at least once a year at Bishop Country Club. It’s a really challenging “track” but the ball carries a little farther up there so it’s fun to play.
My friends Jeff and Tawni Thompson live in Bishop. Tawni is the Executive Director of the Bishop Chamber of Commerce and Visitors Bureau and Jeff helps run the County Probation Department. They keep me informed on what’s “new” in Bishop.
Each year Tawni kindly invites us to the Bishop “Pre-Trout-Opener” Press party. This year the press party was again held at the Bishop Creek Country Club. It was held indoors because of potentially inclement weather. It’s always great food and great company. I get to attend a lot of good events during the year in the course of promoting the Fred Hall Shows but this has been my favorite for as long as I can remember. My dad and mom used to bring us along, so in this 74th year of the Fred Hall Shows I am once again reminded of the legacy we share with Bishop and the Eastern Sierra. With the proposed changes in the fishing regulations by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife there may soon be no more “opener”. But if there is one, I hope we get invited no matter where it is.
Do yourself a favor and stop in Bishop the next time you are driving along 395 to Crowley, Convict, Mammoth, June Lake or beyond. The good folks from Bishop will be at both Fred Hall Shows again this year. Stop by and see them.