BISHOP — Now that it appears the pandemic is winding down, the idea of fishing a new and exciting competition has been made reality by Southwest Council, Fly Fishers International.

Getting out in the Beautiful Bishop Backyard, fishing any of the rivers and creeks throughout the Owens Valley system, trout anglers from across California came to test the fishing and the competition.

Event organizers had arranged special pricing on local accommodations, including the newly renovated Best Western Bishop Lodge and located near the fairgrounds, sported a complete fish cleaning room for guest use during their stay.

The Bishop Trout Rodeo, held Feb. 26, was open to all comers, gear or fly-fishers, and the action was intense. For this inaugural event, director Michael Schweit noted more than 40-anglers came out and nearly 200 fish were logged, making it a real success.

Western Outdoor News is proud to have been a Silver Sponsor for the Southwest Council Bishop Trout Rodeo and continues to support new fishing competitions throughout the region.

Innovation was the keyword for this first-ever Trout Rodeo. To start, entrants signed up through the latest version of I-Angler Tournament, a web app designed for fishing contests. On the fishing grounds, each angler logged their catch into the app and the info was automatically uploaded to the master file on the Trout Rodeo HQ laptop at the Bishop Tri-County Fairgrounds.

Director Schweit and Southwest Council volunteer coordinator, Connie Bollock, were available at the fairgrounds Saturday morning for late registration, or to assist any angler needing a hand. At 9:00 a.m. fishing officially got underway, and in minutes catch logs began to roll in through the app. The system allowed the total inches of all the fish landed by an individual to be calculated to be used to determine winners in each category.

The day began with clear, sunny skies, air temps at 17 degrees Fahrenheit, and the Owens River water measuring 39 degrees. As the competition fanned out across the valley, the warmth of the sun soon brought temps around to spring-like conditions and fish began to pop.

Another innovation for the event is the gear and fly categories.

Choosing to fish with Panther Martins and Mice Tails on spinning gear, local anglers David Wales and Tom Herrera worked the Lower Owens River between Highway 6 and Five Bridges Road.

“We had the dog along with us and with the weather being nice, spent the day working upstream toward 5 Bridges,” explained angler Herrera, at the awards dinner that night. “Because this tournament was catch and release, we were sure to have only one hook and it was barbless.”

Another local angler, Milton Rios, fished spinning gear and took top honors for big fish total inches in the gear category.

Fishing was permitted on any waterway that is considered “open” by California Department of Fish and Wildlife, which meant participants ranged far and wide.

Anglers were directed to snap a photo of their catch alongside a measuring device, such as a tape measure, and then return the fish to the water as quickly as possible.

Some formed up into competitive teams, while others fished solo, relying on their own knowledge of the waters around Bishop.

Another local angler, Thomas Paulson, had his own honey holes to mine for browns and rainbows.

The angler fished Tenkara style with midge patterns for the biggest number of total inches, with 49 fish equaling more than 37 feet of fish logged,to win the individual total prize.

Teams included the West Covina father-son Team Dead Drift of Pilar Carrillo and Nicholas Carrillo, 13 years old. The pair used traditional fly-fishing methods with a dry-dropper set up in the wild trout section of the Lower Owens to take third in the teams’ category.

Second place for teams went to Shoulder Season Anglers and top honors went to Tenkara Reel Company, a six-man group from the L.A. area.

The Tenkara Reel crew did not fish Tenkara style but used European Nymph techniques for a resounding win. With nearly 800 total inches the team logged some 80 fish for the event.

“The hot fly was a split back BWO emerger with a red wind pad that we fished through the wild trout section and the canyon above the campgrounds. We tied a dozen or more of the blue wing olive emerger patterns the night before and shared them among our team,” reported team captain, Andy Coradeschi.

Tenkara Reel Company team member, Andrew McClellan of San Pedro, logged a brown trout measuring 18 inches for big fish honors in the competition and second in the individual fly-fishing category with 197 inches. Other members of the TRC crew included: Andy Coradeschi, Mark Galli, Matthew Romero (third in the individual fly-fishing category with 186.5- inches), Justin Hopfer and Oliver “Ollie” Anderson.

NorCal angler Gary Bard of Alameda fishes many of the Southwest Council events and fished with local podcaster, Rick Saez. While the pair did not make the leaderboard, they found plenty of action working the Owens River throughout the day.

After the 4 p.m. end to the competition rolled by, participants headed for the fairgrounds to see how their logged catch held up.

Organizers had no problem tallying a clear set of results while hungry anglers munched on a fusion of Latin and Central American Cuisine selections from The Rolling Chef 395. Raffle tickets sold faster than a slab-sided brown on the run, and many more tickets were awarded as winners accepted their prizes.

Sponsors included Fisherman’s Spot Van Nuys ($200 gift certificate), Reagan’s Sporting Goods Bishop (spinning rod/reel combo and an Abu Garcia reel), Rio/Reddington (5-wt. fly rod), Snowbee USA (XS gear bag), Tenkara USA (complete Tenkara outfit); all up for grabs in the raffle.

Such an exciting start to a new event can only mean more great fishing competition to come. Next year’s Southwest Council FFI Bishop Trout Rodeo promises to bring out more competition and even better prizes. The question is, can anyone top angler Thomas Paulson’s awesome 37 feet of fish? Contacts: Southwest Council FFI 1213 Sunset Place, Ojai, California 93023, Michael Schweit Special Projects Director 818-601-9702