Casting Like Clark Gable

Clark Gable and fourth wife.

One of the biggest reasons anglers have such affection for the Eastern Sierra is because the region has essentially been forgotten by time.

Little has changed over the last century on the Eastside. The towns are still made up of the same old buildings, the Sierra Nevada is still as wild and stunning as ever, and the rivers still run their same meandering routes (only now-a-days the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power isn’t allowed to run them dry).

Some even say it seems like the sleepy town of Bridgeport has been frozen in time. Although just plane frozen is often a better description, as Bridgeport suffers from inversion layers and regularly records the lowest daily temperature in the lower 48 states.

One of—if not the—oldest buildings in Bridgeport is Ken’s Sporting Goods on Main Street. Ken’s is a fire engine red, two storied log cabin that’s been in business since 1931 and is one of the only tackle shops on the Eastside that stays open year round. 

“Nobody knows exactly how long the building’s been here. It’s older than the courthouse (since 1890) next door because they actually used to have the courtroom upstairs,” said Rick Gieser, who’s run Ken’s and has been in Bridgeport for over three decades. “This place also used to be a bar and a soda fountain, but it’s best known because Clark Gabel used to hang out here.”

Besides being a famous actor, Clark Gable was also known as an avid outdoorsman. If Mr. Gable was still alive and could hit up one of his old, favorite haunts for fishing advice, Rick knows exactly what he’d tell him.

A fine East Walker rainbow.

“The East Walker River on the Nevada side is where to go now. The 15-mile stretch known as the Rosaschi is great. The average catch is about 9lbs, 12 to 18 inches,” Rick said, adding that at this time of year only single barbless hooks and artificial lures are allowed. Plus, you’ll need a Nevada fishing license, which Ken’s sells for $18 for the first day, with another $7 for each additional day.

From “The Elbow” down, however, Nevada rules apply and up to 5 trout may be kept. Besides rainbows, the East Walker is well known for browns, a few cutthroats and a healthy population of Montana White Fish.

As for lures, Rick recommends small Rapalas and Panther Martins this time of year. Anglers have been having luck recently, he said, with Mayfly nymphs, small caddis nymphs, midges and blue winged olive dry flies.

“Every once and a while somebody will get lucky and gets a freight train,” Rick said with a smile.

Even though it’s been a long time since any trains have run through the Eastern Sierra or Clark Gable has cast a line in any of the region’s waters, the place itself—much to most angler’s delight—hasn’t changed much.

-Mike McKenna