By Mary-Justine Lanyon
A short stroll through the meadow at SkyPark at Santa’s Village takes guests to Ladybug Pond where they can try their hand at fly fishing.
Those who are more experienced may bring their own equipment. Novices can rent rods ($10) at the Sky Trading Company. To get instruction, lessons and clinics are available.
Private lessons ($55/hour, 10-percent discount for season pass holders) and a three-hour clinic ($85, age 16 and up; $65, ages 10-15; 10-percent discount for season pass holders; includes one-day fishing license and fly-tying instruction) are available with fly fishing guide Sean Bowers. Either he or another member of the Outdoor Adventure crew at SkyPark will be present when folks are at the pond.
They are there, Bowers said, for the guests’ safety. Each of the four docks has a rowboat which guests are free to take out on the pond. On the day I accompanied him to the pond to observe fly fishing, a young couple did just that. After talking with Bowers, they decided to give fly fishing a try.
Lady Bug Pond was stocked with 300 pounds of rainbow trout from Jess Ranch three months ago.
“It was right before the COVID-19 closure,” Bowers said, “so the fish had a chance to hang out and acclimate to the water.”
In addition to the rainbow trout, there are bluegill and crappie in the lake; both species have been there for years, he noted.
Bowers – who also guides fly fisherman privately – enjoys tying his own flies. One that he used as his dry fly or indicator was made of elk hair, rooster hackle and hair from his late dog, Sasha.
Attached to the line and hanging five feet below the surface was a drop fly, a black and gold midge – the one the fish will bite. Bowers kept a keen eye on his dry fly, watching for it to dip, indicating he had a bite.
One of his more fascinating flies looks just like a grasshopper. Made of foam, it can be colored, he said, to mimic the actual insect which changes color at different times of the year.
As Bowers stood on the dock, he cocked his elbow and, with a fluid motion from elbow to wrist, he cast his line out into the pond.
The bluegill were especially active on this particular day. Bowers barely got the fly into the water when one of the fish snapped at it. After catching a couple, he started shaking them off, trying to catch a trout. He did entice a couple but lost them off the barbless hook. “That one just rolled off the fly,” he said.
He sets the hook in the fish’s mouth by squeezing the line between his index finger and the rod and then lifting up.
Bowers had enjoyed fishing with bait casters and spin rods for many years. About seven years ago, a friend’s father showed him how to fly fish.
“I got hooked on it,” he said. Faced with a couple of days off, Bowers was headed to the Eastern Sierras to do some serious fly fishing.
After fishing for a while, Bowers started whipping his line back and forth, to dry the fly.
Usually everyone catches at least one fish, Bowers said. “They’ll catch a fish if they’re paying attention.”
He has seen folks spend as little at 10 minutes fly fishing and as long as an entire day.
Across the pond, a woman named Cathy was fishing. She had been riding her mountain bike and stopped for a while at the pond. Bowers said that happens a great deal; some mountain bikers stop just to watch him fish.
“Watch for a trout with an orange dragonfly fly in its mouth,” she called to Bowers. “It ate my fly.”
She has been fly fishing for two years. “I learn stuff every time I go out,” she said. “You should try it – there’s nothing like it.”
Cathy noted that she had caught her first trout last week and had caught three on the day we talked.
“It’s like heaven on earth out here,” she said.
Bowers agreed, noting how peaceful it is at the pond. The only sounds disturbing the silence were the whizzing of his fishing line as he cast, the splashing of trout as they jumped up out of the water and the sounds of passing mountain bikers.
Those fly fishing – the only type of fishing allowed at SkyPark – must have a fishing license. Licenses are available at the Sky Trading Company in a Fish and Wildlife machine.
For more information, visit www.skyparksantasvillage.com or call (909) 744-9373.