I am a fly-fisher and have been since I was ten years old. As I was growing up, my father fly-fished the Shenandoah River Valley in Virginia and its creeks for native brook trout, where a six-inch fish was a trophy. I fell in love with the idea of fly-fishing and learned to fly fish by studying Dad’s books by Lefty Kreh and practicing on my own.
When I was ten, my step-father actually taught me how to cast in Glacier National Park, Montana. That’s where I caught my first cutthroat trout on a size 14 Royal Humpy. Years later, I can still vividly recall that moment and how I did it.
Some of my favorite memories of trout fishing in California were taking my father on a fly-fishing tour of the Kings River and its tributaries. We caught a lot of fish on dry flies, including a 17-inch brown trout I landed on an Irresistible Adams. My dad was impressed by its size and attributed it to the health of the river. My grandfather taught my dad not only to fly fish, but to always appreciate and conserve wilderness, and he passed that on to me.
Fast forward to 2020 when I took my boyfriend, Scott Leon, on a trek in the Golden Trout Wilderness. Scott is a marlin and tuna fly angler but wanted to catch golden trout that weekend. It took us the better part of a day, but he finally managed to catch his first golden. The look of awe and admiration was the same as the one I saw on my father’s face when he landed rainbows on the Kings River.
The moments when I can show someone why I love California and her watersheds and share where my passion stems from are priceless. I have since taken Scott steelheading on the Trinity River and when he landed his first steelhead, I saw that look again. Scott now looks at a map of California much differently!
One of my favorite rivers is the Owens River in the Eastern Sierra. Although heavily fished due to its proximity to Los Angeles, it has maintained healthy reserves of wild brown trout and rainbows. The caddis and blue-winged olive hatches are always impressive as are the beauty of the fish.
This past summer, I landed a Lahontan cutthroat on the upper Owens and became even more enamored with this river. Having fished the Lower Owens since the 1990s, I have witnessed the results of the tremendous work done to protect the river from cattle by erecting fences along the public stretches.
The beauty of the area and the quality of the Owens River are why so many people from Los Angeles take up fly-fishing and, hopefully, support the river’s conservancy.
Photo: Upper Owens by Bo Adams
I joined Cal Trout in the 1990’s because I fervently believe in preserving the native salmonids of California.
I moved to California in 1994 and discovered the Eastern and Western Sierras and became instantly entranced by the watershed and the species it supported. My father, I believe, was also a member.
What impresses me the most about CalTrout is its holistic approach to every situation in the state.
The thorough work of their scientists is impressive as is their ability to advocate and coordinate efforts with the local, state, and federal governments and other agencies.
The ability to push forward over years shows incredible amounts of grit and tenacity as well as vast reserves of optimism! To have a vision and follow through with a plan despite the miles of red tape involved in coordinating all the various groups and agencies involved shows tremendous leadership and is quite impressive.
To have a vision and follow through with a plan despite the miles of red tape involved in coordinating all the various groups and agencies involved shows tremendous leadership and is quite impressive.
Most recently, I was informed on the work California Trout is doing in Southern California.
I have fished a lot of the rivers or worked on many of CalTrout’s projects as a volunteer but was unaware of the work being done in my backyard on the Santa Clara River for the southern steelhead.
Of course, this prompted me to do a short hike of the river and a tributary!
I often fish the mouth of the Santa Clara for striper but had no idea steelhead were still around in the river. Because this river is practically in my backyard, its restoration and preservation has become one of my favorite projects.
Photo: Santa Clara Estuary by Mike Wier
CalTrout has been an advocate for California’s salmonids for 50 years and has been successful, most recently, in gaining agreement in late 2020 to take down four dams on the Klamath to restore a historic salmon fishery.
This was a very impressive achievement to me based on the number of agencies that were able to reach an agreement to remove these dams.
Being a member of CalTrout clarifies and cements my commitment to California’s native salmonids and the restoration of critical watersheds.
Thank you Kesley for supporting CalTrout! Join Kesley and become a member of CalTrout today!
Kesley Gallagher has been fly fishing since she was ten years old. She has traveled throughout the US, Canada, the Caribbean, Central America and the Pacific in search of everything from trout to tarpon and billfish on fly. She has obtained 13 IGFA records on fly thus far and enjoys competing in tournaments such as the Ladies Tarpon Fly Tournament in Islamorada, Florida, which she won in 2018. In 2019, she toured the Fly Fishers International (FFI) affiliated Southern California clubs and presented “Introduction to Flats Fishing” focusing on tactics and skills for taking redfish, bonefish, permit, and tarpon on fly. In February 2021, she will be presenting “From Novice to Champion” in a national FFI webinar. She also teaches fly fishing for women every fall with the Southern Sierra Fly Fishers in Kernville, CA, and has been featured in numerous fishing magazines. Kesley currently serves on the California Trout Southern California Advisory Committee, is a Simms Pro, a Rio Ambassador, and works for Amgen in Thousand Oaks, CA.