Outdoors: Catching fish at Beardsley, before the dam

By The Union Democrat Sports Department May 17, 2013 07:00 pm
For The Union Democrat

I may be among the few survivors who were fortunate enough to see the beauty of Beardsley Flat, where the Middle Fork Stanislaus flowed peacefully through a green meadow, lined with willows among scattered stands of fir, pine, and cedar, before the dam was built.

It was a wild river back then, flowing from above Kennedy Meadows with no man-made obstructions to hinder the flow.

To go back in time a bit as to how I got this opportunity, my father started taking his summer vacations at Old Strawberry Resort in the early 1940s. He camped along the South Fork across from the old Strawberry Hotel, which was owned and operated by George and Merriam Conlin.

This became an annual vacation and I joined him every year.

As the years went by, our Watsonville neighbors, the King family, began taking their vacations at Strawberry and when plans were forming to build Beardsley Dam, Bob King, who was my age, signed on with Tri-Dam as a surveyor’s assistant.

In 1947, King took my father and I down to Beardsley Flat in his surplus military jeep. The road was rough and steep but once at the bottom it was a beautiful sight.

We fished some of the deep pools along the meadow and caught some nice trout. 

We found two unique methods to cross over the river which had possibly been installed by surveyors planning for the project. One was a cable car hung on pulleys, allowing one person to climb on and pull themselves across the river.

The other was a floating raft on which two people could stand and pull themselves across the river with a cable attached to trees on each side.

We made several trips down to fish before the completion of the dam in the early 1950s. Occasionally, on the way down, we had to wait for a logging train to pass. 

It was a bit sad, knowing that the beautiful meadow and winding river would soon be under water.

In the following years, however, Beardsley Lake has become one of my favorite fishing spots and I am grateful to be living within a 45-minute drive to the lake.


The kokanee bite at New Melones Reservoir and Lake Don Pedro is still going strong. Pinecrest Lake is receiving weekly plants.


A couple of upcoming events of note: The annual Fishermen’s Yard Sale on Dogwood Lane in Sugar Pine will take place Memorial Day weekend, May 24 and 25. Tackle, lures, and more should be available at bargain prices.

The annual Friends of the National Rifle Association (NRA) Banquet will be held June 8 at the Sonora Elk’s Club. The event, beginning at 5 p.m., will include dinner, live and silent auctions, special drawings and more.

Tickets will not be sold at the door. 

For more information, call Barry Blaylock at 586-8995.