Grizzly Peak History:  Some Personal Memories

Lorna Carriveau


Will Moore made me do it.  At the March 2015 annual dinner and fund raising evening, Will asked me to help list the names of Grizzly Peak past presidents for a commemorative plaque he wanted made.  Fun, though challenging!  For the past couple of years, I’d been looking around the room during this event wistfully thinking about all the old and new members.  I thought about my husband Armand’s and my long history with the club and how easily our memories could vanish.  So I decided to at least share my memories.  Will’s request got me to finally do it.  These are my memories alone, although Armand has proofread this article for overall accuracy.   Spoiler:  No scandals!  There have been a few small ones over the years, but I’m focusing on history, not misery.


A Little Personal History


Armand began teaching himself to fly fish when he was 14 Back East.  Many years later, we met in Eugene, Oregon, where he started to show me the rudiments of fly fishing.  A year later we moved to San Diego so I could attend graduate school.  Hardly a fly fishing destination so a major sacrifice for Armand.  After graduation, we moved to the East Bay.  By that time, it was 1984 and Armand was eager to return to serious fly fishing.  Our problem was that while Armand knew how to fly fish, we didn’t know where in Northern California.  In 1985 or ’86 I saw a small notice in the Oakland Tribune about an upcoming meeting of the Grizzly Peak Fly Fishers so we attended in the hope of learning about nearby rivers or lakes for the best fly fishing. 


As you know, Grizzly Peak has always been very welcoming of guests and new members.  I don’t remember our first meeting, but I know we felt sufficiently welcome to join.  In fact, Armand was elected to the Board of Directors shortly thereafter.  Several months later, we hosted a Board meeting in our small house in Richmond.  A note of caution to new members:  I went into the kitchen to get more coffee, and came out to discover I’d been elected to the Board.  Armand and I were very active in the club until 1992 when we moved from Richmond to Woodland (just north of Davis).  Our participation has dropped off a lot since then due to distance, work demands and competing interests, but Grizzly Peak is still very important to us in many ways.


Grizzly Peak’s Early Years


The earliest history of Grizzly Peak is as long lost as its old newsletters.  We believe the club began in 1981, and we commemorated its 10th birthday in 1991. During those early years, Grizzly Peak had challenges growing its membership.  I remember being excited when it finally grew to 75 members in the 1990’s.  Early growth came primarily through word of mouth, meeting notices in the Tribune or past presidents’ adult education classes on fly tying/fishing/casting.  We “rolled rocks” in local streams, supported CalTrout and Trout Unlimited, encouraged our members to join the Federation of Fly Fishers, and enjoyed monthly programs like every other club.  The club motto then was conserve-educate-enjoy.  Mostly, though, we enjoyed fly fishing. 


Club Challenges


Soon after I joined the Board, I learned that the most important Board position is not president, but newsletter editor.  The newsletter editor resigned following a dispute with the president.  So there was no newsletter for six months.  Although the club meeting time, date and place hadn’t changed, attendance plummeted immediately.  We discussed sending postcard reminders of the meetings, but a full newsletter was needed so I began my first stint as newsletter editor.  Of course, this was in the early days before the internet.  So the editor had to use an early computer layout application or Word to design the newsletter, print it, take the hard copy to Kinko’s, make lots of photocopies, affix address labels and stamps, then mail the newsletter at least a few days before the next meeting.  So much easier now with the internet!


The biggest challenge Grizzly Peak has faced was its own survival.  During a wintery November in 2000, the club nearly died.  I still remember clearly the meeting where Armand and I, Bill Newton, Jeff Owings, Bob Young, and newest club member John Davis sat around a table in the otherwise empty Kensington Youth Hut discussing whether the club should continue or fade away.  The president had resigned along with several Board members.  We decided the club was worth saving and started soliciting new officers and board members.  Don Braden didn’t attend the meeting, but graciously accepted the presidency.  John Davis volunteered to do membership, Bob became the librarian, Bill and Jeff probably shared treasurer, programs and kitchen duties, and I became newsletter editor again.  Participation in outings had dropped off significantly over the preceding years, so it was decided to re-start slowly with just two major outings a year:  a beginners outing at Burney Falls in the spring and the McCloud outing in October.  Everyone worked very hard, but none more than John Davis who contributed mightily on many fronts to re-vitalize the organization.


Lot of Accomplishments


Did you know that you can float tube in the San Pablo reservoir because of Grizzly Peak?  East Bay Municipal Utility District (EBMUD) denied access because it was concerned about human contamination of the reservoir.  Then-Board members Jeff Owings and Seth Norman took their waders and float tubes to an EBMUD meeting and demonstrated how little the water would be touched.  And EBMUD changed its restrictions to allow access in at least some areas!  (Yes, it’s that Seth Norman who is a past president of Grizzly Peak and writes the Master of Meander column in the California Fly Fisher as well as authored several other fly fishing books.)


When the Union Pacific spill of toxins into the Upper Sacramento River north of Dunsmuir occurred in the early 1990s, Grizzly Peak was a strong supporter to close the river for at least a year to allow it to regain health.  As a member of Grizzly Peak and then-president of the Northern California Council of the Federation of Fly Fishers, I represented both groups in a presentation to the Department of Water Resources.  Access restrictions were implemented that helped restore the river.


Grizzly Peak was an early supporter of the California Sportsfishing Protection Alliance (CSPA).  CSPA played a particularly important role – unheralded of course – as a member of the group that negotiated how fines from Union Pacific would be used to restore the fishery.  To support CSPA, Grizzly Peak put on a special fund raiser evening with fun games and a live auction, raising $500 for CSPA.


In the early 1990’s original members of the club asked for support to stop degradation of streams in the Golden Trout Wilderness from cattle overgrazing.  Their efforts and Grizzly Peak’s support convinced the landlords – Anheuser Busch – to make substantial changes to grazing practices on mountain meadows it owned, thus allowing the streams to be restored.


Fish First!  Two long-time club members, Doug Lovell and Leo Siren, founded this excellent fly fishing retailer.  It started in a small room among the offices Doug rented for his consulting business on Solano Avenue.  They’ve done a wonderful job growing the company and have always been very generous to the club.  Thanks, Fish First!


Fly fishing’s prominence in the East Bay has been enhanced by Grizzly Peak’s participation in the Solano Stroll every spring.  Our special thanks to Jay Capachi and John Davis who in the early 2000’s encouraged volunteers to set up a booth to provide information about fly fishing and the club.  This event alone has been a major factor in growing the club over the past several years.


Some early fly fishing products were initially showcased or even invented by club members.  At least one reel was designed by a former Grizzly Peaker, Jim Scherer invented the wonderful Tach-it fly box, and Seth Norman invented a fish-friendly glove/net to more safely hold fish to remove flies than using a conventional net.


In the 2000’s John Davis also introduced the Trout in the Classroom program to Grizzly Peak, which has been warmly embraced.  And the late Eddie Snow and Michael Abrahams successfully solicited volunteers to help special needs children and their families from the Oakland area experience fly fishing.  Now we have Rebecca Blair to thank for the spring Casting for Recovery outing each spring where volunteers help cancer survivors experience fly fishing on the Trinity River.  Grizzly Peakers are always generous with their time and resources.




If you want to raise funds, talk to a teacher.  In the early years, Grizzly Peak typically hired a prominent speaker, such as the late Mike Fong and Andy Puyans, to present at its fund raiser.  The presentations were excellent but cut deeply into proceeds from the fund raising.  Past President and retired school teacher Jay Brady made several suggestions that led to Grizzly Peak’s fund raising surpassing much larger fly fishing clubs – all for a good cause, of course.  Rather than just auctions and a raffle, Grizzly Peak fine-tuned its live and silent auctions, added a bucket raffle (where raffle tickets could be put into a few bucket for specific items), kept the regular raffle for small items, and had a special raffle for a single high-value item.  Win-win!  More participation plus everyone had more opportunities to win the items they sought.  Past member Maureen Humphreys personally visited virtually every booth at the ISE show to solicit donations, so Grizzly Peak’s offerings expanded considerably.  Without a presenter, the live auction became the evening’s entertainment.  I was the auctioneer for the CSPA fund raiser mentioned above.  It’s very, very hard!  Several volunteers did their best, but Eddie Snow and John Davis have been the best at the annual fund raiser. 


I’m delighted Grizzly Peak revived the Skills Fair as its October 2015 open house following the Solano Stroll.  From the 1980s through the 2000’s, the Skills Fair allowed volunteers to demonstrate important aspects of fly fishing, such as casting, rod building, fly and knot tying, in the early spring.  Those of us who were rusty after the long winter or new to the sport got important insights just before the fishing season kicked into high gear.


Where Grizzly Peak fishes has changed quite a bit over the decades.  In the 1980’s and early 1990’s, there were fewer outings.  I remember annual outings on the Upper Sac, Plumas County and shad fishing near Woodson Bridge.  From the late 1980’s until the El Nino disaster in 1997, every early May the club hosted a beginners outing on the fly-only stretch of the Trinity River just below Lewiston Lake dam.  With steelhead smolts newly flushed from the Lewiston hatchery into the river and the easy accessibility of that first mile of water, it was the perfect beginners outing.  I recall one new member showing up the first morning with waders, a rod and line and his license – but nothing else.  Within a few minutes, he had tippet, flies, clippers, etc., donated by club members.  There also was the wife of a member standing barely in the water in her rubber duckies asking for help.  She had just dropped (definitely not cast) her fly into the stream, a small smolt was on, her line was a mess, and she wasn’t sure what to do next.  The club would host another outing on Lewiston Lake in October where boats could be rented from Lakeview Terrace Resort (inaptly named) or fishers could float tube or wade deeply to catch large trout in the currents near the willows.  Members caught 20+ inch trout in that lake!


Refreshments at club meetings have changed a lot over the years – for the better.  In the early years, the late Jeff Owings would serve boiled hot dogs on cold buns.  He loved hot dogs!  John Davis changed the menu to pastas, salads and garlic bread from Costco, which was quite a step up.  Then Linda Friedman joined the club.  Every month she made wonderful dishes that became a reason unto itself for coming to the meetings.


Smaller changes include:


  • Originally Grizzly Peak had 501(c)3 status so donations could be tax-deductible.
  • The holiday potluck had a gift exchange for members who wanted to participate, and Santa Claus would appear to give gifts to children who attended.
  • Presenters used 35 mm slides, not video.
  • Until fairly recently, the club meeting night was the second Thursday – not the second Wednesday – of the month.  The club changed the date to accommodate another organization.
  • Until the 2000’s the annual fund raising events were held in a restaurant.  Unfortunately, either the venue wanted an upfront fee paid or a minimum number of attendees.  To reduce costs, it was decided to hold the event at the Kensington Youth Hut.  Linda Friedman has done a great job over the years organizing auction and food items and ensuring the room reflects the holiday spirit.
  • Many years ago the club sold patches, t-shirts and sweatshirts with its name and logo.  I still proudly wear mine!


What hasn’t changed is the quality of Grizzly Peakers and their dedication to their sport, fisheries and each other.


Fabulous Outings


Whether or not you fish, you must come to at least one Grizzly Peak outing.  If for no other reason than enjoying beautiful surroundings, chatting with kind, generous and intelligent people, and tasting amazing potluck.  


Outings have changed a lot over the years.  Armand’s and my first outing was on the Upper Sac.  So disorganized I can’t talk about it without a shudder.  Our thanks to Kirston Koths and Shanna O’Hare for some important organizational changes.  Kirston loves the McCloud, and has done a wonderful job hosting the October outing in the Ah-Di-Na campground for many years.  Not only does he post articles about the best equipment to bring, but he also hosts clinics the first morning for those new to the fishery.  Shanna has upgraded the offerings and organization of the club’s Saturday night potlucks to a level that is delicious, food safe and efficient. 


I can recall one member from the 1990s and 2000s who so valued club outings that he drove after work from the Bay Area one stormy Friday evening, arrived at McCloud in the wee hours, then drove through the driving rain and mud into the Ah-Di-Na campground before dawn.  If you’ve ever driven down that winding, rocky dirt road, you know that’s dedication.


Other fond memories include Luis Montes climbing trees at the McCloud outing to rope tarps high off the ground.  During one Burney outing Richard Orlando told me that a beautiful flower I found growing along the banks of the river was a California orchid.  And the music during our outings!  Former member Jim Birch would bring his hammer dulcimer and play alongside Kirston Koths and John Davis on harmonica and guitar/mandolin/banjo.  I can recall another outing on Manzanita Lake in Lassen National Park.  Bill Newton, Seth Norman, Armand, I, and a couple of others were sitting around the campfire chatting about fishing (of course).  Deer came up and we fed them apple slices from our hands.  One was so greedy, she literally walked through the fire to grab an apple from Seth.  On another Manzanita Lake outing Jeff Owings brought his son Josh and Michael Abrahams brought his son Robert.  I believe they were around 10 or 11 years old at the time.  We value our younger members, and now have Oliver Hsu coming to meetings and outings.


Outing potlucks call forth some of the best memories.  Watch out for Bob Thomas’ killer “cowboy chili.”  Amazing stuff guaranteed to fill your stomach and stop your heart.  The late, great Eddie Snow always strung up a grill and lights powered by his truck to help the cooking.  There’s nothing like fresh caught abalone cooked in bacon fat.  (Legend has it that Eddie cooked everything in bacon fat.)  John Davis and Shanna O’Hare introduced caribou and Kirston started Armand on the road to single-malt scotches at an early outing.  The large plastic bags filled with whisky, scotch, tequila, and wine bottles the next morning have always been impressive. 


Several of us are grateful to past-member Maureen Humphreys and Linda Friedman for coordinating two outstanding “women” outings.  The first took place in Alpine County in the 1990s.  A few years ago Linda and I organized another outing at Chris and Gary Bard’s house outside Arnold in the Sierra foothills.  While lots of fish were caught with the help of a guide, the dinners were especially memorable.  No one will ever forget Marianne Henri’s roasted beet salad.  She topped it off by personally shaving truffle slices onto it!


Best Part:  The People


The club has attracted and retained so many wonderful members.  For one, Armand and I are forever grateful to the late Roger Moon, a member of the Oakland Fly Casters.  He saved our marriage by teaching me fly casting.  Armand tried and failed, so Roger used his infinite skills and patience.  If you see me casting badly now, it’s not because of poor instruction, just not practicing.  Another highly valued member of the Oakland Fly Casters is Billy Jones, he of great casting and fly tying fame.


I think fly fishing is best when shared with a buddy.  Some great buddy tales I will share, but I hope the other long-time members will also publish their memories:


  • The most famous duo of the early days was the late Bill Newton and Jeff Owings.  Bill was a prolific, fastidious fly tier who also sang silly and unprintable ditties.  Jeff carved beautiful wading staffs and wrote poetry.  Their idea of gourmet cooking on an outing was canned asparagus tips.  Both gave so much to the club, and we celebrate their antics and generosity every spring on the Upper Sac outing. 


  • Even married couples can be great fishing buddies.  Tom and Elaine Gong were a much-beloved couple.  Both were also key members of the Oakland Fly Casters.  Tom was always very generous with helping Grizzly Peakers learn or improve their skills at the Oakland casting ponds, often during the August picnic.  Elaine Gong is a past president and a world-class caster in her own right.  Tom passed away a few years ago, but I always enjoy seeing Elaine at major events.

  • Don Braden and Hugh MacBeth have been members for many years.  Great senses of humor, especially about their own escapades.  I recall one particular outing where they brought their tent but forgot the poles to hold it up.  Don has donated a number of beautifully handcrafted cutting boards to the fund raisers over the years; I cherish mine.  Speaking of donations, Rich Toney was another early member generous with his donated hand-carved wooden bowls.  Armand and I also own several examples of Bob McLean’s fish-inspired pottery.


  • You always saw Jay Brady and Sky Parsons sitting together at meetings and special events.  Jay was nominated for president in 1989/1990, but refused to run unless someone ran against him.  I agreed, but told everyone to vote for him.  Happily, they did but they then voted me president the next year.  I carpooled with Sky once years ago from a Trinity River outing back to the Bay Area.  Winding through the mountains, he told me that when he decided to get into fly fishing, he didn’t want to spend a lot of money.  So he decided to buy just one very, very good rod, which cost him over $1,000 at that time.  Unfortunately, we all know one rod can’t meet all your needs.  So much for great intentions.  He always looked forward to retiring from teaching from the Oakland school district, but sadly passed away only a few years thereafter.


My thanks to those generous members who join the Grizzly Peak board.  When I served as a board member a couple of times over the years, I was busy but always got back much more than I gave.  Everyone contributes, but one of the most diligent posts is conservation.  I would like to recognize Ivan Sturman, whom I believe was the longest serving conservation director.  Every meeting he brought articles and information about major conservation efforts and solicited volunteers as needed.  He was particularly keen to keep Grizzly Peak involved in local stream restorations. 


Many members have drifted away, there have been marriages, children born and even a divorce or two, but saddest is those we’ve lost forever.  I’ve mentioned a few taken untimely from us:  Bill Newton, Sky Parsons, Jeff Owings, Tom Gong, Eddie Snow.  There are others from many years past, such as Henry Chu, Marty Martindale (the best Santa Claus ever at the holiday potluck) and Chester.  I remember one elderly gentleman who was a member for only a year or so.  He was cantankerous, but so valued the camaraderie of Grizzly Peak that when he passed away, he bequeathed over a hundred fly fishing-related books to the club library.


Thank you, Grizzly Peak Fly Fishers, for letting me share these warm and pleasant memories.  While we don’t join outings much anymore, we enjoy gourmet potluck outings instead with several members.  Club meetings have changed for Armand and me from being a source of information about fishing to social events.  Now we catch up on fishing and family news with older members and are always meeting new ones.  The club is in good hands these days so we have no fear of its passing before we do.

Contact Us

P.O. Box 153

El Cerrito, CA 94530

A 501(c)(7) Nonprofit Organization
Website Terms of Use

Powered by Wild Apricot Membership Software