We are off to a good start with the weather. Here is the current local forecast: The Mammoth Mountain Ski Area has received over 16 feet of snow from this last weather system! I live around the corner from Mammoth, more in the rain shadow of the Sierra but I have been spending a few hours a day with snow removal, either by shovel or snowblower. I believe we have another 24 hours before we start seeing the light of day again. Whew! It has been a lot of work but we sure needed the water and snowpack. All of our fisheries will be running cool, clear, and with copious amounts of water this season.
Lower Owens River
A word of caution, there has been a tremendous amount of rain in the past week. There are many deep puddles and lots of mud. Watch where you drive and walk to the river. The Lower Owens is ambling along at about 75 cfs, perhaps on the low side but it makes for easy wading. You can walk and wade just about anywhere. The trout are still in there, perhaps lethargic with the cold water temperatures, but they still like to eat. Black zebra midges, micro mayflies, pheasant tails…. all seem to work if placed at the correct depth. Look for deeper pools as the fish are into hanging out and not much else. The grabs are subtle and you need to cover the water thoroughly. You HAVE to put your bug right into their faces before they make the bite. There is usually a nice surface hatch of BWO’s near the noon whistle. Keep an eye on your watch and try to anticipate the hatch. Size 18 anything BWO will get grabs. If they prove finicky, vary the bug. Often times, the trout will reject an adams because it sits too high on the film. Try a comparadun or a mole fly as they sit lower within the surface. My favorite offerings are hackle stackers and comparaduns.
Upper Owens River
The Upper O is snowy, wet, and mucky, be careful where you drive. I have a high clearance 4WD truck and I highly recommend NOT driving out there. Park just off the pavement beyond the bridge and walk, snowshoe, or ski to the river. You are going to have to EARN your trout. I fished the river just before this last system of storms moved into the area (see attached photo). At the time, the temperatures hovered near zero. There were chunks of ice floating down the river. Now the river and the weather have warmed up. The water is a little off color from all of the rain and runoff. Once you get above the Hot Creek confluences the river clears up considerably. There are lots of fish in the system but honestly, they are not that grabby. You have to be patient and put it in their faces. You will get grabs eventually. Egg patterns and San Juan worms are your best bet especially with the cloudy water. When and if you get a chomp however, it is usually a nice rainbow, 18-22”.
Keep an eye on the flows. Essentially the irrigation district downstream calls the shots. If the Bridgeport reservoir rises significantly from this latest storm and a wet pattern persists, I can see the possibility of more water being released into the river system in anticipation of spring runoff. Regardless, the EW will get a much needed flushing flow sometime this season. The river is running at 28 cfs but keep in mind the gauge is located just below the spillway. If you drive further downstream, the river is running much higher than the flow rates indicate. I am looking forward to fishing out there but for now I will wait until I see the gauge readings climb towards 100.
Jim Stimson Fly Fishing