Brrrrrr! The thermometer seems stuck at 14º F this morning. I can look across the Long Valley Caldera and see a thin, wispy veil of fog that hovers above the Upper Owens River. The coldest weeks of the year are coming soon as the sun dips lower on the horizon and the nights grow longer. It is hard to get motivated to go fishing but I know that it warms quickly and the trout, though lethargic, are there for the taking. With a good base layer, beanie, and a nano puff jacket, I will be comfortable. If you decide to fish, bring plenty of extra clothes, gloves, and some Loon Ice Off Paste.
Beware. Many of the streams in the Eastern Sierra have closed for the season. Watch the regulations. The Upper Owens (above the bridge), Lower Owens, Hot Creek, and the East Walker are open year around.
Lower Owens RiverThe Lower Owens is flowing at 75 cfs. This is on the low side but the wading is easy and the trout are ravenous. With the background peaks cloaked with fresh snow, Bishop is a nice place to wet a line. Try a hopper-dropper combo with either a black zebra midge or micro mayfly on the bottom. Money! There is also a nice midday surface hatch along the foam lines to anticipate. Small, sized 18-20 comparduns worked well even though the most prevalent bug hatching was caddis. I love when the browns start looking up. I usually use a 2 or 3 wt rod. You can throw super delicate presentations and fight feisty browns on a nimble rod-reel setup. It is really fun!
Upper Owens River
The Upper O is getting better. Larger fish are moving out of the reservoir and into the river system. The fishing can be hot or cold. One day the river is really grabby, then the next it can punish you. I’ve still had good success nymphing with a soft hackled pheasant tail, copper johns, and black zebra midges. The key is that the trout are moving up the river which means you should do the same. If you are not getting bumps, walk to the next run. The flows are low and clear, currently flowing at 52 cfs. Be stealthy. The sun angle is low now which means you cast a long shadow. Try to keep your shadow off the water and walk quietly to the river’s edge. If you see fish, they can see you.
Keep an eye on the flows, they’ve been all over the map the last couple of weeks but I believe they are settling into the winter mode. This morning it was about 26 cfs. If the river sits at below 50, I avoid the East Walker to give the fish a break. Just saying’….
Jim Stimson Fly Fishing