We had to throw some plastic over our garden tomatoes and peppers last night as the temperatures plunged into the low 30’s. Autumn is in the air. There was a hint of frost on the ground but that should all but vanish by the weekend with a rise in the thermometer. The aspen trees in the high country are starting to turn yellow. With the hazy blue in the mountain shadows, the color contrast with the trees is nice. Come on over the hill and enjoy the autumn and catch some trout!
I went out a couple of weeks ago and helped with the CDFW fish survey on Hot Creek. We checked out several runs in the public section in the canyon, then a long run at Hot Creek Ranch (private water). At its prime, Hot Creek can boast 10,000 fish per mile. After several years of drought the numbers now seem to indicate about 2,000 trout per mile. Significantly lower……. We need some wet winters, eh?
San Joaquin River
The flows are about 8 cfs, running steady and true. This is a nice comfortable level for trout and the angler. You can get lots of fish nymphing with small mayfly patterns like a juju beats. As the temperatures rise look for salmon and stoneflies cruising through. Switch to a dry or a dry-dropper setup in the shallower runs. Use something fairly big like a #14-16 stimulator with a baetis nymph suspended below. There are lots of hungry browns and rainbows, and honestly, they don’t seem too particular what you throw at them. They are chomping just about anything.
Lower Owens RiverJeez….. what a change the lower river has gone through. With all of the high water for so long, the weed beds have grown thick and long. Now, with the lower flows, there are mats of thick vegetative covering some of the best trout runs, at least in the lower reaches of the river. The upper wild trout section upstream towards the reservoir are still good. I believe the river will return to “normal” as the temperatures drop and the flows settle into a regular pattern. Currently the river is running along at 225 cfs, a little on the high side for wading, but manageable.
Upper Owens River
The Upper O is cranking now at 93 cfs, over double the amount of water that has been flowing for months. The river below the bridge is off color with a fair amount of debris from the cattle grazing higher in the river. That said, the fishing is good on the lower river below the “Monument.” The water clarity higher in the system, between the Hot Creek confluence and the Longyear Ranch, is great. The best fishing is below the confluence down to the bridge. The water above towards the Ranch is on the boney side. A pheasant tail with a CDC collar was working like a champ.
The flows are running steady at 80 cfs. The water temps have stabilized. The river is fishing slow, but there are nice trout in the system. It takes patience and redundant casting sometimes. Make sure you cover the water thoroughly. I played around on a few runs to see what I could get grabs on. They always seem willing to take a juju beatis (a Charlie Craven must-have pattern). Then, I cast some soft hackled pheasant tails. They would snub the cdc PT but as soon as I changed to a stiffer hackle like partridge, I started hooking fish. Go figure….. and incidentally, the cdc PT is money on the upper Owens. Perhaps it is the water speed with the certain hackle, I’m not sure.
The West Walker is a great place to fish. Even though the highway parallels the river, there are places that don’t receive that much angling pressure. The water is super clear, rocky, and lends itself well to dry flies, dry droppers, and nymphing. The flows are perfect now at 40 cfs and being a freestone river, the water temperatures are much cooler than the East Walker (a tail water fishery). I had good success using prince nymphs. There are lots of nice rainbows in the 12-14” range that tug very hard, especially in that current.
Jim Stimson Fly Fishing