Gone are the sweaty nights sleeping with the windows open, no covers, under the sweeping drone of a ceiling fan. The morning temps are starting to dip into the 30’s, fall is in the air. Squirrels are busy caching away food for the dark days of winter, the bears in town are getting that sleepy, uncoordinated swagger in their gait as the urge to hibernate starts to overcome their normal routines of breaking into ice chests and automobiles for easy food items left out by careless tourists. Why scrounge for berries when you can eat Twinkies and potato salad?
San Joaquin River
The river is dropping gradually as the snow from the high country melts. 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 140 cfs, a little on the high side for wading, but manageable.
Upper Owens River
The Upper O is dribbling along at 43 cfs. It has been at this rate all summer long. 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 112 cfs. The day and night time temperatures are dropping so the water temperatures should be coming into a safe and comfortable range for the trout as well. Keep a thermometer handy and be vigilant with the readings. Give the trout a break if the temps start climbing into the upper 60’s.
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