Summer is the time of year when I think about getting into hiking shape. We live at the base of the eastern escarpment of the Sierra and nestled up high, often above timberline, are thousands of lakes. Most of these lakes have some kind of trout: brookies, browns, rainbow, cuttys, and goldens. The California State fish, the golden trout, is a treasure to hold. These nuggets of gold are scattered throughout the Sierra, usually in hard to attain environments, their exact locations are closely guarded secrets. So, part of the weekly agenda is putting on some sturdy footwear, sunscreen, map, extra clothing, food, plenty of water, and a fly rod… and heading into the backcountry. Being a hybrid with rainbows, golden trout put on a good fight, often leaping several times before they come to the net. Catching a golden is a thrill and an honor. I look forward to pouring over my collection of topo maps and planning the next adventure.
Enjoy the summer, be careful with campfires, and keep an eye on the water temperatures. Get out there! Have fun!
San Joaquin River
The river keeps dropping as the snow from the high country melts. The flows are about 35 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 biting just about anything.
Lower Owens River
I do not know what is going on down in the Valley other than the City of Los Angeles is releasing and transporting copious amounts of water. The flows are still sitting at 475 cfs. You can fish from the bank at these high flows, but I would not risk wading unless you enjoy swimming, perhaps all the way to the San Fernando Valley in southern California. The Lower Owens is ripping’ fast now. Give it some time and the flows will eventually drop and stabilize.
Upper Owens River
The Upper O is ambling along at 41 cfs. It never seems to change. 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. I saw a good number of fish, in particular rainbows. The trout however were not as grabby as below, but we still managed to net a few. A pheasant tail tied with a CDC hackle was the ticket.
I would skip the East Walker until the water temperatures start cooling down. If you must fish the river, get on the water early in the morning while the temperatures are still in the 60’s. It doesn’t take long for the river to heat up into the 70’s, once that happens, give the trout a break.
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 106 cfs and being a freestone river, the water temperatures are much cooler than the East Walker (a tail water fishery). I had great success using prince nymphs. There are lots of nice rainbows in the 12-14” range that tug very hard, especially in that current.