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Eastern Sierra Fly Fishing Report

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Jim Stimson reports on 3.3.2016

Could it be we’re in for another Miracle March? The weather Gods seem to be beating their drums. As early as Friday, we could be in for a couple weeks of wet and hopefully snowy weather in the Sierra. It sounds wonderfully wet. We need the moisture so badly. I am keeping my fingers crossed (and my snowblower ready for action).

Upper Owens River

The river is changing…. big rainbows can still be found here and there but I believe a lot of fish are moving back into Crowley Lake. The numbers of fish being hooked are decreasing. It could be that these trout are getting wiser as the winter ambles on, who knows? They’ve been getting pounded by anglers. With the lack of snow along the river system, access is easy, and fisherman have been fighting tooth and nail for the opportunity to hook into large fish. In “normal” wintery years, deep snow provides a barrier to access and the trout get a few months of solitude.

The flows are running a steady 42 cfs and the water is pretty clear, so you need to fish with some stealth. Walk quietly along the river banks, watch where your shadow casts upon the water, and keep a lower profile. The fish are spooky with the low, clear water. You are not going to get high numbers of fish but the trout you hook into are large, very large. The water temperatures are cold, so you can expect to find the nice rainbows in the tail outs. Look for deep buckets. Try copper johns, san juans, and pheasant tails. Vary the color, some days pink is the ticket, other times it is red. They like the bright colors. Make sure you are getting your nymph rigs deep enough. A combination of enough split shot and setting your indicator deep enough is the trick. The key is patience. Keep grinding away on a run. Keep the faith. Again, they’re in there. Make sure you are covering a tail out thoroughly, start your drifts near and end far. The fish are lethargic. Putting your bugs right in front of their faces is the key to success. Good luck out there, stay warm.

Lower Owens River

I would have to say that all in all, the fishing has been steadily improving, but that said, one day it is stellar, the next it seems like you are casting to empty water. The afternoon baetis hatch has returned. Look for rise forms in the foam lines and start hucking out small bwo patterns, size 18. The stream flows are holding steady at about 100 cfs. The wading is still easy but the water is cold. The fish are seeking the quiet water along seams and the deeper buckets below tail outs. For indicator nymphing, tie on black zebra midges in the mornings then make a bug adjustment as the temperatures rise. Go for something in the baetis family next. Red San Juan worms have been working well when the “normal” bug array are not stimulating grabs. And there is the odd caddis cruising around to add to the confusion. The grabs are subtle and lethargic. Yarn indicators work great this time of year. Not only do they land softly but more importantly, you can detect even the softest takes.

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