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Eastern Sierra Fly Fishing Report

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Jim Stimson Reports on 2.17.2016

I have to admit, I have been away from my home turf. With the torrential rains Northern California has been getting hammered with, I have been looking at the long range forecasts for a break in the weather for the opportunity for a steelhead trip. It is a minimum nine hour drive so before you commit to a road trip, it is nice to plan ahead and try to stack the odds in your favor. When I saw the 10 day forecast with the State of Jefferson basking in warm and clear weather, the river levels dropping and becoming “steelhead green,” it was time to pack up the spey gear and head north. The weather was tremendous, the scenery was awe inspiring, and you can’t beat swinging bugs thru water that laps at the bases of massive redwoods. I hooked a small chromer the very first morning, right below camp, but that was it for the next few days. No tugs, not even a bump…… wah! I left the SF of the Eel with my tail tucked. It was humbling but gratifying and educational. I cannot wait to return.
I made it home just in the nick of time. Winter is temporarily returning to the Sierra. It has been snowing all day long in Mammoth. This is nice but we need more, much more…. keep it coming

Upper Owens River

The big rainbows are still spread throughout the river system. The flows are running a steady 42 cfs, the water is slightly off color from the recent storms, and fishing is good. 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 tailouts and start hucking out small bwo patterns, size 18. The flows have been fluctuating along with the weather. Storm systems have been marching through the area with regularity. 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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