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Eastern Sierra Fly Fishing Report

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Fire and Rain

While Northern California was getting slammed by an “atmospheric river,” the Eastern Sierra got hit hard by a firestorm. On Friday afternoon, nearly a week ago, a small fire started in Round Valley, just outside of Bishop. During a normal winter season, there would have been snow on the ground and the fire probably would have burned out on its own. However, with crispy, dry vegetation from the fourth year of a drought and 70-80 mph winds, disaster struck. Within a couple of hours the fire raged out of control. By the time the winds abated and the rain finally hit the Sierra, it was too little, too late. Over 40 homes were completely destroyed. Many close friends of ours lost everything except the clothes on their backs. It was devastating….. I was teaching a photography workshop at the time and was able to sneak away briefly to photograph the spectacle. You could hear propane tanks exploding and houses bursting into flames. It was painful to watch as I knew so many people would be left homeless. Here is a link that is raising money to rebuild:

Upper Owens River
The river is low and clear but big fish are lurking throughout the system. They move out of Crowley Lake to winter in the waters of the upper Owens River watershed. Most of the fish are hanging out in the slow, deep, dark pools. With the low water, 50 cfs, use a little caution approaching the water. If you clomp up to river’s edge, the trout will feel those vibrations and dive for cover. Use some stealth and walk with light feet. Nymphing tends to be the best and most consistent tactic. With the cooler water the fish tend to be a little more lethargic. So, it may take many casts and the perfect drift to get a fish to make a commitment. Keep at it, they’re in there. Pink San Juans, Copper Johns, PT’s and roe patterns have been working well. 

Lower Owens River
The river has been fishing well, mornings to afternoons. Nymphing has been very productive using midges, loop winged emergers, Barr emergers, PT’s, drowned spinners, etc…. just about anything baetis will work if presented well. Before you wander back to your car for lunch, you might want to stick around and check out the BWO hatch. It occurs around noon, you can almost set your watch to it. First the flurry of mayflies, then the rise forms. The trout start looking up and getting in on the surface action. If you enjoy fishing with dries, the time is now. The hatch lasts approximately an hour. Postpone your lunch….. you will be glad you did. Small baetis patterns work well (#18-20) such as an Adams, hackle stackers, etc. And keep your eyes peeled for trico hatches. Griffiths Gnats work well for these tiny little guys. Nice fish are coming up to enjoy the feast. Enjoy.

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