Jim Stimson Reports on 3.19.20
It is remarkable how that in over a course of a week our world as we know it has plunged into dark times. There is no way to sugar coat this: the Mammoth Lakes Tourism Board is recommending that non-residents need to stay away because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Town of Mammoth Lakes and Mono County have yet to have any confirmed case(s) of the virus but it seems like the clock is ticking, it is inevitable. The ski area has shut down, along with all of the bars, restaurants, coffee shops, that cannot provide take-out service. Yes, you can still fish and practice social distancing, but you better arrive completely self-contained. You can still get gas and shop at the grocery stores, but prepare yourselves for empty shelves. The self-serving, me-first hoarders have decimated the inventories for everything from TP (I still don’t understand), hand sanitizers, Lysol, wipes, pastas, can goods, etc…. it is like arma-friggin-geddon!
And, on a lighter note, we did get a nice blast of snow over the weekend. It is not the Miracle March that we were hoping for, but there is still time. If you are heading out to the Upper Owens, beware of the new snow. The lateral roads heading out to the river will be soupy and goopy. A tow truck extrication is super expensive, don’t tempt fate. The mornings have been in the upper teens, low twenties, so the trout are slow to get rolling. You have plenty of time to greet the day, and the fish. If the cold temps are something you don’t care for, drive down the hill and fish the Lower Owens. It is a “banana belt” down there and the fishing for brown trout is fabulous.
Stay healthy and safe!
The flows on the East Walker have been lowered to about 50 cfs! The river at this level is low but now at least the trout can move around and spread out through the system. They are not just sitting ducks trapped in the deeper pools. We fished up there when the river was about 70 cfs and we hooked some nice healthy fish, and scouted the river for the upcoming season. Black zebra midges worked great but get ready for the stoneflies…. copper johns, prince nymphs, and pats rubber legs will be a staple.
I believe the creek is flowing through the canyon at roughly 42 cfs, but the gauge is not working so this is a guess. Target your casts to the feeding lanes between the weeds and rocks, plus the overhanging grasses along the margins. You may not see fish, but they are there. Try a dry-dropper setup with a caddis above and a midge or small mayfly below. Hot Creek is always a fun place to fish especially now that the crowds have gone home.
Upper Owens River
The flows are dropping and sit at about 105 cfs high in the river system. Once Hot Creek dumps into the mid-section the flows are closer to 140 cfs. There seems to be a couple of pushes of rainbow trout that come up the river system from Crowley Lake; a late fall-early winter surge, then the mid-winter fish. Most of these spawners have headed back down to the reservoir. Yet, there are still some really nice fish to be had with SJ worms, small baetis, and balanced leeches. Work the deeper buckets relentlessly…. they are in there. Exercise some caution on the driving approaches to the river.
Lower Owens River
The river is cruising steady at roughly 126 cfs and is fishing well with all of the traditional patterns; PT’s, Hare’s Ears, midges, Frenchies…. Thank God for Bishop. It is a nice break from winter when you need to see some dirt again and feel some warmth. If you enjoy hucking dry flies, this is the place. Around lunchtime, watch for BWO’s to start coming off the water and be ready. The first thing you will notice is the bird activity along the river. You will see swallows, fly catchers, and sparrows flitting around the surrounding brush and diving at the river surface. Look for rises along the foam lines as fish snouts start poking up through the surface film. This BWO carnage only lasts about an hour. If you get finicky trout snubbing your dry flies, change your bug. Usually a sized 16-18 adams will get grabs, but often the trout are looking for a mayfly that is sitting lower in the surface film. An adams rides high so try a comparadun or a hackle stacker, they sit more within the film. Sometimes that is all you need to get back into the game.
Get out there! You cannot catch fish if your line isn’t in the water.