Fall is in the air! The morning temperatures are in the low 40’s and the sun angle is low. The grasses and trees are getting a hint of autumn coloration. I have my garlic harvest curing in the garage and there is fruit on the tree outside ready to be plucked for a fresh baked, apple pie. So enter September, an awesome time of the year to fish. Trout are getting fidgety in their search for cooler, oxygenated water, not to mention the brown trout are thinking about the autumn spawn. They are getting all juiced up with hormones.
Keep an eye out for warm water in our streams. I always carry a thermometer with me this time of year. With the stream flows decreasing and the solar gain from the hot summer, it is easy for the local waters to reach an unsafe threshold for the resident trout. Be aware that as the water temperatures go up, the amount of dissolved oxygen goes down. Very often, trout cannot recover from a prolonged fight from fishing. 68º is my cut off point. The rising water temperatures along with decreased river flows make for a deadly combination for any fishery. If you absolutely are intent on going fishing, use heavier tippet material so that you can land your trout immediately and quicken up the release process. Better yet, leave the trout alone and go fish for carp. They thrive in the tepid water.
The East Walker is probably safe to fish now. With the cooler weather, the reservoir water that is being released into the river has lost that tropical heat. It would not hurt to drop a thermometer into the river just to make sure. As soon as the water temps hit the upper 60’s, I like to give the trout a break. The flows are running at just below 170 cfs.
The West Walker is flowing at about 60, which is fun. Try attractor patterns such as Copper John’s and Prince Nymphs, then dangle a Rainbow Warrior or Lightning Bug below.
Hot Creek could not be any better. The creek is flowing through the canyon at 43 cfs.
Target your casts to the feeding lanes between the grasses and rocks. You may not see fish, but they are there. Try a dry-dropper setup with a hopper or ant pattern and mayfly or stonefly pattern below.
Upper Owens River
The flows are at 130 cfs but these are readings taken high in the river system. Once Hot Creek dumps into the mid-section the flows are closer to about 170 cfs and off color. The entire river system is open now, from Big Springs to the reservoir. The Upper O is fishing well. More and more trout are spreading out throughout the river system. You can catch many small rainbows and browns on the surface with elk haired caddis, stimulators, hoppers, and some bigger fish with nymphs in the deeper runs. If the surface activity is not happening, throw a juju baetis off the hook bend of your hopper and see what will happen.
Lower Owens River
The Lower Owens is getting back to normal with flows at 198 cfs. At this level, the river crossings can be entertaining so err on the side of caution when wading and make sure your waist belt is snug in case you go for a swim.
Keep your eyes peeled for a noon time hatch of bwo’s. There is a narrow window of opportunity for hucking dry flies, usually for about an hour or so. Watch for the appearance of birds feeding along the river. They can spot a hatch well before we can. If all goes well, snouts begin appearing along the foam lines in the river. Then, cast away…. usually something sized 18-20, blue-gray in color, in the mayfly family will get some nice splashy grabs. Have fun! With the big brush fire we had a couple of weeks ago, access is much easier. A lot of the tules are gone and the willow have been thinned. The river corridor has an apocalyptic look and feel, but the river itself is running clear and fishy. New grass growth is already appearing, the river should recover quickly.
San Joaquin River
The road to Devil’s Postpile is open. If you drive in before 7 am and exit after 7 pm you can avoid the mandatory shuttle buses. The Lion Fire is history now, so there is no smoke. The trout will hammer stimulators and elk haired caddis. The flows are about 19 cfs, which is bony, skinny water - but the trout are healthy and hungry. There are lots of fish hanging out in the pocket water.