Happy 5th of July! The weather on the east side has been perfect and the fishing solid. The air quality around the Mammoth Lakes area has been hazy from a smoldering fire down in the Devil’s Postpile area but it is mainly confined to that Mammoth Pass corridor. If you venture north or south, the air clears up nicely.
Again, watch out for deer strolling across the highway, especially in the mornings and evenings. There have been some ugly splatter marks on the asphalt from the collisions. Beware!
The flows on the East Walker are perfect. Keep checking on-line for the latest information if you are planning a trip to the east side but right now they sit at about 227 and they have been steady for the last couple of weeks. The higher the flows, the less water will be available to fish as much of the river gets washed out and is difficult to wade. With the agricultural demands downstream, expect the flows to fluctuate in the coming months. I believe the river fishes best in the 200-300 cfs range; the fish feel secure and from an angling perspective, there is still a challenge. The fishing isn’t a “gimme.”
The trout are grabbing black zebra midges (small) in the morning, then as the temperatures warm up look for mayflies to make an appearance. Rainbow Warriors and Lightning Bugs work well in the faster water. If this isn’t confusing enough, there is the odd caddis and golden stones and yellow Sally’s cruising around. With higher flows I like to use attractor patterns like copper johns or prince nymphs for my upper fly, then dangle the bug-du-jour as the point fly. Presentation is everything — if you are not getting a drag free drift you will get rejected. A lot of Sacramento perch get washed into the river from the reservoir above so try hucking some big, light colored streamers into the “toilet bowl.” There can be some mega sized browns lurking in that turbulent water waiting for stunned perch to get washed into the river.
Game on! The West Walker is flowing at about 323, which is very fishable. Try attractor patterns such as Copper John’s and Prince Nymphs, then dangle a mayfly emerger pattern below.
Hot Creek could not be any better. The creek is flowing through the canyon at 58 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 beetle pattern and mayfly or stonefly pattern below. The fishing is “stupid good.”
Upper Owens River
The flows are meandering along at 79 cfs but these are readings that are taken high in the river system. Once Hot Creek dumps into the mid-section the flows are closer to about 130 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 and stimulators, and some bigger fish with nymphs in the deeper runs. Hot Creek is flushing lots of moss into the river so I recommend fishing above the confluence for “cleaner” water.
Lower Owens River
The Lower Owens is still running on the high side but it “seems” like the Los Angeles DWP is transporting less water, but who knows? Crowley Lake is still brimming with water. At some point this reservoir as well will have to make a southward journey. The flows are over 285 cfs which makes for “interesting” river crossings. 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 river is very cold and the trout a little on the lethargic side, but they will hammer stimulators and elk haired caddis. The flows are about 93 cfs. The San Joaquin is a dry fly paradise. Enjoy!