The spring runoff is underway. As you drive along US 395, while keeping a wary eye open for migrating deer, check out Convict and Mammoth Creeks and of course the West Walker. The West Walker, in particular, is raging, off-color, and spectacular to see. Convict and Mammoth Creeks have spilled over their banks and are flooding the adjacent meadows. Memorial weekend saw stream flows all over the charts. The East Walker (a tailwater) crested at 620 cfs, making for tenuous angling. I fished there just before the weekend and watched the gentleman above me go for a long, frigid swim. Why the water district decided to up the flows over a three day, a busy weekend is anybody’s guess. Now the river is running at less than 300. Oh well….
The East Walker has been manic with the up and down river flows. The river crested at nearly 620 over the Memorial Day weekend but has settled into a nice range just below 300 cfs. With spring runoff getting underway and agricultural demands downstream, expect the flows to fluctuate in the coming weeks. My favorite flows are between 200-300 cfs; 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 BWO’s and PMD’s to make an appearance. Rainbow Warriors and Lightning Bugs works well in the faster water. If this isn’t confusing enough, there is the odd caddis and yellow sally 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.
This river flows have been fluctuating with the rain, snow, and now warm temperatures from the last couple of weeks. The readings are at 1260 cfs. These flows are very high…. I would give the river some time to settle back down.
The creek is flowing through the canyon at 90 cfs and I would expect this to rise as the warm temperatures start melting the snowpack. Target your casts to the feeding lanes between the grasses and rocks. You may not see fish, but they are there. If you are nymphing, try a San Juan or a Hot Creek caddis. Streamers have also fooled some nice trout. There are lots of hatchery fish cruising around making the grabs, but every once in awhile, you can fool one of the old, wily browns. Keep grinding away.
Upper Owens River
The flows are gradually moving up and sit at 113 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 200 cfs and off-color. The entire river system is open now, from Big Springs to the reservoir. The Upper O is fishing on the slow side now especially in the mid-section but we found fish higher in the river towards Longyear. There are still a few, zombie looking cutthroat trout heading down towards the lake. Their spawn is finally over but watch out for their redds when wading.
Lower Owens River
The Lower Owens is still running on the high side. The flows are about 287 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.
Jim Stimson Fly Fishing