I believe we have turned the corner on winter. The morning temperatures are still crisp but it warms quickly with the sun being so high in the sky. The month of March turned out to be the “Miracle” as promised with a plethora of snow in the high country. The preliminary readings at Mammoth Pass indicate that we are close to normal for the season. This bodes well for all the streams and backcountry lakes, and of course, the fish. I am looking forward to the long, warm days of summer.
We packed up the camper last week and made a quick dash up to Pyramid Lake for a change of scenery. It rained, sleeted, blew, and made for interesting conditions — but we caught a bunch of nice cutthroats!
In just the past week, the East Walker has been up and down, all over the charts with a high spiking at 410 cfs. but it seems to be running steady now at 130. The reservoir is full so I expect the irrigation district to keep a steady release of water throughout the early spring in anticipation of the runoff. My favorite flows are in the 200-250 cfs range but the current flows are fantastic. The trout are grabbing black zebra midges (small) trailed below red or pink San Juans. With higher flows and the possibility of off colored water, lean towards the San Juans or other attractor patterns like copper johns or prince nymphs. 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 has stabilized after all of the rain and snow from last week and is running at 132 cfs. This is a really fun place to explore, especially in the offseason. Once summer rolls around, the river sees a lot more angling pressure. Generally, the river runs gin clear as this is a freestone creek, so some stealth is needed. If you like pocket water and technical angling, this is your place. Tight line nymphing works well.
The creek is flowing through the canyon at 46 cfs. Target your casts to the feeding lanes between the grasses and rocks. You may not see fish, but they are in 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 and 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 have dropped from 108 down to 70 cfs but these are readings that are taken high in the river system. Once Hot Creek dumps into the mid-section, do the math. I am guessing that by the time the river reaches the bridge, the flows are closer to about 120 cfs and off color. The big rainbows like the security of the deep, slower moving, opaque water. Pink or red San Juans, egg patterns, and red/black leeches, have all been working. You can either swing the leeches or dead drift them through the deeper buckets. I have been pinning some nice fish with pink San Juans as an attractor, with a small midge pattern as the point fly. The odd cutthroats are beginning their push into the river system now.
Lower Owens River
The Lower Owens has reopened after the big range fire that roared down the river corridor. In places, the river looks like ground zero but now new grass is starting to sprout everywhere and is greening up the valley. The flows are about 143 cfs. 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
142 Larkspur Lane
Crowley Lake, CA 93546