Don’t put away your warm clothes yet, winter still lingers in the Eastern Sierra. The ski area is reporting anywhere between a foot and two feet of new snow from this latest system with more on the way. A word of caution for the Upper Owens, be careful driving out there. With the new snow, some of the roads are sketchy. If it looks mucky, err on the side of caution. Some of the lateral roads heading out to the river can be “keepers,” even if you have a high clearance 4WD. Just saying’ …..
The flows have been rocketing upward day by day. Last week I was stoked to see the dribbly winter flows of 27 cfs jump up to 85. I packed up my gear and headed north and had a great day on the water. The following day the flows jumped to 167, and now they are at 220 cfs. The reservoir is topped out so I think these higher flow rates will be around for awhile. Get it while it lasts. I’ve always felt the optimum flows were 200-250 cfs. I got most of my grabs on black zebra midges (small) and a couple on pink San Juans. With the higher flows and the possibility of off colored water, I think the San Juans will be great. 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.
The gauge is up and running again and is indicating 86 cfs. With the inclement weather pushing into the region I am guessing the flows will climb slightly with the precipitation. This is a really fun place to explore, especially in the off season. 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…
The creek is flowing through the canyon at 44 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 78 cfs in the river system. The water clarity is good but with these lower flows, you need to tip-toe around the river banks and fish with a low profile. The fish are jittery and nervous. 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.
Lower Owens River
The Lower Owens has reopened after the big range fire that roared down the river corridor. The flows are about 75 cfs. Keep you eyes on your watch or the growls of your stomach, there is usually a noon time hatch of bwo’s. There is a narrow window of opportunity for hucking dry flies, usually about an hour or so. Watch for the appearance of birds feeding along the river. They can spot a hatch well before we can. Then, keep your eyes peeled for snouts 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. New grass growth is already appearing, the river should recover quickly.