We have spring runoff…. everywhere. After many days of warm weather, everything is running high and wild. And, if you love mosquitos, you will love the Upper Owens. Everything now is moist and saturated with water. Assuming you do not get stuck in the many bogs out there, once you have left the sanctuary of your vehicle, clouds of bugs (and I am not exaggerating), lift off from their breeding grounds in search of prey. If there is no air movement, you are a sitting duck and they will suck the life out of you. Your only hope is that there is some wind. And here lies the dilemma, the fishing is good. Just bring plenty of bug juice, protective clothing, or netting and pray to whatever God you believe in for a little breeze to disperse the mosquito hatch. Next week: a tick and rattlesnake update. Just kidding!
All of the weather services are sending out flood warnings. The next couple of weeks will be interesting. Keep in mind there is over 50 feet of snow reported at the ski area, 90 feet has been measured in some of the high cirques!
The cutthroat spawn is nearly over but a word of caution; remember these fish are trying to reproduce. Please be respectful to the trout and the fishery. The cuttys are easy to spot when they are sitting on their redds. These fish are cavorting around in the shallow water, spawning, and chasing off other fish that get too close. If you have to cross the stream, look for these lighter places in the gravel beds (redds) that the trout have cleared away to lay their eggs and avoid them. Wade the deeper areas, not the shallows. Walking and wading through these spawning beds can dislodge and kill thousands of eggs. By being respectful to the spawning fish, you are insuring the health and future of the fishery. Try targeting the deeper pools below the spawning beds. There are some rather plump rainbows and browns that are following and scarfing the drifting eggs that are drifting downstream from the cutthroat spawn. Yummy! Anything red seems to work just fine in your bug selection.
The creek is on the rise and edging towards 200 cfs, as runoff from the high country kicks in. There is a nice lunch time hatch of BWO’s, sized 18’s. Zebra midges, Barr emerges, juju baetis, and scuds will usually elicit a bump. Target your casts to the feeding lanes between the grasses and rocks. You may not see fish, but they are in there. Remember, even if the water becomes off color, the trout will seek the quiet water along the edges. San Juan worms work wonders in these spring conditions.
Lower Owens River
The flows are still cranking above the 750 cfs mark, so don’t rush out and grab your fishing gear. The river is spilling its banks and there are sections between Chalk Bluff Road and the river that are wetlands and marshes. It is a muddy, goopy, mess. If you are going to wade, exercise extreme caution. With enough weight you can cast into the quiet water along the edges and perhaps raise a fish.
Upper Owens River
The flows are roughly 140 cfs high in the river system but as the Owens meanders towards the Benton Crossing bridge, Hot Creek dumps in a significant amount of water especially when spring runoff is involved. I fished out there last week… the river below the confluence is slightly off color, very similar to tea. I haven’t seen the river look so healthy in years. I spotted some nice fish darting about as I plodded up the river banks looking for trout. Caddis are buzzing around and anglers are scarce. Long story short, fishing was good. I tried a variety of bugs and got grabs on just about anything that was presented well: San Juans, Prince Nymphs, soft hackles, etc…. and, there are some VERY healthy fish in the river. As the days get longer and warmer, the fishing will only get better. I think we will have a good spring.
The flows have been bumped up to 800 plus cfs, which makes even the upper part of the river, the Miracle Mile, sketchy. You can fish at these levels but beware. If you get dunked, you might be swimming for awhile. Anything below the bridge will be ripping fast as the river narrows and has a steeper gradient. I would stick to the section below the dam. Look for the quiet water along the edges. Watch the flows, they will be fluctuating all spring. Size up on your tippet material, use 3x at the minimum. San Juans, zebra midges, small beats patterns…. streamers!