Usually the fishing opener in the Eastern Sierra is dovetailed with bad weather and absolutely foul conditions. You name it: rain, snow, sleet, and driving gale force winds. Well, guess what? It looks like this year after a winter filled with atmospheric rivers and record snowfall, this fishing opener will be warm and sunny. Spring runoff has not begun yet so many of the creeks will be on the boney side but fishable. With the month of May on the near horizon, the snowpack up high will begin to melt. There is a ton of snow in the backcountry. The projected date of opening for Tioga Pass is the 4th of July weekend. The ground around the Owens River is still very saturated from the long winter, be careful where you drive.
The creek is on the thin side right now, roughly 40 cfs, as runoff from the high country has not quite begun. With the low, clear water, the fish are very spooky yet lethargic from the cold water. There is a nice lunch time hatch of BWO’s, sized 18’s. Zebra midges, Barr emergers, juju baetis, and scuds will usually elicit a bump.
Lower Owens River
The flows have finally dropped below 700 cfs but 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 read about 80 cfs but these are taken well above the Hot Creek confluences, so the actual data is a little higher. The river system below the confluence can be muddy, off color, and full of debris if you wander out there just after a wet storm. It usually takes a couple of days for the river to clear up (as long as another storm does not roll in). The snow has melted out but I would use extreme caution if you plan on driving in. There are some major bogs out there… keeper mudholes. The main north-south dirt road is passable BUT all of the laterals that gain closer access to the river are like quick sand. Park your vehicle just off the main dirt road, then walk in. Copper Johns, San Juans, egg patterns, and soft hackles work well. You need to make sure you cover the water thoroughly. The trout will grab if you put it on their snouts. There are fewer fish now in the upper section of the river as the fish are heading back towards the lake. The fishing is on the slow side but they are definitely 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 fluctuating and now sit at 420 cfs, which makes the upper part of the river, the Miracle Mile, in the possible realm of fishing. You can fish at these levels however, be aware. 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 beatis patterns…