We have been enjoying a nice break from the stormy days of January but these warm, sunny days are about to end. Early next week, a new series of cold fronts will be rolling into the Sierra. We are expecting several feet of new snow by this time next week. I need to keep focused on winter activities and keep my mind free of tropical beaches fantasies. It ain’t over yet….
Lower Owens River
I am not going to give you a Chamber of Commerce forecast nor paint a rosy picture…. do not bother with the Lower Owens. It will get better, eventually, but for now do not waste your time. The flows are now above 700 cfs. 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 mess.
Upper Owens River
The flows read about 75 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 fish in the Upper Owens are porkulent rainbows that have come up from the reservoir seeking more oxygen, food, and their spawn. They are generally fairly lethargic and seek the quiet water of deep pools. The walk in is on deep snow, do not attempt to drive unless you have a snowmobile. You can usually walk in on the packed sled tracks or snowshoe directly to the water’s edge. Figure on a two mile hike in, one way. San Juans, egg patterns, and red pheasant tails 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. You will find that those dime bright rainbows have now turned dark as the spawn is over.
Keep an eye on the flows, the East Walker will be oscillating up and down as spring approaches. A few weeks ago the river crested at 850 cfs, the flows have been sitting steady at 340 cfs, not too bad. Personally I like the river at 100-200 cfs but the current levels are very doable, but the water is frigid, in the upper 30’s. The trout are super tight lipped. Small midges (size 20) and pheasant tails have worked but it is a grind-a-thon. Again, keep an eye on the flows. The reservoir is full from this winter with spring runoff yet on the horizon. It is only a matter of time before they start bleeding off water. I can see the flows exceeding 1000 cfs.