It is official – more snow has fallen this January than in any other month in Mammoth’s recorded history with 246” (that’s over 20 FEET!). The previous record was smashed by more than 3 feet, and the month isn’t over yet. Since the last storm systems passed through the area, we’ve been immersed into a deep freeze. Yesterday I was getting temperatures along the river that were – 25º F. Even at my house I recorded – 18º. Mighty cold! Needless to say, I stayed indoors, tied some flies, and shoveled our roof just to get some exercise. All of our fisheries will be running cool, clear, and with copious amounts of water this season.
Lower Owens River
A word of caution, there has been a tremendous amount of precipitation in the last couple of weeks, even in Bishop. There are many deep puddles and lots of mud. Watch where you drive and walk to the river. It is as slippery as snot. The Lower Owens has been ramped up to 160 cfs, the wading is not as easy as it used to be but this bodes well for the fishery and trout. The water is a little off color and debris is coming down from the increase in flows. The trout are still in there, perhaps lethargic with the cold water temperatures, but they still like to eat. Black zebra midges, micro mayflies, pheasant tails…. all seem to work if placed at the correct depth. Look for deeper pools as the fish are into hanging out and not much else. The grabs are subtle and you need to cover the water thoroughly. You HAVE to put your bug right into their faces before they make the bite. There is usually a nice surface hatch of BWO’s near the noon whistle. Keep an eye on your watch and try to anticipate the hatch. Size 18 anything BWO will get grabs. If they prove finicky, vary the bug. Often times, the trout will reject an adams because it sits too high on the film. Try a comparadun or a mole fly as they sit lower within the surface. My favorite offerings are hackle stackers and comparaduns.
Upper Owens River
The Upper O is currently not fishable. Here is the deal: with these extremely cold temperatures, there is free floating ice washing downstream. The area above the Hot Creek confluence is frozen over, solid. There currently is no open water. Now combine that with the 3-4 foot high snow banks along the river, and, If that isn’t enough, the final nail in the coffin is that the road is impassable except to snowmobiles, snowshoes, or skis. DO NOT attempt to drive out there. Sound fun? Have you seen the movie, “The Revenant?” Your fishing experience could be comparable, minus the grizzly attack. Perhaps this weekend we will get a break from the extreme cold and the temperatures will warm things up a little.
Bridgeport Reservoir is filling quickly. Keep an eye on the flows. The river is running at 165 cfs right now. Essentially the irrigation district downstream calls the shots and it appears they are bleeding off water in anticipation of spring runoff. The river is receiving a much-needed flushing and scouring. The Bridgeport Valley sits in a basin as well, much like the Owens River. It gets extremely cold there as well and sometimes records the lowest temperatures in the Lower 48. Keep that in mind if you plan on fishing up there. It will be cold and icy along the river.
Jim Stimson Fly Fishing