We are off to a good start with winter. After getting slammed last weekend with 21 inches of water at Mammoth Pass, the snow pack is deep and dense. It is saturated with lots of water from the snow and rain. The next week is shaping up to be wet as well but I believe by all indications these next two storm systems are cold and snowy. 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. The Lower Owens has been ramped up to 165 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 very snowy, be careful where you drive. I have a high clearance 4WD truck and I highly recommend NOT driving out there. Park just off the pavement beyond the bridge and walk, snowshoe, or snowmobile to the river. You are going to have to EARN your trout. I fished the river just after these last system of storms moved through the area with some friends visiting from the Bay Area. Just before sunrise on Saturday the remote sensor indicated -15º F! It was a suffer-fest out there but once the air temperatures started climbing, the trout began to feed. The water is a little off color from all of the rain and runoff. Once you get above the Hot Creek confluences the river clears up considerably. There are lots of fish in the system but honestly, they are not that grabby. You have to be patient and put it in their faces. You will get grabs eventually. Egg patterns and San Juan worms are your best bet especially with the cloudy water. When and if you get a chomp however, it is usually a nice rainbow, 18-22”.
The Bridgeport Reservoir is filling quickly. Keep an eye on the flows. Essentially, the irrigation district downstream calls the shots. It this wet pattern persists, I can see the possibility of more water being released into the river system in anticipation of spring runoff. Regardless, the EW will get a much needed flushing flow sometime this season. The river is running at 28 cfs but keep in mind the gauge is located just below the spillway. If you drive further downstream, the river is running much higher than the flow rates indicate. I am looking forward to fishing out there but for now I will wait until I see the gauge readings climb towards 100.
Jim Stimson Fly Fishing