Eastern Sierra Fly Fishing Report
Jim Stimson Reports on 6.18.20
Hopper season is here. If you are planning on fishing the Upper Owens, stock up on those large, grotesque, and gaudy terrestrial patterns. They work! And don’t agonize over making perfect, delicate presentations with long 7X tippet. Hoppers are made to hit the water coming in hot. Don’t be tentative, plop them down along the river’s edge like that kid at the local swimming pool desperately trying to splash the lifeguard with endless cannonballs. Cast like you mean it and enjoy the excitement!
All of the mountain passes are open including Tioga Pass but check with the Park Service for details and restrictions. These are tenuous times with the pandemic. Enjoy the Eastern Sierra but please respect the fisheries and each other. Be prepared to wear a mask if you are grocery shopping or visit a retail store. And finally, please refrain from open campfires if you are camping outside of a developed campground. Fire season is already here. Thank you.
The flows on the East Walker are at 120 cfs. Keep your eye on the USGS website as I would expect the irrigation district to start releasing more water as the snow from the high country starts making its way to the valley below. The river at this level is perfect. The trout love the extra cold water and are free to move throughout the river system. These flows are easy for wading as well. The fish have moved for the most part out of the deeper, still buckets and into the moving water. This is a combo of several factors; oxygen needs and the food source. Caddis and stonefly nymphs are tumbling out of the riffles into the run outs below, especially in the afternoons. That said, black zebra midges and WD-40’s work well in the morning but as the day heats up, watch for BWO’s, stoneflies, and caddis. I generally use a stonefly nymph as an attractor with a beatis dropper. The combo has been money.
The flows are over 300 cfs with the spring runoff as a heat wave settles in over the Sierra. if you insist on fishing here, tighten your waist belt, use a staff, and keep your wading conservative. Try using big, flashy, and bright attractor patterns in this fast, off-color water.
The road to the Postpile and the San Joaquin River is currently closed.
The creek is flowing through the canyon at roughly 52 cfs. Target your casts to the feeding lanes between the weeds and rocks, plus the overhanging grasses along the margins. You may not see fish, but they are there. Try a dry-dropper setup with a caddis above and a midge or small mayfly below. Hot Creek is always a fun place to fish. The canyon is home to not only some nice trout, but deer, osprey, and the occasional bald eagle. Enjoy!
Upper Owens River
The flows sit at about 64 cfs high in the river system. Once Hot Creek dumps into the mid-section the flows are closer to 120 cfs. Most of the trophy trout have moved back into Crowley Lake but there are still some stragglers hanging around; nice cutthroats and rainbows. In addition to sunscreen, throw some bug spray into your fishing vest. The mosquitos are loving life now. As for bugs, just a plain ‘ole pheasant tail works wonders sub-surface, but hoppers are the ticket now for the top water.
Lower Owens River
The river is cruising steady at roughly 276 cfs and is fishing well with all of the traditional patterns; PT’s, Hare’s Ears, midges, Frenchies…. If you enjoy hucking dry flies, this is the place. Around lunchtime, watch for BWO’s to start coming off the water. Be ready. The first thing you will notice is the bird activity along the river. You will see swallows, fly catchers, and sparrows flitting around the surrounding brush and diving at the river surface. Look for rises along the foam lines as fish snouts start poking up through the surface film. This BWO carnage only lasts about an hour. If you get finicky trout snubbing your dry flies, change your bug. Usually a sized 16-18 adams will get grabs, but often the trout are looking for a mayfly that is sitting lower in the surface film. An adams rides high so try a comparadun or a hackle stacker, they sit more within the film. Sometimes that is all you need to get back into the game.
Get out there! You cannot catch fish if your line isn’t in the water.