Jay Preston showing off one of many quality rainbows he caught on Crowley recently
Howdy friends and Sierra Drifters. The opening month of the 2012 season is turning out to be as expected-great! The catching has been good in many areas with the only negative being a seemingly endless string of windy fronts that have blasted the Sierra with gusty winds. We received a fresh coat of snow on the Sierra’s and White Mountains over the Memorial Day weekend and some frigid temperatures to remind us of how the transition into summer can be diverse. The forecast is calling for a warming trend with more seasonal and stable conditions to start the month of June.
Heavy spring run-off from snow melt has not been an issue, and even the tail water fisheries of the East Walker and Lower Owens Rivers are flowing below historical averages for this time of year. As the days lengthen and warm, you will see the freestone creeks and rivers begin to swell, however the roaring high water conditions we typically have in June are not forecast this year.
The Alpine lakes are also thawing early and most of the upper elevation areas are a month ahead of their normal cycle. Tioga and Sonora passes are open, the road into Reds Meadow remains closed due to storm damage from downed trees. The INFS reports it is expected to open soon and the San Joaquin River will be in great shape earlier than usual.
The tributaries to Crowley and Bridgeport still have the last wave of spawning fish holding in the redds, however the numbers are dropping quickly as the rainbows and cutthroat migrate back into the lakes.
Bridgeport Reservoir and Crowley Lake are fishing very well and have great water conditions currently. They are both full and have not begun to turn over and get green with algae yet. The weeds are beginning to grow at the 12 foot level so you need to fish off the grass and pond weed to have consistent action.
One of the best starts for fly fishers in many years. The chironomid hatches have been huge and the trout are gorging on these large still water midges in most areas of the lake. Water conditions remain very good with no algae issues currently. We have been having consistent fishing in 13-16 feet in the North Arm, Sandy Pt. Layton Springs, and Big Hilton Bay. McGee Bay and Sometimes Bay also have decent numbers. If it gets to look like a parking lot at Sandy Pt. or Layton, go find a clean piece of bottom that is grass free elsewhere. When you get large numbers of boats anchoring in a small area it disrupts the feeding patterns and pods of fish that work these pieces of bottom. There are good numbers in Crowley this year, it is evident the DFG put a bunch of fish in last year. They have also stocked some brood fish and a couple trucks of catchables recently. It is nice to see an effort to get Crowley back as the crown jewel of the Sierra. The late summer and fall season could be one of the best for 18 inch fish we have ever seen here. Due to the mild winter, growth rates on the fish have been incredible and we are amazed at how ”rotund” the rainbows and browns are this spring.
The fish are feeding heavily on larva most days, then keying on the pupa when the barometer rises. Chironomid larvae are commonly called blood midges. This is because they are red in color due to the large amount of hemoglobin necessary to sustain life near the bottom of lakes where the dissolved oxygen levels are low. Red colors turn gray below 8 feet of water. This is because infra red light does not penetrate below this depth. Nature colored the larva red to disguise the worm, not to make it stand out! Tiger and zebra midges are designed to imitate the naturals, fish your larva patterns close to the bottom for best results.
By far the most productive period while still water nymphing with midges will be when the trout are gorging on the pupal stage of the insect. The pupa drift with the subtle currents caused by the wind and are suspended in the water column while undergoing the metamorphosis into the adult, and final stage of their lives. Use emerger patterns that have flash, or a crystal type tail built into the pattern. The tail imitates the “shuck” or exoskeleton of the midge and is an important feature when trying to fool the hungry trout into taking your fly. You can fish well off the bottom while the fish are feeding on pupa, use emerger type patterns as an upper fly on a tandem rig, or tie both as emergers and fish them several feet above the bottom while suspending them beneath your Under-Cator.
Taryn Franks had a great day on Crowley while still water nymphing with Two Bug Doug
Taryn with a nice brown caught on a midge larva pattern
Dave Mount with one of many on Crowley
Dave with friends Robert and Bill got the elusive triple on Crowley. It has been awesome recently while nymphing with midges
Andy with a beautiful Crowley brownie
Billy Schuh did well on Crowley getting nice fish and big numbers
Lucas Schuh got a nice brown too
East Walker River
Flows are well below historical averages and are currently at 110cfs. They will begin to go up soon, however you will not see the huge releases experienced last year. The summer months will be rough on the fish on the EW if flows remain low, so get your licks in early and give them a break when the water gets warm and green in August. Midges and Mayflies are going off currently, decent dry fly action late mornings on the calmer days. It has been very windy during the end of May, consequently pressure has been lighter than normal. June will bring out good caddis activity so bring some elk hair caddis adult patterns #14-18 along for sure. Olive colored crystal caddis and midge larva, or emerger patterns work well here for nymphing this time of year.
Cary Brockman with one of the many quality browns the EW has been kicking out this spring
Craig Weismann did the EW with us and had a blast catching rainbows and browns while nymphing
Fish’N is good here as well. Water conditions are great with a nice lake level and lots of open water to fish. You must locate clean bottom that is free of pond weed and grass. 13-15 feet is best right now, look at the drop-off by Rainbow Pt. and work the weed lines towards Buckeye Bay. The east shoreline near the marina and around the inlet to the Walker are also hot spots. You will have to work deeper water in these areas so streamers may be a better choice if you are tubing. Use a full sinking line with Loebergs and punk perch. The chironomids are also prevalent at the Bridge and using the same technique as you would at Crowley will get you into fish here as well. Look for Callibaetis to show up in numbers soon. These are large still water mayflies that are a large part of the trout’s diet and are best imitated with flashback PT’s, Assassin bird’s nest patterns, and our Killa-baetis pattern. They can be bought at the marina tackle store on the lake. These can be fished further off the bottom as the nymphs are swimmers and do not have a pupal stage.
McGee Creek/Upper Owens River
Both locations are seeing decreasing numbers of spawning fish as they migrate back into Crowley. Water conditions continue to be very good with excellent clarity. Long Valley has been plagued by wind the last week of May and pressure has been light in both areas during this time.
The Upper Owens is now open to fishing in all sections. The water upstream from the Benton Bridge remains barbless artificial, while the “dark side” gets a whack at the fish down from the bridge now damn it. This area will be planted throughout the summer. Fishing has been mixed with McGee better than the Upper Owens overall. You will see better “catching” as the weather improves in June on the Upper Owens. Dry dropper combos with #14-16 mayfly adults (use a hi-vis parachute) as the upper, and flashback PT’s or birds nest as the dropper nymph work well. Midge nymph patterns are also good choices in the smaller sizes.
Lower Owens River
Flows went to 460cfs and pretty much shut down good wade fishing in the wild trout section. I was hoping they would stabilize at 400cfs but the LADWP opened the valves even more a few days ago. It is tough to get your nymphs down at this release, and crossing or positioning can be difficult with this much water coming out of PV Reservoir while wading. Drifting has been also poor, however if flows continue to hold or drop a little fishing can be very good in the lower sections of the river fishing with streamers. Heavy sinking tip lines are a must, and you need to concentrate your efforts on the softest water and slower runs along the tulle’s and willows. The larger pools are very deep currently with too much water coming over the drop-offs and entries to effectively get your streamers down to the fish. Look to fish much different water and sections than you would in the winter under lower flow rates. I believe early fall will be awesome this year on the LO. Flows will begin to back off or peak by mid-summer and in years like this we start to run drift trips earlier with good opportunities for dry fly action.
Water conditions are good with flows up a tad making extended drifts possible over the weeds. Under current conditions you can fish sections that are not hammered when flows are lower. Many fish hide along, and under the thick weed. Identify these lanes by just observing the water for a while without casting. The fish will vacillate in and out of their holds and you can make a much better presentation by spotting them before just blind casting and spooking them. Windy weather towards the end of May kept many off the water. As it warms look for the caddis to become prevalent, and Pale Morning Dun (PMD) mayflies to be the flies de’jour. #18-22 PT’s and olive midges work well while nymphing or fishing under a dry as your indicator.
The ice is coming off a month early in the higher elevation areas, while water temps are above normal in the June Lake Loop, Convict, South Lake, Twin Lakes Bridgeport regions. Tubing these locations with full sinking lines that will get you down 15 feet quickly is the best way to get looks at this time. The wind has also shut down much of the alpine area so pressure has been light. As it gets warmer you could have some fun in these locations fishing streamers like Loeberg’s, Spruce-A-Bu’s, Agent Orange, or Crystal Leech’s. The planting schedules are good this year with some trophy sized fish being thrown in to spice up the pot.
Conditions could not be better here. The callibaetis and midge hatches have been excellent and the wild browns are very aggressively taking adults on the surface. Sight fishing to rising wild brown’s from a drift boat is a blast. If you want to fish private water in a beautiful setting give us a call. It is going off here right now.
The “Mighty Osprey” Bill Stroud has passed
My dear, dear friend and mentor Bill Stroud passed away peacefully on May 27th 2012. Bill was 91 years old. He will always be remembered by those who were fortunate enough to spend time with him. Bill positively touched many lives and shall be deeply missed. There is a void that will never be filled in the fly fishing community with his passing.
Thank you for reading my report.
Be the fly…Tom Loe, Sierra Drifters Guide Service