Howdy friends. The heat is on! The Eastern Sierra has been cooking with near record temperatures and very dry conditions most of July. Zero T-storm activity, although an increasing chance of afternoon thunderstorms are showing up in future forecasts. The upper valleys have been plagued by strong southerly diurnal winds which have really made fishing past 11 am tough on Crowley and Bridgeport Reservoirs. Air temps have been very warm to hot in all the valleys making the upper elevation fisheries more pleasant to spend the late mornings and afternoons on.
The freestone creeks continue to have good flows, although they are beginning to drop significantly as what is left of the snow pack dissipates. There will be some skinny water for sure in all of the fisheries that rely on snow fields for flow come late summer and into fall. Locations like the West Walker, San Joaquin, Rock Creek, Rush Creek, Bishop Creek, will all have very low water flows later. The Lower Owens continues to be extremely high although I checked it out a few days back and clarity has improved quite a bit. Wading and crossing is risky at this release, air temps are triple digits. The hot ticket on the LO right now is floating on a truck tire inner tube with a cooler of “refreshments” in tow!
San Joaquin River
Some of the campgrounds continue to be closed as crews are working to remove and make safe these ares due to a 500 year wind event that uprooted more old growth timber than myself, or many long time residents and packers have ever seen. The devastation of the forest down here is worth seeing in itself. Sustained wind speeds were estimated in areas to exceed 150 mph, with gusts to 180 mph! The NFS has a ways to go in the clean up and will not give any predictions as to when full operation will take place in the Reds Meadow/San Joaquin Basin area. There remains plenty of access to get to the river, you just may have to hike further and may not be able to park in the day use areas of the campgrounds. You will need to ride a shuttle in after 7 am, there is a daily use fee that you need to pay at the entry gate to enter, or exit.
Fishing is excellent, and even the skeeters are scarce this summer. The flows are perfect currently and combined with the warm weather the wild trout are eager to smack just about any dry fly pattern in the #12-18 range. Wet wading is possible and may be more comfortable in the afternoons, however continuous immersion in the cool of the morn may be more uncomfortable for some, so light waders and studded boots are a good choice. Dry/dropper bead head combos using flashback PT’s, birds nest, or olive crystal larva patterns as a dropper nymph are a good choice. Parachute mayfly adults #12-16, or Stimulators as the dry/indicator are a slam dunk down here.
East Walker River 7-21-12
Conditions have turned for the worse here recently. Flows are up to 130cfs-this is a good thing for the fish during the warmer days of summer. The weed growth and warmer water have really slowed the “catching” down. You can still do ok in the deeper pools and runs, but keeping your fly clean during this period will be the key to getting grabs. Fish the early morn before it gets too hot, then well after the sun goes behind the canyon walls. The fish are lethargic here this time of year during the middle of the day.
****I am advising all anglers that fish the EW currently to please take extra care in practicing proper catch and release here. With the low flows, warm water temps, etc… comes additional stresses on the fish. Ya really need to be gentle on them right now gang. The DFG has planted some sub-catchable browns from the hatchery in Fillmore recently. They have been put in Bridgeport as well.
Crowley Lake 7-21-12
I have not used the word epic on Crowley for a long time. I am using it now. I have guided two out of four days here this week in which I have counted 100 grabs in an 8 hour day, with so many 17-22 inch fish coming to net on a broken back copper tiger midge and broken back gillie combo I am losing count! No bull, if you get in a good position in McGee Bay, you will have a sore arm.
There are also good numbers of fish in the north arm near Green Banks, Layton Springs, and Big Hilton Bay. The fish are not the jumbos we are seeing in McGee, however there are very good numbers and steady action when the incredible chironomid hatch goes off. The midge emergence is full bore, with a cloud of them holding overhead by 10am. You can find concentrations of fish in 8-15 feet, just make sure you are on a mud bottom and not over some weeds. Pay attention to wind shifts and current changes as you may need to move your tube or boat to keep over the sweet spots. Some streamer action early, primarily on tiny perch fry and later on with damsel nymphs- these fish are gorging on chironomids #14-18. Use a copper tiger or broken back tiger as the lower fly, put a #18 broken back gillie or standard gillie as the upper. Keep your bugs 6-12 inches off the bottom. Crowley is on this summer, call if we can help you out.
Bridgeport Reservoir 7-21-12
Conditions for fly fishers are not great right now. The weed beds are out to 18 feet, not the best for still water nymphing. Some pretty heavy algae in some areas as well. Lack of fish is not the issue here, just the current conditions. Other methods of angling are doing well here so look for a very good fall season, especially for tubers trolling streamers for trophy browns in the north end of the lake.
The afternoon winds have been an issue as usual so get an early start. All caddis, all the time and you’ll be fine. Fish a hopper and a dropper bead head midge or PT for a change up in the deeper runs. Water flows have continued to drop and are at a point where the weed lines can fudge up extended drifts. The summer and fall caddis emergences are arguably the best time of the season to catch fish on adult dry flies. The trout here really key in on this hatch. Caddis imitations are larger than their respective midge and may fly counterparts, hence easier to see and fish. If you want to learn how to catch trout on dries, this is a good time of year to hit Hot Creek.
Good reports coming from most areas. The stocking programs are helping to keep these lakes consistent, more so than the last coupe of years for sure. The wind has been a factor previously and you may need to keep an eye out for T-storms in the future as they are in the forecast. Streamers are typically the best way to fish these areas, but you may also have great results using the still water nymphing method near inlets, structure like tree stumps and rock piles, and along drop-offs. Some of the alpine lakes have good populations of callibaetis mayflies so have a selection of flashback PT’s, Assassin bird’s nest & killa-baetis along. All the alpine lakes have midge populations. They tend to be smaller in size in the higher elevations. The water composition is more neutral than alkaline. Alkaline water is a better enviornment for vegetation/algae- once decayed and on the bottom it becomes the food that the midge larva eat. #18=22 midge patterns are effective below an Under-cator in the more concentrated fish locales. Have a full sinking line for trolling or casting streamers in the deeper alpine lakes. You will need to get down 15 feet quickly. The clear water will have the fish deeper in the summer and bright daylight conditions. Spruce-A-Bu’s & Loebergs are my favorites in these lakes. Put a midge or mayfly trailer a couple feet behind the larger streamer when the sun gets down and it glasses off. The fish will begin to come to the surface and you can have some fun when this occurs.
Prime time here. Half days are best, we get the callibaetis and midge hatches right from the get go, then switch to damsel adults for the grand finale. The fish go into the weeds mid-day here as it gets too warm so plan on an early start and be done by lunch. This is private water, call for availability please.
Upper Owens River
Numbers have been good in the planted sections around the campground and downstream towards the lake. Decent dry fly action before noon in the specially regulated section above and upstream from the Benton Bridge, but with the low water the fish are really stacked in the deeper pools and not inclined to hold in the riffle water long if at all. Caddis and midges are best, spotty PMD mayfly hatches; this has been the case in most areas due to low water. Moving water mayflies dig lots of cool oxygenated water indicative of wet years-did I mention we did not have a wet year?
Lower Owens River 7-21-12
Flows have crashed to 200cfs. I did not see this coming in mid July so look for some great summertime action if they hold. You can bet your Grandma we will be drifting this very soon, and I suggest you look at the wild trout section in the morning and late afternoon when it cools down. Caddis, and small mayflies both as adults and nymphs. This low flow is abnormal for July and some incredible fishing will be seen here if the LADWP holds this release for a time. Yahoo, this is like a gift from the heavens!
Be the fly…Tom Loe, Sierra Drifters Guide Service