Fly Fishing the Middle Owens near Mammoth and Bishop Ca. from a guided drift boat has been excellent for trophy rainbows this fall. “Bako Boys” Steve & Sean Murray will attest to this! Sean shows one of his bigs caught recently on a Spruce-A-Bu streamer.
We are enjoying one of the best falls ever for large rainbows on the Middle Owens. The low flows have concentrated the bigs in the deeper pools making them easy targets from our drift boats. The Upper Owens is also kicking out some noteworthy rainbows with water conditions good here also. Old man winter has yet to take stage with access to all the year around fisheries excellent. The California general trout season closed on 11-15; however the Middle and Lower Owens River, Pleasant Valley Reservoir, & the Gorge remain open in Inyo County. The Upper Owens River, East Walker River, & Hot Creek are open in Mono County with special angling restrictions.
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Upper Owens River
Just in the nick of time Crowley has begun the long process of filling. This is crucial to the fish that migrate up from the lake during the fall spawn. Numbers of catchable sized bows and browns have increased recently. Flows remain on the low side here; however there is ample water for the rainbows and browns to make redds in the gravel sections at the tail out of the pools. The section from the Benton Crossing Bridge upstream to Big Springs is open year around with special angling restrictions. Pinch those barbs down flat and DO NOT USE BAIT OR SCENTED LURES, release all the fish you catch unharmed & you will be fine. Access remains good as of this report with no ice or mud on any of the roads. Nymphing is fooling some of the larger fish. Try using a properly weighted tandem rig with patterns like Assassins bird’s nest, flashback pt’s, broken-back midges, crystal leeches, San Juan worms, & glow bugs/roe imitations. You may find that removing your “under-cator” strike detector can get educated fish to hit especially on the brighter/sunny days. The surface action is waning; however the warmer days still have a few snouts sipping smaller mayflies and midges. Under current conditions the fish have really spread out and you will observe some bigs holding along the deeper channels near the under cut banks. Another tactic this time of year is to work downstream with a light sinking tip line swinging streamer patterns like Loebergs, punk perch, crystal leeches, & Spruce-A-Bu’s along the cut banks and through the deeper pools & oxbows. You can cover nearly all the water with this method and get presentations to fish you would otherwise spook with conventional strategies. These fish are migrants and are not accustomed to people or shadows. A quiet, stealthy approach will most certainly get you more opportunities at a trophy fish.
Bob Taddeo had a memorable day with us getting into many of these gorgeous rainbows. Nice work Bobby!
Another one bites the dust for Bob!
Dennis showing off a fine specimen he caught on his trip with us. These fish are the best the Sierra has to offer, hands down!
Steve had a dream day on his trip with us getting into a slug of these rascals. Bako Boys get er done!
And how about the girth on this hen? Footballs with tails!
Sean with a nice fall brownie that fell to an Assassin pattern
John Bond got this one solo on a Loeberg. Way to “dip & strip” JB!
Roy also went rogue on us and sent us this picture of a trophy bow caught on a Loeberg. Nice fish buddy!
Mike Stames with Chris Basso doing the hold on a nice bow. First time nymphing, no problem. We can get ya bendo!
Upper Owens wild fish are as pretty as they get!
Middle Owens River
At 80 cfs. you can virtually wade all the water in the section below the dam at Pleasant Valley Reservoir. Fly fishing here has been as good as it gets no doubt. The mild weather has triggered a consistent trico mayfly hatch that begins around 12:30-1 pm daily. Theses tiny adults are like candy to the wild fish and they are keying on this emergence. Small birds nest and pheasant tail patterns #20 are a good call for nymphing in between the hatch. The drift boat season is also proving to be a memorable one. I have not seen numbers of large fish like this coming to net consistently in many seasons. On the down side we have very limited water and are struggling to get the boats down in some sections. Light sinking tips with longer leaders are still the best method for hunting down the bigs. Spruce-A-Bu’s, seal buggers, Loebergs, and punk perch patterns have all been productive. I like to use lighter colored patterns on bright days and during mid-day, switch to darker colors for more contrast on the cloudy days, or during lower light periods.
The fish’n Holt’s strike again! Jake got jaws the rainbow with Jeff doing net honors.
More Bako Boys showing off big trout. Chris hit this super sized hen on a Spruce-A-Bu with Aaron manning the safety net.
The Middle Owens is truly a beautiful scenic river with acrobatic trout like this one Aaron is tight too.
Trevor F. with a bonefide golly whopper! Nice fish Trev!
Long time client and great friend Ronnie Guidone hit a trophy bow on his last drift. The big hen ate a Spruce-A-Bu. Matt Figel with the back stop.
Big Sean with yet another photo opp for the Murray’s. Nice go’N Bako Boys!
Jimmy Thompsen started his drift trip out with this hook jawed beast smiling for the camera! This fish ripped a Spruce-A-Bu.
Pleasant Valley Reservoir/The Gorge
This is the only year around still water open in Inyo or Mono Counties. Levels here have got more friendly to fish the transition section near the inlet; however they remain on the high side for good access. The short creek section is fishing very well for numbers in the deeper pools with some decent dry fly action occurring after lunch. Midge patterns and smaller mayflies are good choices for nymphing or dry/dropper combos in both areas. Tubing has also been very good overall with consistent action on larger rainbows here as well. The mild weather has kept the chironomids coming off on the warmer days and still water nymphing can be very productive along the drop-offs on the west side in 9-12 feet. Tiger midges, gillies, crystal pupa and emergers are hard to beat here fished below an Under-cator. If the wind picks up use a broken back tiger as the lower. Small Assassin birds nest work well for imitating the mayfly nymphs, use these under a stimulator or hi-vis para Bwo as your indicator. Streamer tuggers have a full sinking or heavy sink tip line. Loebergs, Agent Orange, & Spruce-A-Bu’s will get you grabs near the inlet and launch ramp areas.
The Gorge has very low flows but you will still have decent fishing in the larger pools. Dry/dry or dry dropper bead head rigs using small mayfly and crystal olive caddis nymphs are good choices. The brush has really thinned out making it just difficult in some places to cast. This is not a place to practice false casting friends!
Flows have come up a bit, but hardly a game changer here this fall. Fishing remains good in the limited sections that are deeper and not choked with weed. Take those indicators off when nymphing the pockets and small pools. Small midges and mayflies are on the menu, use a long leader and 15 foot rod (haha) to get a good drift in the slots and channels.
East Walker River
We can only hope for an early big winter. Flows are better than anticipated at 25 cfs. but fishing here at this release will be tough with limited water. The inversion that haunts this area has been making for some chilly mornings with temps near single digits at times on the river bed. Fish will become increasingly lethargic as the water cools. We have not been guiding here by choice.
The beautiful Sierra Wave is a sign of changing weather. Let’s hope it brings us some snow soon!
Thanks for reading my report. be the fly….Tom Loe, Sierra Drifters Guide Service