CALIFORNIA: Upper Owens River Seeing Trophy Brown Trout

The Upper Owens is fishing great right now and we are seeing some trophy brown trout here.

Upper Owens River
Conditions are good on the Upper Owens with some trophy browns already migrating upstream from Crowley Lake. I would however, like to see some more water coming down this time of year. Nymphing the deeper pools has been productive in the sections above and below the Benton Crossing Bridge. The UO has been well planted with catchable rainbows this summer, and I am observing a healthy population of wild browns this season thanks to an abundance of water last fall combined with a mild winter. I like bird’s nest and flashback PT patterns #14-20 fished below an Under-cator. We did well on a recent trip here and never changed a twin Assassin rig. There are some excellent surface opportunities using caddis adults, hoppers, and smaller mayflies. The streamer fishing is also picking up and will get progressively better as the water begins to cool and we enter the early fall spawning cycle. I have good reports that the reliable Loeberg fished with a light sinking tip line while using the “dip & strip” along the deeper cut banks fooled a bunch of rainbows near the monument section below the bridge. There are some complicated angling regulations along the Upper Owens as it is divided into four sections, (Big Springs, Long Years, the campground, monument) with a closed area at the end of September-please know the regs before you cast!

Crowley Lake

The lake is beginning to turn green with a moderate algae bloom taking place. It is not horrendous as of this report, however you can expect the condition to get a little worse in some areas as the water temps begin to cool. The lake continues to drop as outlet flows on the Lower Owens remain at 530cfs. The weed lines are still present in McGee Bay, Hilton Bays, the inlet section in the north arm, and Layton Springs. The influence of the inlets is significantly less than last week and as cooler surface temps begin to show, you’ll see less concentrations close to the inlets and more fish holding around deeper water like Sandy Pt., Six Bays, the Hilton’s and Alligator Pt. You will see weed in water depths of 6 feet and less currently with the perch fry hunters prowling along these edges during low light periods. Streamer fishing is picking up, and I suggest Loebergs and Punk Perch patterns #10-14 fished along the weed lines early & late afternoon, put on a heavier sinking tip and move out to 12-15 feet as the sun gets higher with the same patterns, or a damselfly nymph and chironomid as a trailer. Still water nymphing remains slow to very good depending on the weather. With the water level dropping the twin punk perch, or PP & a bird’s nest have not been as productive recently and we have been fishing primarily gillies and broken backs on the mud flats.

Those of you with boats need to be very cautious when traveling around the Hilton’s, or on a direct course from the marina towards McGee Bay. There is some very low water and a high spot smack dab in the middle of the lake off Big Hilton that is less than 3 feet currently. The peninsula’s around the Hilton’s extend for a long distance and are VERY shallow, so give them a wide berth while traveling around these locations.

San Joaquin River

The San Joaquin is in better shape than most of the other freestone creeks with regards to flows. Fishing remains very good with excellent access in all areas. It is definitely cooling off in the mornings here so wet wading early can be uncomfortable. The extended period of T-storms has ended and it looks like we are saying good bye to the monsoons that have helped keep the fire danger down in this region. I like mayflies and caddis adults fished with a 5X- 9 foot mono leader. #16-18 patterns will get you more grabs, however there are times when you can do well using a #12/14 Stimulator with, or without a bead head PT as a dropper. Whenever possible position yourself at the base of a run and make your presentations upstream targeting the fish close by, then work progressively upstream towards the saaaweet spot! You will be pleasantly surprised at how many more fish you will rise by using this strategy.

East Walker River

We are seeing some pretty skinny water for this time of year as flows have dropped to 80cfs currently. It is cooling down here and we will soon see better water conditions as the lake turns over and the weed and algae situation diminish. Low flows in the summer and winter make the fish concentrate in the deeper pools and runs. It also triggers instinctual migration behavior as fish will work upstream towards the flow source if conditions become unfavorable in downstream areas. We are coming into hopper with a dropper time, especially at these lower flow rates. Fishing this rig along the shadows of some thick willows, or along a grassy lined under cut bank can pay off with a big brown. You may also consider using a damsel adult in the same areas. Fishing dries like caddis adults and smaller PMD or Trico mayfly patterns are also productive in the early fall, we are a month away from a significant BWO emergence unless it cools down rapidly. Tandem nymph rigs using midge, mayfly, and caddis larva or pupa patterns will always work in the deeper lays on the EW, you just need to keep them clean and close to the bottom. With all the weed and algae on the rocks this can be difficult at times and in certain sections.

Lower Owens River

At current release rates of 530cfs wading sucks in the wild trout section. We did a couple drifts just as the flows began to rise and they did not fish well as one might expect. The flows appear to have peaked for about a week now and as the weather cools we are looking forward to an excellent early fall drift boat season. Mid September is promising to be great for fishing the LO, and we should have some fun with surface opportunities as well as streamers.

The Bridgeport Marina has a new high outflow well and Jeffery is loving it! This will give customers at the RV Park all the water they need-let’s hope mother nature helps the Sierra out this winter too!

Bridgeport Reservoir

Jeffery at the marina has pulled the boat docks due to low water levels, but can still launch rentals from the beach. He reports fishing is picking up for trollers and still fishers, but remains slow for fly fishers at this time. As the surface temps cool, we will see the fish concentrated towards the dam and public launch ramp making it easy for tubers to hit those big fall browns. The marina has a fly box with streamers, dries, nymphs & Under-cators that will work on the Bridge or the EW. Go give him a BAAAH for me and he will show you his new water well with all the water you could want for the RV Park!

Hot Creek

Getting pretty tough here in the public section due to low flows and protruding weeds making extended dead drifts difficult with only about half the usual spots fishable. Good casters with polished mending skills can still have fun with small may fly, caddis and midge adults. The deeper pools are holding most of the fish and they are best plied with tandem nymph rigs, with or without an indicator. I like #18 Assassins and broken back zebras as sub-surface patterns on HC.

Alpine Lakes

Some of these beautiful lakes have very low water levels due to the poor snow pack and releases for water demands. I suggest you check with individual resorts to see how boat launching and access are for each location. The DFG & IAG (private trout growers) continue to do regular plantings with some extra fish going into the more popular locations for the Labor Day Weekend. The T-storms have given way to some cooler mornings at elevations, with very nice afternoons. Full sinking lines using streamer patterns like Agent Orange, Crystal Leeches, & Loebergs work well along the drop-offs and inlets. Late afternoon or early mornings before the sun gets too high will also provide opportunities to use a dry dropper combo casting to rising fish that are sipping on callibaetis and midge emergers. Use a high vis mayfly imitation that is well doused with a desiccant, and tie a midge pupa or emerger pattern #20-22 below about 2-3 feet. Deadly on some of these lakes during the right conditions.

Adobe Pond

Went out to Dobe a week ago and was very happy to see conditions very good even though it was really hot late morning. The wild browns are definitely larger this season averaging 12 inches.

Capt. Tom Loe
Sierra Drifters Guide Service
p: 760-935-4250

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