CALIFORNIA: Lower Owens River is in Prime Fly Fishing

The Lower Owens River is in prime fly fishing shape with excellent dry fly and streamer opportunities. The Sierra is experiencing more seasonal weather conditions as we approach the Thanksgiving holiday. Northern cold fronts are lined up and making their way through the region about every 3-4 days bringing cool air and some snow in the upper elevations. You will see some very windy conditions at times as these systems dash through the area. Expect single digit to low teens on Hot Creek & the Upper Owens in the mornings after the fronts pass. The Owens Valley has been spared any moisture and daytime temps are very pleasant this time of year.

The general trout season closes on November 15th. The waters of the Upper Owens River upstream from the Benton Crossing Bridge, Hot Creek, the East Walker River below the dam at Bridgeport Reservoir, Pleasant Valley Reservoir, & the Lower Owens River and Gorge section will remain open year around. Some areas having special angling restrictions.

Crowley Lake and Bridgeport Reservoirs went out quietly this year due to low water levels in both areas (they both close on 11-15). Crowley is filling and is now up 2 vertical feet from its lowest point. Silver Lake kicked out a monster 18 lb. brown for a troller in early November. I would have lost big money on this one! Access remains excellent to all the year around fisheries, hope you can make it up soon.

Lower Owens River

Perfect. Flows have been steady at 205 cfs for a while, and the Bishop Creek has lowered to winter release rates. The BWO hatch has been the hot ticket this week with a huge emergence of the #18 mayflies coming off in force at 1pm & continuing through 3ish. The fish seem to kick back for the morning, then begin a steady feeding cycle starting on the nymphs & continuing until the sun hits the Sierra crest. Birds nest, flash back pheasant tails, and broken back midges will all get grabs for nymphing, while most dun to olive colored adult mayfly imitations in the 16/18 range will get smacked on the surface. Streamer fishing has also been very good using moderate sinking tip lines. Crystal leeches, Agent Orange, and Spruce-a-Bu’s work well this time of year using the “dip & strip” technique in the deeper pools. One change I have noted since the cooler weather has become the norm is that the fish have migrated into the deeper pools for the most part. They will head to the tail outs when the BWO’s come off, however look for more consistent action in the larger holes and softer water. Trout are cold blooded and their metabolic rates are proportional to the water temp. As the sun gets higher and the gravel beds warm, you will see the fish become more active this time of year. This is the opposite of what we observed during the warmer weather earlier this fall. GUIDE TIP: Can’t tell you how many double hernias I have seen over the last fifteen years as clients struggle to put on frozen boots and waders after leaving the gear over night in their vehicles. One should keep your wading gear and boots in your motel room or RV for the evening or deal with frozen items in the morning. Use a heavy trash bag or wet gear bag to keep the mud from messing up the rooms please. A good way to kill invasive species like the New Zealand Mud Snail is to leave the gear outside in freezing conditions the night before you leave if you aren’t planning on fishing of course!

Upper Owens River

Flows have come down a tad but remain on the high side making nymphing the deeper, more productive pools a bitch to get your imitations down too. Look for a significant drop after Thanksgiving, (I like 80- 100cfs). It has been cold in the mornings recently, and you will not see a decent hatch until 2 pm most days. Small mayfly patterns #18-22 work well on the rising afternoon browns and rainbows. Numbers continue to be good here for catchable sized trout. The bigs are still MIA with only a few nice fish staging up on the gravel. The extremely low lake level on Crowley & low flows of the Upper Owens in October made it very difficult for the larger fish to migrate up the shallow inlet section. This is why McGee Bay does not have a great fall migration most years. I am still optimistic we will get a good jag of bigs moving soon and we are keeping a close watch on this area for our “snow bow” trips this winter. SJ worms and imitation egg patterns are good for colder periods, use Assassin’s birds nest or FB PT’s, broken back & tiger midges for nymphing. You need lots of weight to get those bugs down in the deeper pools-two AB shot is not out of the equation in some holes. After Nov.15th you may only fish upstream from the Benton Bridge, ZERO limit-barbless artificial lures or flies only.

Crowley Lake

Closes on November 15th. Did not fish very well the last two weeks. Streamers were best and the catching was very spotty with most of the fish seeking deeper water early in the month. Lake is filling and up two feet since the low point. Good numbers planted this fall, should be good next year depending on water level.

East Walker River

We are letting it be until the flows get above 50 cfs. They are currently at 23 with limited sections deep enough to hold fish.

Pleasant Valley Reservoir/Gorge

With power generation dropping and the flows stable you will find some excellent fly fishing in the inlet and gorge sections of this area. I enjoy fishing the transition section with a dry/dry or dry/dropper bead head combo as well as the lower gorge and small river section downstream from the generation facility. Tiger midges and Assassin’s are deadly here. you can also get some of the best dry fly action around in the pillow water near the lake. The fish will pod up and sip adult mayflies and chironomids in the foam after the water warms a bit. The reservoir level can fluctuate greatly here on a weekly basis, so if it is too high near the lake head back up and hike into the Gorge for some great wild brown trout fishing. It requires accurate casting in the brush, & an upstream presentation is a must. Another option is tubing the reservoir this time of year. I call it “freeze tubing” but it can be very pleasant at times during the warmer periods. This area is heavily planted and has some nice hold over and wild fish as well. Streamer and still water nymphing techniques are both used effectively here-it fishes just like Crowley. Fish the drop-offs; I prefer the far side to avoid confrontations with bank fishers. The lake can be crowded on weekends and holidays especially near the launch ramp where it is planted. The Gorge will be less trafficked.

Hot Creek

Not much has changed here this fall. The flows are very low and you will find half the normal water that you are accustomed to fishing here weed free, or deep enough to make extended drifts. Fishing is good in the deeper sections with a strong baetis hatch well after lunch. Small midges are also a good choice, especially as the weather continues to cool. Access remains very good as of 11-13-12.

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