Big and beautiful trophy trout are reason ambitious anglers travel across the globe. We are fortunate enough to have this opportunity right here in the Eastern Sierra while Fly Fishing on the Upper Owens River! Each missed strike could be a lost opportunity to latch onto the trout of a lifetime. The moment you hook into one of these bruisers they instantly demonstrate the weight and power they possess sending your senses crazy and a feeling overwhelms you that you cannot forget and you want more! The Upper Owens River is flowing at a clear and steady rate of 111 cfs below the confluence of Hot Creek. Above Hot Creek the Fly Angler can expect to find gin-clear flows around 100cfs give or take a few. The Mountains around the Upper Owens have been dusted by a touch of snow last night showing us Winter is on her way. For those of us that know we have been anxiously awaiting this time of year to see what this years infamous run of jumbo sized trout consists of. So far it has not let us down! For patterns to offer to these large trophies one can fish Streamers, SJ worm variations, Jig Flies, PT variations, and other attractor patterns can be successful. Smaller yet great fish are rising to small mayflies in the warmer parts of the day. These rising fish are up to 15″. We have seen, on rare occasions, the larger trout rise to dry flies.
The Lower Owens River Fly Fishing is about to make a big change as the Lower Owens lets go and drops it very high flow rate within the next week or two. The Brown Trout of the Lower Owens have been enjoying a greatly enhanced flow level for the last couple of months which allows them to move freely while eating large amounts of food thus adding to their body mass… Bigtime! Stay tuned as this rivers flow recedes and reveals some of the most beautiful and quality trout a fly angler can find in the very near future.
The Upper Owens has undergone a few changes since my last report. Weather has changed in the direction of winter, dropping the temperatures around the Mammoth Lakes area extending down to the grassy plains of the Upper Owens River. Hoppers can still be seen, but numbers are diminishing during the coldness of the nights. However, after eating the leggy creatures for a solid few months it seems that they still hold some residual memory of the big insects. The Upper Owens trout will still come up and eat a hopper for the time being, during the warmer parts of the day. Some of the anticipated big boys coming out of the lake have been spotted in the deeper holes of the river. We will have to see what this year holds as these this spectacular run of fish swims up the Upper Owens from Crowley Lake from now and forward. Stay tuned!
Just down from the town of Mammoth Lakes, CA the banks of the Lower Owens river are still overflowing and water surges down its path at around 700cfs. This is way too much cubic feet per second of water to enter, and it is actually a sight to behold. The Lower Owens is hardly containing the water in its banks. The good news for the Trout of the Lower Owens is that this huge flow volume brings that level of food with it as well. When the river recedes to its normal level, and fly fisherman are able to enter, we will see the benefits in the mass of the fish. Lizards and small mammals are in trouble as the trout leave the river bed to roam the newly flooded areas for a real satisfying protein snack. (its a cool thought!)
The Lower Owens River has been raised to a crazy rate of 700+ cfs. This is pretty much a high flow rate that can not be fished for the moment. This can only last so long and we will be the first on the Lower Owens as soon as it drops. The good news is that this magnitude of water of water volume for the Lower Owens brings an incredible amount of food to the fish in there. When the water does come down us Fly Anglers reap the benefits!
Hopper movement is still happening on the Upper Owens within the famous Mammoth caldera just below the town of Mammoth Lakes. Flows are moderate and clear, or slightly tinted depending on where you access the river. The entire system has been turned on to the Hopper protein snacks entering the water. Rarely to they enter the water and live for more than a couple of bends without being consumed by predators below. From below the Browns Campground and up to the border fence the action has been pretty much nonstop on hoppers, nymphs, and streamers ! The only thing that could inhibit the grasshopper action too soon is if we have a few cold freezes. But those cold Autumn nights also bring in the Crowley fish. this should last a while longer as the Big Trout enter the river from the lake…
Hoppers! I really do not need to say anything else on this report! The grassy fields of the Upper Owens River near Mammoth Lakes, Ca have been full of the leaping insects and the resident Trout have been taking full advantage of the situation, no doubt putting on some serious yearly mass for the seasons ahead. All sections of the river have been fishing well. Flows are clear and cool and very manageable. Normal bug activity is also noted in seams and foam lines. Nymphing various attractor nymphs as usual is very effective. Crowds have been here and there but usually one can find a place to call their own for the time they are there.
The Lower Owens has been flowing clean and clear for the last month. Up to around 442cfs, this amazing river is still being fished by a select few who know what she has been holding. The Lower Owens has proven itself over and over again to the fact that if the water looks fishy, there is indeed a small or large amount of Trout holding there. The high flows make it more difficult yes, but the water temps are moderate, driving the fishes metabolism to consume protein in the form of aquatic invertebrates. As for flies the standby Midge patterns, Caddis Worms, Split Backs and Soft Hackles in Sizes #14-18. For dries; Elk hair Caddis, Blue Duns, Stalcups Caddis, Yellow Sallies and Terrestrials in sizes #10-18. These are only a few of the patterns we have been using to extract fish in the Lower Owens River recently. (and put them back of course)
The Upper Owens has been the recipient of the pending runoff recently. Above Hot Creek flows are lower and water has more clarity. Hot Creek appears to be dumping in around 140cfs of the total 260cfs flow. So above this confluence can be the best choice if water comes up any higher on these systems. Fish are found in the same places as before. Drop-offs, foam lines, dark bottomless holes , ect. Fish attractor patterns at these flows. Large bugs have been spotted around the Upper Owens River system so do not be afraid to go bigger on the sizes chosen. Medium Sized to Smaller Streamers tugged and passed through the right waters will prompt a strike from a fish as well. The size of the fish has returned to somewhat normal when compared to the winter population we find in the Upper Owens, but there is always some of the big ones that do not return to Crowley and give us a big summer surprise when hooked!
The Lower Owens has been fishing very well since my last report! Yellow Sallie Stoneflies, Mayflies and Caddis all have been taking fish! Although, Stoneflies have been the major player in the last couple of weeks. Conditions on the Lower Owens near Bishop are in pre-runoff. Holding Steady at 340cfs for the last couple of weeks it is poised to succumb to the melting snowpack in the near future. Look for rising fish under overhanging river willows. These wild Brown Trout are usually looking for a fallen Yellow Sallie to come up and engulf in a splashy moment of violence. Nymphing has been very effective as well, as it is always in the Lower Owens. Start light then take her deep if needed!