Early Summer 2008 Fish'n Conditions
The long days this time of year provide the extended daylight to sample several diverse fisheries in one day if you are willing to make the effort. For example, you could fish Crowley Lake in the morning watching the sun rise over the White Mountains, head over to the Upper Owens River or Hot Creek for the mid-day snap, and then take a short drive up to one of the beautiful alpine lakes in the Mammoth Lakes Basin, Rock Creek Lake or Convict Lake to do some tubing. Cap the day off with a great meal in one of the unique restaurants these areas offer and watch the sunset over the Sierra’s crest! The diverse fisheries the Eastern Sierra provide this time of year offer a variety of angling opportunities for fly fishers.
The typical weather patterns this time of year begins with morning lows in the forties and the afternoon highs reaching near eighty. Lots of sunshine! Afternoon T-storms are not frequent but may occur and one should be prepared for this type of weather as the summer rolls on in the high country. You should anticipate late morning and afternoon south to southwest winds daily for another couple months.
Run-off from snowmelt has been low to moderate this year. The snow level is high, so it has not caused any significant flooding or horrible conditions in many of the freestone creeks that are influenced directly by this run-off. Although we had a below average amount of snow this year the region looks to be in good shape due to some cooler weather in the spring. Fall water levels in the creeks should not be poor; however you will see some very low levels in Crowley and Bridgeport for sure. The word on the high passes to the backcountry is “not yet” in the Central Sierra. By the middle of July conditions will change greatly according to the packers. Some areas will open sooner than others for sure, so you need to get information on your specific region or pass before you go.
The 2008 Still Water Classic at Crowley Lake will take place on August 9th and is shaping up to be another great event for a worthy cause. I am impressed by the chunky browns (put in by last seasons donations) we are seeing on a daily basis here and I hope you will participate to raise money for additional fish this year. The owner of the Troutfitter, Kent Rianda has teamed up with Crowley Lake management to be this year’s tournament director. Kent will be a great asset in the administrative level and brings his energy and love for Crowley to the Classic. Rumor has it the prizes are off the charts this year! Please click on www.sierradrifters.com/fish.htm for link to print out the rules and entry form. If you are interested in participating as a donor please contact the Fish Camp or Kent as soon as possible so they can get you on the sponsor sheet.
The Western Outdoor News sponsored Double Haul in the fall has been cancelled this year. Lots of great memories for many and no doubt a tradition that will be missed. My hopes are that the Still Water Classic will become a tradition with you all for many years to come and with any luck maybe we can do another event in the fall and combine float tubes???
The fish survey results have been published by the DFG on Hot Creek and the East Walker River performed last fall. The guides at Sierra Drifters assisted the DFG biologists with some surveys. You will be happy to hear the numbers! Hot Creek had an incredible average of 12,000 (twelve thousand) fish per mile - predominately browns. The excellent DFG biologists that conducted the survey documented Hot Creek as being one of the most densely populated wild trout fisheries in the state. Another survey will be conducted this fall on Hot Creek to evaluate the impacts of year around fishing.
The East Walker River shocked out at just under 5,000 (five thousand) trout per mile and also had a dominant population of browns, most of them wild. There are some huge trout in this river, and way more than you might think! The EW is truly a world class tailwater.
I would like to ask all of you who love the East Walker and the Bridgeport areas fisheries to wish one of the nicest guys I know some good luck. Skip Baker owner of the Big Meadows Lodge in Bridgeport has recently become ill and we need to cast some positive vibes to this special guy. Skip has been instrumental in several successful fisheries enhancement programs throughout Mono County. Get well soon Skippy, we miss ya!
The guide team at Sierra Drifters wishes Mickey “the Turtle” Baron and Brad “Mothra” McClain the best of luck with the beginnings of their own guide service. We appreciate your efforts and the years of service to our clients. May your books be forever full. They call their outfit the Crowley Lake Guide Service and can be reached by contacting the Crowley Lake Fish Camp or their prior personal contact numbers.
Adobe Pond: Sierra Drifters exclusive!
If you enjoy catching large numbers of wild brown trout on a dry or dry/dropper combo, or sight fishing to rise forms, this is your huckleberry! The fish are not monsters here. Most are in the half a foot range but are scrappy fighters and jump like rainbows. Drifters veteran client Bill Amans (banged out forty by himself) suggested I emphasize this would be an excellent place for novice fly fishers. He is correct. Intermediate anglers will find this a perfect place to hone their casting and hook setting skills with plenty of opportunities on an average day. We have the exclusive rights to guide this private water from our drift boats. It is truly a blast. Adobe is a beautiful place with incredible fishing for wild trout. Please call us if you would like to discuss the details of fishing here, or perhaps owning some of this incredible legacy property. Check out some pics of the Adobe Pond by visiting our website at www.sierradrifters.com/fish.htm.
The best way to describe Crowley this season is “fire or ice” No consistency for any duration of time and this can be attributed to a number of reasons. First let’s discuss the “ice”. The low water levels for this time of year are a definite negative. Even though we had a near normal water year the LADWP had to deal with a couple of reservoirs in So-Cal that needed to be drained for bad water quality. They took the water out of Crowley early on to re-fill these and it has proven to be bad juju for the fishing thus far. Abnormal periods of strong southerly winds that basically shut down the lake after 11:00 am and some days as early as 9:30 am. Large numbers of sub-catchable rainbows and cutthroats that were planted last fall and this year by the DFG have not helped out the average size of a fish on this potential trophy trout fishery. You will not find any significant weed beds this year as they have been wiped out by the low water levels. You streamer tuggers will have a small window of opportunity to nail the big browns on perch fry before the birds gobble them up. Look for the fry to be on the trout’s menu in late July or early August. They will not have the weeds to hide in and are very vulnerable in years such as this to avian predation.
The fire. We are seeing the benefits of the two major brown trout enhancement programs. The Still Water Classic and the F.A.T.I.T. events planted catchable browns last season that are being caught daily. We have not seen as many large browns caught this early in many moons and the holdover hogs have found that sub catchable hatchery fish are very good munchies! You streamer guys keep this in mind and try tossing some #2 or #4 baitfish imitations if you see the unmistakable boil of a two foot brownie ruining a small trout’s day! The damsel fly nymph migration has also begun and when the current starts moving the scum lines before the wind it is a good call to troll damsels along the edges 1-5 feet below the surface.
The periods of a rising or high barometer have provided some red hot bites while still water nymphing in McGee Bay, the Hiltons, and around what is left of the north arm and Owens inlet. All the reliable chironomid patterns have been working in the #16-18 range. Use a two fly rig under a strike detector that has a type of emerger as the upper, hang a larva pattern as the dropper 20 inches below it.
The algae situation for this time of year is great. The extended winter and cool, dry spring combined with the very low water levels have made inclement conditions for the green goo. It has not been a significant factor thus far. Surface water temps are climbing and the migration of summer rainbows towards the cooler more oxygenated water in McGee and Hilton will become significant in the early stages of July. The lack of weeds in these areas will allow a more spread out area for fly fishers to work this year. You will not find good habitat in water less than 7 feet in these areas and we have had some great bites out to 12 feet recently. Work deeper as the sun gets higher, or your bite shuts off in short water.
Take a few minutes and check out the pictures of some great fish caught & released by Sierra Drifters clients on Crowley recently by visiting our website Fish’N Conditions at www.sierradrifters.com/fish.htm
East Walker River:
Lower than normal release rates have made the overall conditions here very stable through early summer. Bring the hole enchilada here baby! You could have opportunities to fish tandem midge or mayfly nymphs #16-20 under an indicator or high stick without in the proper water during the early morning, switch to mayflies or caddis adults #16-18 for some sight fishing to rise forms late morning or afternoon. The wind comes up after lunch - do not despair grasshoppers! Tie on a hopper or Stimulator and work the banks in the big pools. Terrestrials are dynamite at times on the EW and an ant pattern as a trail fly can be deadly under the right conditions. Windy afternoons are best! As the sun sinks below the rim large streamer patterns are often overlooked here and arguably the best way to hang big daddy brown! The water is comfortable to wet wade, or wear light dryable pants. Great photos posted at www.sierradrifters.com/fish.htm
Reports from the DARK SIDE (bait fishers) are good here but those who have seen the light (fly fishers) are not having the same success at the Bridge. Low water this year has the fish deep making presentations difficult at best for fly fishers. There were some good days earlier this season thanks to the efforts of the fine folks associated with the Bridgeport Fisheries Enhancement Program here on the browns they planted last season and those rascals are fat and happy! The next couple of months will be a tough go on the fly but look for better conditions as the water cools in the fall. You can also contact Jeffrey at http://www.bridgeportreservoir.com/
West Walker River:
This is the largest freestone creek in the region and is currently running on the high side making some of the crossings difficult in the canyon sections. Clarity has been pretty good most days and the softer water is very fishable especially in the Pikel Meadows and Chris Flats areas. Look for improving conditions as July rolls on with the exception being an extended period of afternoon wet T-storms. This weather condition will make the water rise and become off color quickly here. You can get away with some larger nymphs here like flashback Pt’s and Tiger midges in the #14-16 range. Dry dropper combos in the slower riffle water and runs spank the wild fish here, as do dry/dry rigs with a caddis in the equation #14-18 dark bodied. Mornings are best here this time of year as the wind gets to hooting by 11 am most days.
Lower Owens River area:
If the trend of lower than average flows continue here we could have some incredible “catching” from our drift boat trips as early as September. 350 cfs is way low for early summer but I suspect it will increase again by mid July. Too hot, too high, too ho-hum! Go elsewhere for July.
Upper Owens River:
Avoid the campground and monument areas on weekends and holidays for the next couple of months, it will probably be a zoo down here at these times. A good way to check out the area is to stop on the knoll just before you get to the dump turn-off and put your glasses on this area. A quick check of how many cars and where they are located will save you valuable time and get you casting sooner. The hot ticket is trucking upstream and fishing the sections above the confluence of Hot Creek towards the section of the river called Long Years. The dirt road on the north side of the river (immediate northerly turn after crossing the Benton Bridge) will give you good access to all the prime areas here. Dry dropper rigs using bead head flashback PT’s, crystal zebras, San Juan worms, all in the #14-10 range will get you grabs. There are a few fatties still on the prowl and should be around most of July, but most of the fish here are the size of your fly rod handle. The hoppers are around in good numbers and a #16 yellow body Stimulator is a good cross pattern to cover both a large caddis and hopper profile, both of which are good choices in the afternoons. SKEETER ALERT!!! Great pictures posted at www.sierradrifters.com/fish.htm
Twelve thousand fish per mile pretty much says it all. The dry fly fishing and caddis emergence on the calmer afternoons have been epic at times this summer, with dry dropper combos being a close second. The wind has been the “governor” on this place and there has been a bunch of it this year around here. Mornings are the best, they are also the most popular as one may suspect. If you should happen to encounter a windlass afternoon get your caboose down here pronto and you will not be disappointed! As July progresses look for increased hopper action in the afternoons with very consistent caddis activity daily. Water conditions will be good throughout most of the summer as the peak of the run-off has come and gone.
My favorite of the freestone creeks in the area. The run-ff has been as well behaved as run-off can be this year and although you may have some difficulties crossing the deeper runs the SJ is fishing quite well. It never ceases to amaze me how aggressive these wild fish here smack a dry! The usual suspects are eager to hit most high riding dries in the #14-18 range. The deeper pools will need to be explored with a tandem nymph rig complete with some shot and a strike detector to get you out past your rod tip, the water and air are warm this time of year and you will find ample opportunities in the riffle water, and pocket water if you prefer the dry dropper duo. PT’s, zebras, hares ear, that nasty looking “whatcha ma call it” nymph that Uncle Festor gave you for your high school graduation #16-18 will all get you grabs if presented properly. Great time of year down here, do some hiking to avoid the campground congestion. The trails are well marked and easy to navigate. SKEETER ALERT!!!
The Alpine Lakes:
Like a good wine, finer with time. As the summer rolls on these areas will become more attractive and productive especially during the tepid parts of the afternoons in the valleys. Water temps are warming and the short window of summer puts the feeding behavior of alpine trout in high gear as they must amass body fat quickly while food is present. The multitude of high country alpine lakes in this area offer well stocked and easy to catch rainbows and many have solid populations of wild brook, rainbow, and brown trout. The planted fish are very opportunistic and flashy colorful streamers #8-14 used in conjunction with a sinking type fly line will work great once you have located the “pod” of ravenous rainbows. Keep your streamers down 10-15 feet for consistent results catching these rascals.
The wild ones are a tad more difficult to catch most of the time and you will need to use the still water nymphing, and long leader-dry fly methods with smaller sized imitations than their lower elevation counterparts. #20-22 zebras and tigers, #20 PT’s, and on some of the alpine lakes that are below 8400 feet in elevation callibaetis imitations both dry and nymphs will work miracles.
Sierra Drifters Flies, Killer Kits & Sungicators are available at the following great fly shops and stores: Crowley Lake Fish Camp & The Crowley Lake General Store in Crowley, Bridgeport Marina at Bridgeport Reservoir, Kittredge Sports in Mammoth Lakes, Malibu Fish’n Tackle in Thousand Oaks, Stroud’s Tackle in San Diego, The San Diego Fly Shop in San Diego, The Fishermen’s Spot in Van Nuys, Bob Marriott’s in Fullerton, Buz's Fly Shop Too in Bakersfield, & Crosby Lodge at Pyramid Lake, Nevada. There are links to these locations at www.sierradrifters.com/resources.htm. We pride our Guide Service & Products on Innovation not Imitation!
Be the fly friends…
Sierra Drifters Guide Service
and Michele Loe Michele@MammothLakes.com
Eastern Sierra Real Estate…. http://www.mammothlakes.com/mlRE/Agent_Michele.html
**Nearly 9 acres on stunning McGee Creek just minutes south of Mammoth Lakes. 360 degree views abound! This property offers the perfect balance between privacy, views, accessibility and opportunity. Truly a fisherman's dream with world class fishing right on the private land! McGee Creek runs the Eastern length of the property line, views of Crowley lake are to the North, BLM land is to the east, while McGee mountain and the Sierra range serve as the Southern backdrop. Click Here to View Listings**
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Nice Brown C&R on Lake Crowley
Nice Brown C&R on the East Walker
About The Author: Captain Tom Loe
Company: Sierra Drifters Guide Service
Area Reporting: Eastern Sierras - Lower Owens River
Bio: Tom Loe grew up in Thousand Oaks Ca. and married his high school sweetheart Michele after attending Moorpark Jr. College.
The next 20 years Tom spent harpooning broadbill swordfish as the owner/operator of offshore commercial fishing vessels on both the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans. He is currently a licensed Coast Guard captain and year round fly-fishing guide residing full time with Michele on McGee Creek overlooking Crowley Lake in the Eastern Sierra. Tom has had a maniacal fascination with trout his entire life. He began tying flies at 12 years to assist him in financial support of his addiction to fishing. The truant officers had no problems locating Tom if he turned up absent at school, find trout, you found Tom!
During extended periods his sword boats would be tied up in port Tom would spend large blocks of time fishing the Eastern Sierra developing and perfecting unique methods of fly-fishing for trout in the area. Tom pioneered guided drift boat trips down the Lower Owens River and the “dip and strip technique” in 1998 after selling the swordfish boat “Bandido” that same year. Sierra Drifters Guide Service was founded and has been in operation since 1998 and to date has assisted thousands of fly-fishers in pursuit of trout in the Eastern Sierra.