Eastern High Sierra Fishing Report
Howdy friends and Sierra Drifters. Best fishes and holiday cheers to all of you for this X-mas 2006 fish report from the Eastern High Sierra. We would like to extend a sincere thanks to you all for your support last season. Have a happy and prosperous New Year.
The weather pattern has shifted into a more seasonal cycle since our prior report. You can expect cooler and more precipitous weather the next couple of weeks as the Pacific jet stream has dropped and will bring the eastern Sierra some substantial storms. To this point in the season the Owens Valley remains dry and well above average in daytime high temps and we have enjoyed a pleasant and extended fall season for sure.
The re-watering of the Lower Owens River (LORP Project) by the LADWP has finally been realized. After many decades of removing water from its natural drainage in the area below Tinemaha Reservoir the water is once again flowing in its natural course thanks to a judge that had had enough of “extensions” and studies by the embattled LADWP.
This is a mile stone with regards to restoring a natural river and riparian system to its primal state. Although this may not become a great recreational frontier for sometime, it is no doubt a step in the right direction for outdoor enthusiast’s and a major victory for wildlife and the ecosystem of the Owens Valley and California. There will be some winter/early spring trout stocking in this area by the Cal DFG. As time goes on this area will primarily be habitat for warm water species like bass and catfish. Waterfowl should become more and more prevalent and with any luck the old fly ways will once again become established. The flows in this section are not going to be overly high, and we are informed they will peak at about 40cfs with periodic “flushing releases” to create additional habitat like marshes and tulle beds. Envision about the same flows that are currently running in the Gorge below Crowley Lake.
The Cal DFG commissioners have recently passed regulations that are going to allow year round “catch and release” fishing with barbless artificial lures or flies in several areas of the Eastern Sierra beginning on March 1st 2007. As of this report the waters of HOT CREEK, The EAST WALKER RIVER in the California section below Bridgeport Reservoir and The UPPER OWENS RIVER in the section “UPSTREAM ONLY” from the Benton Crossing Bridge all the way upstream to Deadman Creek downstream of HWY 395, will become open to year round fishing starting on March 1st 2007. The new regulations do not supersede any of the old regs for these areas during the general trout season in Mono County, and you should take time to examine the laws before you get those fly rods rigged. There were also additional quality trout waters opened in other areas of California. We have included a link to the new regulations and as usual you can click on the button providing important DFG news by visiting our website at www.sierradrifters.com.
There are already some protests being filed by individuals that do not agree with these new regulations and I suspect you may hear more on this matter soon. These new regulations are part of a mandated program linked to the “Strategic Trout Management Plan” adopted by the Cal DFG to enhance and develop new fisheries and angling opportunities. The DFG admittedly stated it was not widely publicized and some disenchanted folks feel they were not able to express their opinions on this matter before it was made into law. They make some good points for both safety, enforcement, and the well being of the spring spawning wild trout populations. Get your opinions to the DFG and make your voices heard.
Can’t speak for you, but I can tell you that this guide will be casting to fish next March on some quality local waters unless informed otherwise. YIPEEE!!!
We have had some recent inquires as to whether or not we would guide spin or conventional fishers on our drift boats. ABSOLUTELY YES. We are predominately a fly fishing guide service and feel that the fly is the most productive and most fun means of catching trout but we do welcome catch and release artificial lure chuckers with open boats and ready nets! All of our guides are experienced with the use and presentations of swim bait lures, mini-jigs, spinners, and spoons. So bring those spinning rods on, we will put you within flip’N range of “Troutzilla”!
Lower Owens River: Fair
The water temps have dropped into the upper thirties and low forties and the high flows that have been raging all year are finally taking their toll on the fishing here. The trout are seeking the shelter and insulation of the deeper pools making presentations at these high flows difficult. Redundant casts are needed to get the fish to commit to streamer or nymph patterns. The great weather we have been enjoying this winter has helped us out many days warming the water and getting the midges and some baetis hatches emerging and the fish more prone to feed.
Wading in the wild trout section remains slow and there is limited area in which to safely and effectively fish. Three to four BB shot with bead head midge or mayfly patterns incorporating some flash in the profile will give you the best opportunity under the current conditions. Look for the baetis (bwo) hatch after the noon siren sounds in Bishop and it is then you will have an hour or so of some surface activity in the larger slower pools.
The drift boat sections have also slowed but are by far your best bet to get into fish currently as we can access all the difficult to reach sections that are holding fish. Some of the larger “beasts” are beginning to show but the high flows are making landings difficult as the current is a huge ally for the fish during the battle.
The LADWP is telling us that they will continue high flows throughout the remainder of this year and should “crash” them by the beginning of January 2007. We can not get a firm number on what the release will be after then and we have been told as low as 80cfs to 200cfs below Pleasant Valley Dam. There will be a prolonged period of maintenance on the hydroelectric facility at that time. Historically under those conditions we will experience some fantastic fishing well into the early part of next spring. So far this winters snow pack is very light and if this trend continues we may see low flows well into May or even June on the Lower Owens for the first time in several years.
Carve this into stone folks. There will be some EPIC days beginning in January and continuing at times well into the spring. I have seen this scenario set up only a few seasons in the thirty years I have been drifting this river. I truly hope you are able to fish with one of our great guides next year and experience the Owens River from a drift boat.
The “Linkcredibles” from San Pedro Ca. could be named as trout enemy #1 for their incredible ability to always get the most out of a fishery. Scott and Chris are pictured with a double on a recent float with us.
Chris “Big City” Henrich and Vince “The fan ” DiMeglio from Palos Verdes Ca. booked a two boat float with their sons Vince “the walrus giver” D. and Jace “little city” H. The competition was fierce between the father and son teams with a prime rib dinner at stake for the winner. Old age and treachery had to pay up to youth, skill, and cunning after a close battle of the drift boats. Drifter’s guide “Fill” Therrien and I needed oxygen after all the laughs we had with this group. Merry X-mas guys, see ya soon.
The Bonetto’s booked a trip with Drifters own Mr. “Fill” and son Tom caught and released a memorable rainbow on their float. Kudos to you Tommy for a kinder and gentler hold and release for this shot! All the pictures can be viewed at www.sierradrifters.com/fish.html
Pleasant Valley Reservoir: Good
Freeze tubing is an option for the more hearty and “robust” fisherman that are properly attired for winter fishing. I would like to point out at this time there were many skeptics who thought that opening this area to winter tubing was a death sentence and would “tax” search and rescue groups too often. This has not been the case and there has not been a single reported incident involving a tuber here in the six years it has been open. Having said this please exercise common sense and dress for extreme weather and prolonged exposure to cold. No fish is worth the effects hypothermia can cause.
The fishing is best near the inlet area closest to the transition water between the flow of the river, and the larger body of water that comprises the reservoir proper. This section changes with the flows and the wind direction but it is located very close to the first big bend in the canyon and there is a so-so path marked by a pole that leads you down to a decent launch pad on the lakes edge. Look for an area of water with abundant debris and scum on the surface, concentrate on the edges of this zone. The “launch pad” section will change greatly as the levels rise and fall so some creativity and a little scouting before you descend down to the lake from the access road is mandatory.
The browns are surprisingly active in this area and although you may not find a bunch of Crowley grade slammers here there are abundant 12-15 inch fish eager to whack a streamer with a perch or leech pattern trolled or stripped with a full or heavy sinking tip line. Casting and stripping is superior to trolling here as you may displace concentrations of fish by trolling over them. Stay put in an area and cast towards the shoreline moving slowly in and out from the steep banks.
Still water nymphing has also been effective at times using larger crystal tiger and zebra midges fished as deep as 12 feet below a strike detector. The warmer cycles have the midges and bwos going off and you will see the snouts poking out in the shadows leaving rise forms on the glassy days indicating feeding trout. The river sucks here right now as the flows are raging.
My suggestion is to get here after 10 am and exit when the sun gets behind the ridge and the shadows cover the entire breadth of the reservoir for an hour or so. It can get freaking cold and you will see what we mean by the term “freeze tubing”!
The Gorge: Good
The mild weather has allowed safe access into all the sections of the Gorge up to this point and there are a few isolated spots that have ice and snow to deal with in the upper areas only.
Dry/dropper bead head nymph combos will work best in the larger pools and deeper runs but you may find some eager surface feeders after noon slurping the tiny trico and baetis mayflies.
If you prefer wade fishing and are not opposed to a moderately strenuous walk this is a great alternative and provides year round fishing opportunities that are perhaps best this time of year under current conditions.
Need a holiday gift for the fly fisher in the family? Want to flog the water for some trophy rainbows and browns this winter? We are your huckleberry! Customized gift certificates are available upon request.
You can pick up our Authentic & Improved Sierra Drifters Guide Flies, Sungicators & Killer Kits (Great Holiday Gifts) only at the following stand out locations (don’t be fooled by any of the imitations out there!): Kittredge Sports in Mammoth Lakes, Malibu Fish’n Tackle in Thousand Oaks, The San Diego Fly Shop and Stroud’s Tackle in San Diego, The Fishermen’s Spot in Van Nuys, Bob Marriott’s in Fullerton, Buz's Fly Shop Too in Bakersfield and online at www.bigfishhappen.com. 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…Tom Loe
Sierra Drifters Guide Service
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.