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January 2012 Fish'N Conditions

Capt. Tom Loe
January 11, 2012
Eastern Sierras - Freshwater Fishing Report

Howdy friends and Sierra Drifters. Best fishes to all in 2012. Hard to believe that last year was one of the wettest on record, and this year is so far one of the driest! The contrast between the two winters has been the greatest I have ever seen. The snowpack is less than 15% of normal in most regions of the Eastern Sierra. The long range forecast indicates possibilities of precipitation towards the end of the month but the storms look to be far less than the "frog chokers" needed to get the season back on a normal track. For the time being we are enjoying some great winter fishing conditions with mild weather in both the upper valleys and the Owens Valley. Morning temps are cold, but the daytime highs have been shattering records recently. What a joy to guide in a light shirt on the Upper Owens River in January! Tioga Pass remains open, Sonora Pass is also open. This is unheard of for this time of year. We are all hoping for the snow to fall soon so we may build on what was a great water year last season.
Eagle Lake:
Many of you have been waiting to get my trip dates for Eagle Lake this year and I wish I could give them to you at this time. Eagle has suffered through this dry period and I would like to hold off announcing the spring 2012 trip dates until February when we get a better picture of how the lakes condition will be. The issue will not be the historically excellent fishing this year; it is accessing the lakes main body to and from the marinas and launch ramps with our large fish magnets. Let's hope Eagle gets clobbered with rain and snow soon so we can look forward to another epic spring here.

Lower Owens River:
It has been one of the best winters in quite some time for overall fish'n conditions on the LO. Very good numbers on average with overall balmy weather for winter have made this a memorable drift boat season for sure.
Streamer fishing with moderate sinking tip lines has been the best method to consistently take fish while drifting; however nymphing with tandem midge or mayfly imitations will also get you into fish if you wade the upper sections near the wild trout area. Flows have recently doubled making access for wading a tad more difficult; however at 200cfs they are by no means high for this section of the river. Why would the flows go up this time of year in what is proving to be the driest in recent history? Got me, the LADWP acts in mysterious ways. If the flows remain at current releases we will have an EPIC baetis hatch beginning in late January/early February. This could be one of the most productive springs ever seen- as fishing pressure was very light last year due to blown out flows early on through most of the fall.
FOOT NOTE ON CROWLEY LAKE: Crowley is about 90% full and is holding its level. Crowley Lake is the source of the water for the Lower Owens River and flows are directly related to how much water will eventually run-off into the lake from snowmelt. Crowley should be very good next year for a change as the lake will be cycled more normally, and last fall a very good amount of sub-catchable trout were planted to boost depleted numbers from the last few seasons. The lake has not totally frozen this winter so look for a good early season start here next spring.

Upper Owens River:
I could cover the website with big fish pictures from the UO this winter. It has been nothing short of spectacular and the best I have ever seen since the year around opening began in the section above the Benton Bridge. Conditions have changed some this week and the consistent catching of these migratory monsters out of Crowley has slowed down quite a bit. The ice is melting on Crowley for one reason, and there was abnormal pressure put on this area over the extended holiday period. The weather has been so mild that many people are fishing this area due to the great access and good fishing recently. The best is yet to come here and February has historically been the best month for bigs in this area.
Water clarity has been poor due to recent snowmelt, although flows remain very good. The big surprise has been the great dry fly action on the warmer high pressure days. Midge cluster patterns, or parachute BWO's and midge adults with a small birds nest or pheasant tail bead head nymphs as a dropper will get you many opportunities on the warmer days. The small browns are ravenous right now and have moved up out of Crowley to feed. Hang egg and SJ worms in the morns for the bigs, switch to flashback Pt's and birds nest for the afternoon bite when the gravel warms up and the fish start to feed more aggressively. You will also get grabs using streamers along the cut banks. This method can be very productive as you cover a lot of water and are able to fish the long deep runs that are difficult to fish with nymphs as you spook the bigs before getting a good presentation.

Pleasant Valley Reservoir:
The level has finally dropped making access good along the transition section from the creek to the lake. Watch the mud after it thaws, it is very dangerous and you can really get stuck and literally lose your boots! Morning midge hatches are excellent with a good afternoon baetis emergence. The riffle water just below the powerhouse is also fishing great using dry/dropper bead head nymph rigs. Tubing has also been great near the inlet and launch ramp. Stillwater nymphing is seldom done here this time of year but is very productive along the drop-offs on the westside opposite the access road. Plenty of midges in this area and you rig as would on Crowley. 10 feet is a good depth to start right now. Try the broken back midges here, they rock.

East Walker River:
Flows still running at 25 cfs and the fish are concentrated in the deeper pools. The weather has been very nice after the sun rises above the canyon rim. Good action on the surface with para midges and small mayfly patterns in the late mornings and afternoon. The bite here this winter is in sharp contrast to what we saw last season as it is much warmer and the fish more active. Go small with your choice of imitations now, the fish are not looking for large meals this time of year and you will replicate the bugs they are feeding on with sizes 18 to 22. You can use a SJ worm as an attractor, or a flashback pattern to make it stand out, but keep your target fly small for best results.

Hot Creek:
Access remains great and the flows are low, but much better than usual due to the warmer weather and run-off from Mammoth Creek. HC got hit pretty hard over the holiday period but has since thinned out quite a bit. Lots of people coming off the slopes early to fish I reckon.
#18-22 midge and mayfly adults for the emergences late morning and afternoon. Hang #18-22 patterns for nymphing with or without an Under-cator. Dry dropper rigs work well here in the winter to fish the channels in the weeds. Fish will move into the deeper pools when it gets cold in the morns so don't look for them in the short water early in the day.

The Gorge:
Still some very active fish in this area feeding above and below the surface. The conditions are great with no ice or snow to hinder the hike in and the rock hopping along the creek. Hard to beat a high riding mayfly adult with a bead head crystal tiger or olive zebra midge as a dropper here. Very few fisherman here, mostly rock climbers.

Be the Fly…
Tom Loe, Sierra Drifters Guide Service
Email [email protected]

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