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September 2011 Fish'N Conditions

Capt. Tom Loe
September 17, 2011
Eastern Sierras - Freshwater Fishing Report

Hi friends. Best fishes to all for this September Fish'N Conditions update from the Eastern high Sierra.

The fall season is rapidly approaching and the transition into shorter days and cooler temps equates to good things for fly fishers searching for hungry trout. The browns and fall spawn rainbows are staging at the river and creek inlets gorging on small perch fry, chubs, and larger nymphs in preparation for the rigors of their migration up unto the gravel beds for a prolonged period. Water levels are near record highs in the larger reservoirs, with the tailwaters (Lower Owens, East Walker, Rush Creek, and Bishop Creek) running well above historical release rates. Even the freestone creeks (Rock Creek, West Walker R., San Joaquin R., & McGee Creek) are flowing higher than usual due to the immense snowpack from last winter. You can expect very high release rates for the Lower Owens well into early/mid-winter. Unfortunately this will hamper wading this fishery immensely. Crowley is exceptionally high and will need to lower substantially by next spring. The Upper Owens will also be unusually high for an extended period to lower Grant and Silver Lakes. The East Walker will begin to drop dramatically in the coming weeks as agricultural water demands decrease in Nevada. This is the one fishery that is in step with natural cycles regarding water flows, as opposed to the Lower Owens which is managed exclusively as a source of water and power generation.

The fall weather in the Sierra can be fickle. Look for freezing, to near freezing air temps in the mornings in the upper valleys and at elevations above 6000 feet, while the daytime temps are very pleasant and can reach the upper seventies most days. A stronger than normal Monsoon condition appears to be developing this fall so be prepared for afternoon T-storms and gusty south winds. If you see the cotton ball shaped clouds forming or developed over the mountain tops at sun-up you can bank on some afternoon rain especially in the upper elevations.
Please click on www.sierradrifters.com/fish.htm to view all the great photos for this report.

Crowley Lake
As I stated above, Crowley is exceptionally high this year and it is posing some problems for fly fishers. When water levels remain high on any of the meadow type reservoirs for an extended period of time during the summer months thick lake/pond weed and grass begin to grow out to depths of 18 feet. The once scoured submerged creek channels that had been free of vegetation now have been filled with weed and grass making it difficult to nymph or streamer fish in these once productive areas. Such is the case with Crowley this year and this condition will remain well into October. The lake is also experiencing a second significant algae bloom which has made it difficult at times to keep your flies clean out along the deep water weed lines in McGee and Hilton Bays. The north arm has far less algae as the thick weeds scrub and filters the goo near the inlet to the Upper Owens. The issue here presently has been a lack of consistent catchable sized fish with limited area to work due to the heavy weed that has also begun to consume the clearings along the submerged creek channels. The old channel along Green Banks is your best bet; look for small clearings beginning at 16 feet in depth. The DFG began an aggressive planting of small sub-catchable rainbows recently and these fish have infiltrated all areas of the lake with highest concentrations being in Crooked Creek, Hilton Bays, and the inlet near the Owens mouth. They are relatively opportunistic and will take most midge imitations once you get located. The larger fish are still feeding on small perch fry, the final stages of callibaetis emergence, & the damsel nymph migration. Chironomids have not been as abundant this season due to the fact that this springs low water levels destroyed much of the habitat that is currently covered in 20 feet of water. You can have success with midge larva patterns fished deep; hang a punk perch or crystal leech as an attractor for the upper. Tubers trolling outside and along the weed lines will do better using Loebergs with full sinking or heavy sinking tip lines-locate the clearings 18 feet or deeper in the north arm and Alligator Pt./Leyton Springs.

Bridgeport Reservoir:
So pretty much the same scenario at Bridgeport occurring. The weeds are consuming the open water in the creek channels which have been red hot for the last few weeks. Far less algae at Bridgeport but it is starting to bloom around the marina and launch ramp areas. The drop off right in front of the "sheep masters" Jefferies marina is becoming a go to spot for tubers and bait fishers. There is open water at 14 feet with holes into the Walker channel. Perch fry, damsel nymphs, callibaetis, and chironomids are all on the menu here. I have had great success still water nymphing this season and I would focus on locating a clear spot in the weeds as close to an inlet as possible, as opposed to trolling a streamer in the limited weed free water currently. The pond weed will begin to abate as the water cools and the late fall fishing here is looking to be excellent.

Lower Owens River:
Do not expect a decrease in water flows for quite a while on the Owens people, it will remain very high for an extended period this fall and if there are no structural problems with the aqueduct, you may see big water well into December. This is bad news for wade fishing the wild trout section, but not so much a factor for the drifting once the flows stabilize or peak. There is limited water one can fish at these release rates from the shore while wading. Crossing is difficult and can be dangerous at 500cfs. Use 3 bb shot to get your nymph patterns down in the slower deeper pools and softer tail outs or runs. Select caddis and midge imitations with occasional opportunities to toss a hopper along the edges in the afternoons. We will be primarily fishing heavy sink tips with streamers incorporating the "dip & strip" technique. Fishing has been good overall recently with stable flows. A 100cfs bump slowed it down for a few days but conditions improved quickly as the levels had been this high previously. The water remains warm (mid 60's) in the Owens. There is a link to the DWP water flows at www.sierradrifters.com/fish.htm

East Walker River:
There is a good amount of weed and algae present on the EW currently, but not anything that would cause major problems. Keep a close eye on your flies profile each presentation for slime or weed. The flows continue to decrease and we can anticipate some fine fall conditions here for sure. It has not been red hot on the EW despite the stable flows recently but I suspect a small drop in water temps will trigger a good feeding snap soon. Dougie Fresh had a good day on 9-16 with just a minor flow drop. Check out the picture of this "Bad Bad Leroy Brown-Badest Brown in the whole damn town!" at www.sierradrifters.com/fish.htm Hoppers are abundant along the shore and I would suggest tossing them from time to time if you are not having any success with nymphing the riffles and pools. A fair amount of weight is required to get your nymphs down, especially in the big holes. I had success with broken back midges, Pt's, and a birds nest pattern # 16-18. Crowds have been lighter than usual? Take advantage of this ehhh!

Hot Creek:
Hoppers, with or without droppers, caddis adults, broken back zebras in the deeper pools. Weeds are still a factor in some runs but there is plenty of open water thanks to higher flows. Fish the pockets behind the larger rocks with a big hopper imitation for some fun. Pressure has been heavy to moderate.

San Joaquin:
Way more water than usual down here for this time of year, however it is in great shape for fishing dries in the riffles. The crowds of summer have passed and if you enjoy doing some moderate hiking get 20 minutes from any of the campgrounds and you should have some consistent fishing for small but feisty wild trout. Getting cooler especially in the mornings, I suggest waders with studs from now on.

Alpine Lakes:
Western Outdoor News and the Tourism folks around here are putting on a trout derby called the "Second Summer" It entails the planting of some nice fish in numerous areas and will provide some prizes for tagged or marked fish until the end of the general trout season on Nov 15th. This will spice up the normal plantings of DFG and IAG fish. The fall colors in the alpine regions are not far off and you can have some great fishing from a tube while enjoying the awesome scenery. Still water nymphing the drop-offs and inlet sections in most of these upper elevation lakes with tiger or zebra midges & Pheasant tails will get you into fish. Look for the 8-12 foot depth range generally. Streamer fishing will cover the remainder of the water and I suggest a full or heavy sinking tip line using Loebergs, Spruce-a-bu's, Agent Orange or Crystal leeches.

Adobe Pond:
Recent outings here have been really good according to Two Bug Doug. This is private water and we have the luxury of sight fishing to wild browns from the drift boat. The caddis and callibaetis are the key hatches this time of year with opportunities to fish hoppers or damsel adults along the reeds at times for some savage top water takes. Really good water conditions this season, I expect it to fish well into October. Click the http://www.sierradrifters.com/AdobeRanch.html page for booking info please.

Upper Owens River:
The clarity and conditions have improved recently since the flow increase to near 200cfs and fishing has got much better. No bigs showing yet but expect this to change before long as the fall migration from Crowley will begin soon. Hoppers are thick along the high grass this season and are a good choice for afternoons. Use a San Juan Worm as an upper fly and a midge, pheasant tail, or olive caddis larva bead head nymph as your dropper # 16-20 in the deeper pools. Streamers can also be a kick this time of year, work the deep sides near the under cuts and tailouts of the deeper runs for a shot at a big brown. The section from the Benton Bridge downstream to the monument will close to ALL fishing after September 30th. You may fish from the monument down to Crowley until November 15th with special regulations, and fish year around upstream from the Benton Bridge with special restrictions as well.
Eagle Lake-Now Booking Fall Trips!
Eagle Lake has become my favorite still water destination and has earned its reputation as the best rainbow fishery in California. Eagle's scenic beauty combined with numbers of quality trophy sized rainbows makes it the premier natural lake fishery in the state. The fall trip will take place from September 21st through October 16th. You are invited to join me up at Eagle for some truly memorable fishing. Please click on the Eagle Lake button for details and booking information. We have a few dates open, they are September 25 & 26, October 4 and 12. Hope you can make it.
Be the Fly…
Tom Loe, Sierra Drifters Guide Service
Cell 760-937-2015
Email [email protected]

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