It’s snowing in Mammoth Lakes! How cool is that? Pardon the pun. This is the most noticeable event to report this week, which will undoubtedly have a positive effect on both the air quality and the fishing. We welcome with open arms the statewide precipitation. The rain and snow is bound to extinguish several forest fires in the West, and it will pump some water into the rivers and the lakes. Fish like that sort of thing. Everyone loves the first snowfall of the season.
As for the details of fishing… flows on the Lower Owens River are still cranking at a healthy 367 cubic feet per second. Strong flows are ideal because they clean up the river bottom. It scours the rocks on the river bottom allowing for the development of better bug habitat. Heavy flows clean up sand and silt deposits. It’s the equivalent of a “spring cleaning.” While we usually see this increase of water flows every spring with snowmelt, I’m glad to see this final push of heavy flows through the Lower Owens before the wintertime decreased flows set in. Flows will eventually drop and settle into about a predicted 120 cubic feet per second. While flows this high now currently dictate that wading the Lower Owens is treacherous, I have heard of decent fish reports on the river. There is talk of middle of the day caddis and mayfly activity. The best place to fish dry flies is in the slower moving pools where your flies can hang around on the surface in slower moving eddies and slack water. The fish will come up for them. Flows of this grandeur also make for great streamer fishing. Getting a heavier sink tip fly line to get your Woolly Bugger down is a great idea. As for spin fishers, I think running Panther Martins down and across the river is a great idea. Look for those runways that hold a couple of feet of water. Cast to the far bank, and run the goods across the current and back up the close bank. You’ll get chasing fish.
The Upper Owens River has really healthy flows right now of 124 cubic feet per second. It’s great to see some water pumping through this river also. There are reports of decent fish moving up into the river now. Be mindful not to target the spawning brown trout if you see them doing their thing. They should start any time now with the current snow conditions hitting us. You’ll hook fish on the Upper Owens now with the same flies you will on the Lower Owens: Parachute Adams, Tent Wing Caddis, Elk Hair Caddis, Green Rock Worm, Pheasant Tail, etc. You don’t need as aggressive a sink tip though when fishing streamers, as there is less water in it.
Crowley Lake is still producing quality fish. The North Arm seems to be the spot. With this drop in temperatures, I do believe McGee and possibly even Hilton will fish well also. I had some friends from down south in town this week fly fishing from their kayaks on Crowley. They told me that stripping streamers was more productive than midge fishing. Hitting the shallower water around the six feet deep range seems to be the perfect place to strip a bead head Woolly Bugger. The fish will come up for it. My buddies got into some quality fish using this fishing method.
I do still believe that fishing the lakes in the June Lake Loop and Mammoth Lakes Basin is a brilliant idea. The brooks exhibit brilliant hues of purple this time of year, and are a lot of fun to catch. Fly fishing for them with dries in the morning on Upper Twin is a lot of fun. You don’t need much. A Black Gnat or Parachute Adams. As for bait angling, soaking nightcrawlers is also a great idea. Those fish will eat inflated worms.
Lastly, I want to give props to Heenan Lake. It keeps coming up in conversation in the comments here. While I have no experience fishing it, it’s kicking out some good fish. This snowfall will temporarily shut down access on the high country passes… Monitor, Sonora, and Tioga, but I don’t think we will get enough snowfall to close them for the season. So, when Monitor Pass reopens again, this is a good place to go.
That’s your short and sweet fish report for this week. There are too many fisheries to list. Chris Leonard will be giving us our weekly fish report, and will mix it up every week talking about different places to get fishy. Chris Leonard guides for Kittredge Sports in Mammoth Lakes.
Have fun. Be safe. Go get ’em!
Chris Leonard is a longstanding teacher at Mammoth High School, and experienced fly fishing guide. He guides both rivers and lakes in the Eastern Sierra. His understanding of teaching and fly fishing makes him a choice guide in the region.