It’s been a rough couple of weeks for this angler scrolling out this fish report. My beloved dog sitter Donna “The Dog Lady” Mason passed away quietly in her home outside of Bishop a
couple weeks back. She was a cornerstone of the Owens Valley community. She lived 86 wonderful years, and left us surrounded by loved ones. Then, Mammoth High School shut down for one week of in-class instruction, only one of two schools closed in all of California – the other school was Mammoth Middle School. I spent last week consoling high school students who were less than thrilled to go back to Zoom instruction. And, just yesterday, I said goodbye to my 13-year old white lab Bruin. There isn’t a person in the world who spent more hours at my side while casting flies than my late dog Bruin. I have no idea how many total hours we spent together at Hot Creek. In the thousands. His absolute most “happy place” in the world was on my Bass Tracker on Crowley Lake. He’d watch me stick a couple of fish, then lie down on the back and let the rocking of the boat and the warmth of the sun lead to the inevitable nap. I have countless memories of fishing with my buddy Bruin. Fishing with a four-legged friend is one of the greatest experiences of life on this planet. I have two other dogs to still keep me company, Taos and Piper. But, this fish report is dedicated to my buddy Bruin, and all the other dogs who spend time on the river or lake with their fishing companion.
So… speaking of… what’s Hot Creek look like now? It’s October which means the “fall bite” is turning on. There is no way around the fact that flows are low and fish numbers have dropped, but the sharp drop in air temps has sent a message to fish that now’s the time to chomp on the present bug life. Hot Creek in October is generally a really good time. I tend to do well with dries throughout the month of October. Look for late season caddis. You’ll still find a variety of mayflies throughout the morning… tricos, PMD’s, BWO’s. Be observant, and you’ll see what you need to fish. Remember… your presentation of bugs is sometimes more important than your bug selection. Go to the trouble to fluff it up and make it look alive with floatant and a small brush. Fish are more likely to strike at a realistic looking bug following naturally down the water path than a wadded ball of thread and materials skating across the water. Sure, sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good, but I would argue that your presence is critical. Look for those perfect drifts… abandon the microdrags. Elimination of a microdrag comes from either bump mending your line, throwing a huge mend into it, or tenkara fishing with a drag free drift. All these methods apply to other moving water fisheries as well, but are critical in fishing a heavily fished fishery like Hot Creek. Say the last part of the last sentence ten times fast.
The fall bite will also be present on tributaries flowing into the lake. Fishing any of the rivers where they flow into Crowley Lake is going to result in productivity. You’d do well to also drift some nymph patterns, and maybe strip streamers.
The Lower Owens is cranking still at almost 400 cubic feet per second of water. This doesn’t mean it can’t be fished, it means fish it with caution. I’d look for slower moving pools and rip streamers through them. If you see bug activity, cast those dries.
Last week, I pointed out in the report the lakes of the June Lake Loop and Mammoth Basin as great places to be this time of year. I still stand behind that statement. Bait and spin fishers will do fine soaking worms or casting Panther Martins or Thomas Bouyants. Look to fish near inlets and outlets. The lakes will be beautiful this time of year with the brilliant hues of yellows, oranges, and reds that we are seeing with the changing of the colors.
Another really fun place to be this time of year with the color change is up West Line Street fishing along Bishop Creek or Intake Two. Intake Two is such a mellow little stillwater fishery. It’s a great place to kick a tube with a fly line and streamers or tossing lures. Bishop Creek fishes fairly straightforward… salmon eggs on a hook if you’re looking to cook the quarry, or a Parachute Adams if you want to catch and release.
Two other very float tube friendly places are Sotcher and Starkweather located down by the San Joaquin River. Access to that part of the world closes with the first decent snowfall of the year. It’s also very pretty down there. Sounds like a great place to take a dog and a sandwich and spend a half a day.
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!
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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.