Wondering Where to Fish with the Forest Closed? Chris Leonard has your Back!

Hello, anglers! 
CrowleyIt’s September. And, in the typical 2021 fashion, it’s not a normal month. The unpredictability of the last several months is clearly not over. We ain’t outta the woods yet! The news that we all learned last Tuesday is that the majority of national forest land located in the Eastern Sierra is closed until September 17 due to forest fire risk management. As numerous unsung heroes battle the raging fires throughout the state, the powers-that-be have ultimately decided that we are better protected from another one if there are fewer users in the national forests. A lot of us remember the Creek Fire last year. That same scenario is occurring right now just outside South Lake Tahoe. And, shall a forest fire break out in the area, there simply aren’t enough resources to battle it. So, forest land is largely closed for a couple of weeks, which does have an effect on places you can and cannot fish.
The mandated closure affects several moving water fisheries: Bishop Creek, Hot Creek, the San Joaquin River, Rock Creek, Rush Creek, etc. This is an incomplete list of places that you cannot fish for these next two weeks. To be totally honest, these creeks and rivers are so low right now, that you aren’t going to miss much. It also includes several lakes. The Golden Trout Wilderness, for example, was set to open up a few more fisheries this last week as the Cottonwood Lakes opening was adjusted by DFW for a new legal fishing start date of September 1, moved from July 1. Clearly, those lakes are not legally accessible until the current mandate has been lifted. It also unfortunately includes lakes up West Line Street, the Mammoth Lakes Basin, and the June Lake Loop. There’s not a lot open right now. 
TroutThere are some fisheries open. At the time of writing this report, the Humboldt Toiyabe National Forest (HTNF) is still open. That could change. But if not, the following Northern Mono County fisheries are still open: Virginia Lakes, Twin Lakes @ Bridgeport, Bridgeport Res, Robinson Creek, Green Creek… any fisheries that fall under the jurisdiction of HTNF. Also unaffected by the closures are fisheries on LADWP property. This means most of the Owens River, and Crowley Lake, along with any other waters on DWP land. So… how is everything fishing that’s open to fish?
The Lower Owens River is flowing at 226 cubic feet per second. That’s a pretty sweet flow for this river. I’d look for bug hatches during the day. Fly fishers will observe caddis fly and mayfly activity. Small Elk Hair Caddis and PMD’s fly patterns should land fish. It’s also a great place to euro-nymph with a long stick. Dredging the bottom with tungsten beadhead flies, and a small Pheasant Tail second fly should result in takes. It’s a narrow river, so high-sticking is always a viable option on this river. Bait anglers working down by Warm Springs should hook fish with Powerbait or lures. If it’s stinky, fish will probably eat it. The Gorge is going to be flushed out with high flows from September 7 – 13. In short, stay away. It will not be fishable, and the high flows are dangerous.
The Upper Owens is holding on by a thread. I honestly don’t believe it’s worth fishing right now. The flows are so low and the fish so sparse that it’s not worth fishing. If you’re feeling desperate, you’ll hook one or two, but you are mostly just practicing casting.
fishingCrowley Lake is fishing well right now. This blue-ribbon fishery is the uncontested winner of where to fish this weekend. That said, it will probably be busy. Fishing is productive all over the lake right now. Midge fishers are getting takes anywhere from a depth of 8 or 9 feet to 15 to 17 deep. I’ve been doing well fishing with smaller black midge patterns. Fish seem to be holding right on the bottom of the lake. So, appropriate depth is critical. They aren’t gonna swim up to your fly if it’s three feet over them. Stripping streamers in a float tube also sounds fun and productive right now. I’ll be out on Crowley this weekend in my Bass Tracker. Say hi if you see me. I’m not taking the dogs. The blue-green algae is present again. Leave your furry friends at home.
There’s a silver lining to the mandated forest closure… a lot of fish get a well-earned rest for a couple of weeks. It’s not the news that we wanted to hear, but two weeks passes quickly. Knock on wood we avoid fires in the region, and we have a glorious change-of-colors season at the end of this month! 
That’s your short and sweet fish report for this weekend. 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

TIP JAR 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.
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John Genzler
John Genzler
2 years ago

Chris, have you ever tried Heenan Lake? Only open from September to Oct 31. Single barbless hooks, no natural bait, catch and release only. My destination as soon as I can.

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