Inyo National Forest is open
Yippee ki yay, the forest is open again!!! We all learned last Tuesday that the Inyo National Forest is open again this Thursday. That’s great news. I don’t think there is a soul alive that is upset upon hearing this, right on time for the cooling temps as we quickly approach the changing of the seasons from summer to fall. One of my favorite times of year to cast flies at trout is the first month of college football season. There’s just something glorious about the month of September in the Eastern Sierra. And, go Bruins!
Air temps in the Eastern Sierra are showing a distinct drop. Mornings and evenings are chilly, and nighttime is cold. For the first time in a long time, we’ll see night temps hit below freezing at Crowley Lake. (If you’ve got a boat in the water, it’s time to start keeping the engine in the down position during the night – you don’t want ice forming in the lower unit.) The cooling movement is clearly also having an impact on the water temps and the fisheries. I don’t think there’s a fish in the Eastern Sierra that’s also unhappy about the seasonal change. They don’t get to share the viewing of the changing colors of the aspen trees with us land dwelling creatures, but they do like the more oxidized water. This is a good change.
After having such a condensed fish report the last couple of weeks, I feel a bit overwhelmed being able to write about everything again. “Everything” is a lot to write about. The
Golden Trout Wilderness
first suggestion I’m going to throw out though is to hit the Golden Trout Wilderness above Lone Pine out of Horseshoe Meadows. The Cottonwood Lakes are legally open for fishing, and those fish have presumably seen very low pressure with the regulation change that kept them legally closed until September 1. The mandated USFS closure extended that until today. Now is the perfect time to earn your fish by pounding some trail, and getting after those pure strain golden trout. Goldens are super aggressive fish. I’d throw lures at them, or cast streamers. They will chase them down the same way a brown trout will. Please do what’s best for the fish if you intend to release it, and pinch down the barbs. If you are fishing lures, it’s not a bad idea to flip out the treble hooks with a couple of barbless single hooks. It’s just less damaging to the fish. Hiking up to the Cottonwood Lakes is generally more than just a day trip. It’s so idyllic up there. It’s worth the effort.
Spawning Brook Trout
Along with fishing the lakes in the backcountry, I think now is a great time to fish the lakes in the Mammoth Lakes Basin and the June Lake Loop. There will be less fishing pressure and human traffic at both spots this time of year, and it’s such a great time to be on the water. We are almost to the time of year when the brook trout change their colors during the spawn. Twin Lakes above Mammoth holds a lot of very colorful brooks. You’ll find success tossing Panther Martins near the reeds. Casting streamers is also a brilliant idea. Twin Lakes is relatively shallow, so kicking a float tube around with a weighted lure or bead head streamer pattern will hook brooks.
Another one I really like this time of year is Gull Lake. Gull Lake is arguably the prettiest front range lake in the second half of September. The entire lake is lined with aspen trees, and once the colors there begin to change, it’s an awesome place to be. Like the other lakes, the fish there have had a two-week hiatus. I’d capitalize on them the same way as discussed with the other lakes in this report. Most lakes fish alike. Another really pretty one in the June Lake Loop is Silver Lake. Kicking a tube around the outlet and on the far side is a great idea.
As for rivers in the region, the Lower Owens River still has cranking flows. It’s still getting flushed. So, I’d avoid that river till flows drop. I’ve heard some decent reports on the Upper Owens River. Fishing a couple of nymphs on an indicator-less rig is always fun. Likewise, fishing a hopper-dropper is a good idea. Work the undercut banks. Standard bead head flies will produce strikes using both methods. Flows on the East Walker have increased to 77 cubic feet per second, and the temps are dropping there. So, I’d suggest it is okay to fish – with caution. Be sure to limit the time you fight the fish, keep the fish in the water, and be sure to watch it swim from you upon release. This practice is true of any fishery. I haven’t been to Hot Creek in a couple of weeks – for obvious reasons – but have to imagine you’ll hook a couple working the weedlines with small nymph patterns.
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.