As I’ve been expecting the warm weather has started the runoff and most moving waters are unfishable. The waters are full of debris and running chocolate milk color or they are high and some shade of brown. I haven’t seen a clear running water in my travels fly fishing the waters of the Eastern Sierra. The still waters that are ice free are offering fly fishers an opportunity to fly fish. I expect the moving waters to be out of commission for 30 to 60 days. Owens River Gorge will be closed for three weeks for springtime riparian flows from June 6 to June 25, 2023. Long Valley Dam to Control Power Plant will be closed. DWP has set up a 2023 runoff site at https://ladwpeasternsierra.com/runoff2023 to monitor this year’s snow runoff.
***Please note that Blake Jones re-rescheduled the derby. New date for the event will be Saturday, September 16, 2023.
Lower Owens River is running bank to bank to make way for the runoff in Crowley Lake.
Lower Owens River
Wild Trout Section:
The Owens River is running between 750 to 1,000 CFS depending on where you are on the lower Owens River. It is expected to peak somewhere around 1,400 CFS sometime in June or Early July. Due to erosion of banks and high flows the lower Owens River is unsafe to fish for the next month or two. Chalk Bluff Road is expected to wash out in one or two spots during this year’s runoff. This will effect winter fishing access to the lower Owens River. Los Angeles Department of Water and Power crews are working to minimalize the impact of this year’s snow runoff.
There is still a lot of snow that needs to melt off before fly fishers can access Hot Creek with their vehicles.
Fly fishers can drive right up to the interpretive site parking lot. The water is high and off color from the water coming down Mammoth Creek. Nymphing has been tough. Fly fishers need enough weight to get the nymphs down on the substrate where the trout are feeding. The right combination of euro nymph flies with 4.0 mm and 3.5 mm beads or a couple of BB split shots under an indicator is what’s needed. Stoner nymphs, olive quilldigons, scuds, bead head flash back pheasant tail nymphs and bead head flash back gold ribbed hare’s ears are catching a few trout. Pulling streamers is getting lots of action with a few hits and less hookups. For streamers try using olive wooly buggers in size 6, olive marabou muddlers in size 6 or one of the articulated streamers.
The water and wind is more concentrated in the canyon. This section fly fishes best in the morning to early afternoon. Nymphing is producing a few fish if the nymphs have enough weight to get them down on the substrate where the trout are feeding. Working streamers around instream structures like rocks is getting brown trout to hit the flies more out territorial strikes than trying to feed on the streamers. Olive has always been the best streamer color for me.
Upper Owens River
Above Benton Crossing Bridge:
The river is up and off color. When the sun is full on the water you can make out some structure in the water like shallows and weed beds. Walking the banks showed no fish in the dirty colored water. I saw no spawning activity by any cutthroats. Two 4.0 mm bead flies with a 3.0 mm bead fly was the correct weight combination to get the flies bouncing on the substrate. I was surprised that there was no fishing pressure on the river until early afternoon the other day when I fished the upper Owens River. There are a few trophy brown trout in the river that are feeding on nymphs and offering fly fishers an opportunity to catch a trophy trout. The main dirt road upstream of Benton Crossing Bridge is drivable. The side spur roads have water and mud that fly fishers could get their vehicles stuck in. Be careful where you drive up there and I would not drive in a vehicle other than a four wheel drive.
It’s difficult to catch wild and stocked trout in the fast-water sections of Bishop Creek Canal.
Bishop Creek Canal
Behind the Ford Dealer:
Runoff out of the Owens River and Bishop Creek has the canal high and mud colored. There is a lot of debris floating down Bishop Creek and some of it is making its way into the canal. Fishing is tough and the slower straight sections are the best area to fish right now. Success here is a few fish for fly fishers covering lots of water with the right amount of weight to keep the flies down on the substrate. Pheasant tail nymphs, gold ribbed hare’s ears, stoner nymphs, green/gold Prince nymphs and copper John’s are fooling wild brown trout and stocked rainbow trout.
Wild Brown trout in the Owens River Gorge are taking nymphs and dry flies.
Owens River Gorge
Upper and Middle Gorge:
The creek is blown out from runoff like all the other streams and creeks. Fishing is tough and fly fishers need to be persistent and make sure their flies are working on the substrate. I’m considering this spot done tell runoff is over for the year.