Waters like the lower Owens River and East Walker River will be flowing at or over maximum capacity during peak runoff. The easy answer is stay away from these waters during peak runoff. I know that there will be anglers who have to venture out to the waters during runoff. Stay away from the edges of the stream. These maximum capacity flows will be eroding the streamside banks. It will be easy to accidentally find yourself in the stream when the bank your standing on collapses.
High water on the lower Owens River erodes the banks making it unsafe to walk on the banks of the river.
Do not enter the water for any reason. This is not a good spot for young children or dogs off a leash. Even water savvy dogs like labs will have a tough time getting out of the water. The water will be very cold and hypothermia is possible if you are in the water too long. Avoid standing or walking across rocks as you are one slip away from being in the stream.
You’ve done your best to stay out of the water, but you now find yourself in the frigid swollen waters of your favorite Eastern Sierra stream.
The first thing to do is get control of yourself. No matter who you are the cold water an unexpected plunge will cause you to panic. Once you settle down it’s time to rescue yourself. First thing is to go with the current and get your legs pointed downstream so you can push off of any obstacle you may run into. Do not try and swim against the current. It will wear you out!
Now that you are flowing downstream with the current look for a place to come out of the stream. Look way out in front of you to find a spot you can crawl or climb out of the river. Looking down river with your feet in front of you slowly use arms to paddle your way towards your take out spot. If you miss your takeout spot immediately start looking downstream for a new takeout spot. When you get to your takeout spot do everything you can to get yourself on the shore and out of the river. This is the time to use maximum effort to rescue yourself.
The sandbar on the bottom right of this photo would be a great place for an angler flowing downstream to get out of the river.
If you are wearing waders, be aware that your waders will have taken on water. Be prepared to drain some or all of the water out of your waders before you attempt to stand up. Water weighs about 8.5 pounds per gallon. Five gallons of water in the waders will weigh 42.5 pounds.
The safest thing an angler can do during peak runoff this year is stay off of streams and rivers. It will be a good time to fish an Eastern Sierra Lake. Controlling your panic and using minimum effort to get to the bank or shore of the stream is what the angler needs to do. Knowing what to do if you find yourself in the stream is how you are going to rescue yourself.