Upper Owens River Fish Report

Owens River - Section 3 - Upper (above Crowley) - Eastern Sierra, CA (Mono County)

by Tom Loe

Upper Owens has been unusually slow. Historically, this is prime time for trophy migratory rainbows moving up from Crowley Lake. The water conditions are less than perfect; however not bad. Flows are much higher than normal as the LADWP draws water from Grant Lake to fill Crowley. This additional water is creating more spawning habitat for the Crowley Steelhead remaining here. I believe there are more fish in the system than we are connecting with, they are just holding in different locations currently. We are observing paired up bigs in the tail outs of pools hiding under the cut banks. Very difficult to get nymphs; or streamers to swing by them. The warm weather pattern has elevated water temps which allow the spawners to hold in shallower; more conventional redds.  Last January was more productive than previous seasons. It is possible the crazy warm winter we experienced triggered an earlier run of these fish, & we are seeing the final stages of this years migration. Some smaller resident fish are sipping on midge clusters in the pillow water of the larger pools. Getting your rigs on the bottom with water conditions like this require obscene amounts of weight, lengthy leaders, and aggressive mending tactics to achieve drag free drifts. Crystal Eggs, San Juan Worms, #16-18 Assassins (dark and light), #14-16 Crystal Leeches, and #16-20 Copper Tiger Midge, Zebra Midge, and Gillies have been good patterns fished with plenty of weight below an Under-Cator.  There is some nasty mud in the ruts after the ground thaws on some of the two track roads leading down to the river. 

Looking ahead I see a STRONG probability that the spring migration of cutthroat trout will be earlier as well. Water levels rising in Crowley, high water flows on the UO, & warmer than normal air temps pave the way for these beautiful fish to begin moving in March. Last years run was weak here; but the conditions were almost totally opposite of what we are experiencing this winter.

If you would like to go fly fishing with Sierra Drifters give them a call at (760) 935 4250 and for more information visit their website www.sierradriters.com.