Lower Owens River Fish Report

Owens River - CA

by Tom Loe

Howdy friends and Sierra Drifters. Here are the most recent Fish'N Conditions for the Eastern High Sierra this early spring.

We have turned the corner on winter after a significant period of wet unstable weather here in the Sierra. The forecast is looking good with regards to any major storms influencing the region. Springs genesis is apparent everywhere with the transition into summer affecting hatches and feeding behavior noticeably on a daily basis.

Break out those warm weather layerable clothes, and make sure you apply high test thermonuclear protection (sunscreen) before you hit the water. It is getting nice in the Sierra these days!

The "catching" is great in most areas and I have major changes to report on a couple fisheries. Overall we are beginning to settle in on a pattern of active feeding behavior in the mornings with a slowdown occurring most days preceding the emergences. The late afternoons are also providing increased activity for dry fliers and "nymph-maniacs"


The Square Deal has become very popular and is a great value. We will be extending this discount package until March 31, 2009. So, take advantage of it soon. Purchase a minimum of four, full day two person trips in 2009 at the rate of $350.00 per trip. This is a $70.00 per day savings off the 2008 rates!!! You must commit to purchasing four trips in advance, or at the time of bookings; these prices will only be honored in 2009. Special out of area trips are excluded from this discount. There are additional fees for the Adobe Pond guided trips.

DFG NEWS; what's up with all the dinks?

There have been numerous rumors, reports and editorials drifting about regarding the hatchery programs throughout the state and how the state's dyer financial situation will effect the allotments, distribution, etcĶ

I contacted DFG hatchery supervisor Gary Williams regarding the unusual amount of sub-catchable sized fish being planted in PV Reservoir and the Lower Owens River. These fish are small, (5-8 inches) on average and have been planted in large numbers in both locations. This is not a novel practice, and I have witnessed to a far lesser extent the planting of "dinks" in both locations numerous times over the last twenty years.

It has significantly influenced the quality of fishing. I observed a standing ovation from a Blue heron and a raccoon family recently, but not from a number of anglers.

Williams told me that due to Hot Creeks issues with the NZMS (mud snail) and the close proximity of Whirling Disease to the HC hatchery the DFG was not permitted to plant fish in waters that test negative for NZMS. This is not breaking news, we were aware of this last year. The small fish currently being jettisoned are "future brood stock" slated to be grown at the now closed Mt. Whitneyhatchery that will not be needed as Hot Creek will not be supplying fish to traditional areas, and that the Black Rock, and Fish Springs hatcheries will "take up the slack" that HC has left.

Fisheries such as Crowley, the Upper Owens, Hot Creek, (all NZMS positive) have proven habitat's that allow sub-catchable fish to grow into a viable sized sport fish due to special regulations and biology. Why not plant these fish in areas that allow these fish an opportunity to grow? I have requested 2008 planting data from Williams for Crowley and will compare notes from prior seasons when I receive it. I will report my findings on a future report.

Planting small fish in such huge numbers alongside catchable sized fish promotes "culling" by anglers fishing on the LO and PV Rez. These locations do not have special regulations. Many catch and keep anglers will not take, nor consider these small fish as part of their limit and toss them back-dead or barely alive as I have witnessed many times over. I find this practice disgusting and a waste of resources and license fees that all of us pay. I confronted a gentleman that has tossed a dead fish into the river as it came drifting by me and he stated that "it would feed the coons" to justify his act. One could reason that with all the issues regarding quotas a better strategy for distributing these fish could be implemented.

Lower Owens River:

I would lower the rating here to very good, down a couple notches from epic. We have still had some excellent days recently but the "sick" bite has become more normal for this time of year. The flows are holding steady around 100cfs below PV Rez but I would not be surprised to see a significant bump upwards in the flows by the end of the month due to the increase is snowpack we received in February.

The spring generations of caddis are the big news making their appearance on stage in mid-March. The aggressive, splashy takes you see on the surface are evidence that the trout have turned their sights on the erratic behavior caddis flies are famous for instead of the "sitting duck" mayflies and midges. Water temps are commonly in the low fifties on the sunny days and I swatted the first mosquito of the year on a recent drift trip after lunch!

The rainbows are very "spawny" these days and the streamer fishing has been great. Trout get very aggressive during their mating seasons and will often attack anything that encroaches upon their nests. I watched a large buck rainbow literally charge my dog Strider as he waded into a nearby creek to get a stick. Strider nearly jumped out of his fur as the fish clipped his front leg and was quite dumbfounded by this assault!

Tugging larger than usual streamer patterns with an erratic and aggressive retrieve cadence, coupled with longer than normal hesitations between movements has proven to be highly effective recently.

By incorporating this technique one can take full advantage of the behavioral changes the trout undergo during the spawn and use their aggression to get hits as opposed to what they are eating.

The dry fly fishing has been very good during the overcast days, and low light periods. Have some #14-16 caddis ready to lock and load, as well as a selection of #16-18 BWO mayfly patterns. Nymph-maniacs will do well using caddis pupa patterns, flashback PT's, bird's nest (natural) and olive crystal zebras all in the #16-20 range.

We have numerous pics of quality trout caught by our clients on recent drifts to share with you so please take the time to visit our website Fish'N Conditions and check them out. Click on www.sierradrifters.com/resources.htm and it will take you right there.

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.

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More Reports

Sierra Drifters Reports
for Saturday, March 14th, 2009

Owens River: Upper Owens Fish Report
Walker River - East Fork (CA): East Walker River Fish Report
Hot Creek: Hot Creek Fish Report
Pleasant Valley Reservoir: Pleasant Valley Reservoir Fish Report
Owens River: Gorge Fish Report

Sierra Drifters Reports
for Tuesday, March 10th, 2009

Hot Creek: Hot Creek Fish Report- Open year round for catch and release fishing only.
Owens River: Upper Owens Fish Report
Owens River: Owens River Fish Report
Owens River: Lower Owens River Fish Report
Walker River - East Fork (CA): East Walker River Fish Report