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Sierra's fishing report and forecast

By Tom Loe
05/07/15 -- It is so ironic that we have received more precipitation in April and May than for much of the winter. No complaints from me mind you - I am certain you are all aware of how dire the water situation has become, and any moisture is most welcome. The long range forecast continues to trend towards above average moisture associated with T-storms & some northern fronts that will hopefully add some additional snow on the Sierra.

The “catching" has been very mixed. After a slow start to the season on Crowley (which began with a six inch snowfall on opening day at elevation) - we have seen a very good early season bite with the midge hatches being more substantial than normal. Water conditions are good currently and the fish are concentrated in much shallower water than is typical for May. 11-15 feet will get you into fish at Crowley in many areas of the lake that have deep water close by. The fish are larger than normal. The mild winter and lack of ice cover on the lake supported growth during the winter months. All three species of trout can be caught currently. The “Crowley slam” (rainbow, brown, & cutthroat) are all feeding on chironomid patterns. Despite very low water levels to start the season, the boat launching facilities are fine and the lake is dropping very slowly. For those of you who have fished Crowley in the past; the lake looks like it does in the fall. Because Crowley is the largest reservoir in this area it will most likely be at the top of the list as the summer rolls on. The Los Angeles Department of Water & Power controls water levels here, and we have no specific information as to how much water will be pulled out of the lake by fall. That is dictated by how much water is consumed by its customers of course.

Photo courtesy of Sierra Drifters and tom loe. Man holding large fish
Photo courtesy of Sierra Drifters and the author
The water that flows out of Crowley Lake and into Pleasant Valley Reservoir becomes the Middle Owens River around Bishop. I’ve been fishing this area for over 40 years, and in only a few instances in which there was a maintenance issue with the aqueduct, have never seen flows as low as they are currently in May. 200cfs. Is just about perfect for drift boating, and wading this tailwater. Due to the extended period of 75cfs. releases this winter the drift boat sections have had lots of debris and turbidity initially as the levels came up. That slowed the “catching” down considerably for a time. This condition is now stabilizing, and we are looking forward to some very good fishing before the heat sets in this summer. Look for strong caddis and mayfly activity as the spring turns to summer.

The Upper Owens River flows into Crowley Lake. It is primarily a spring fed river, with additional water piped in through a diversion from water that feeds Mono Lake via Rush Creek. After a brief period of high flows the river is back to winter levels, and this has provided a unique opportunity to target some amazing spawning cutthroat trout that migrate up from Crowley. Historically the UO is very high as the LADWP lowers Grant Lake (via the diversion) to accommodate snow melt. The allotment has been already used this year, so we can expect these flows to remain low for the majority of the summer. The cutty’s we have been seeing are as large as I have ever seen. Truly trophy fish with spectacular colors and seriously bad attitudes when they get hooked. We have developed some unique techniques to catch these special fish. Give us a call if you would like to refine your nymphing skills and get into a screaming screen saver! Click here to fill out a trip request form.

Bridgeport Reservoir and the East Walker have really taken it on the chin with this drought. The flows have finally come up on the EW. The 100cfs. that is now running down the channel will no doubt help the immediate silt situation, but is not a game changer. The resourceful owner that operates the Bridgeport Marina is running rental boats, and maintaining a courtesy dock by the dam. The lake got a healthy planting of browns and some trophy bows. Conditions are good right now, but I suggest you fish here early this season as the late summer and fall may be tough.

The natural Alpine Lakes are all in fine shape with regards to water levels. The decreased CDFW plantings will have an overall negative impact this season. Most of these lakes are almost totally dependent upon subsidization. If you are close behind the hatchery truck, fishing will be good. They can be inconsistent without weekly plantings. I find it boggling that the majority of quality trout plantings will be emanating from a hatchery in Oregon due to laws regarding aquaculture in Ca. The cost of these fish is very high. If you catch a 5 lb. triploid rainbow in one of these alpine lakes, you hit the mini lottery! That fish cost about $35.00. My frustrations with how the new laws have impacted fisherman in this state, and are shared by many of you I know. Vote the bureaucrats who are ignorant, or oblivious to what has happened to the Sierra’s fisheries out.

Hot Creek is fishing pretty good right now in the limited open water. The warmer days have solid caddis hatches coming off. There is a little extra water coming down Mammoth Creek currently. Mid-summer will be tough for sure.

The road into San Joaquin R. will be opening on May 16th this year unless we get a string of significant snow storms. Conditions will be good early on as you may have guessed. Flows will be much lower than normal, and resemble those that we see in the late summer. The difference is that the water will be colder. Dry fly fishing with attractor patterns will be best.

The Gorge is getting some additional water. As time goes on this will improve habitat, & increase the size of the fish. This may be the most consistent dry fly fishery we have in the Sierra. The fish are wild browns here. Moderate hiking and rock hoping mandatory. This is not a “drive to” fishery.

I will be making an effort to update the website and our Facebook page frequently. You can see what flies we are using to get into all those big fish you see on the report. Click here to view the fish report. Like, or friend us on Facebook.

Tom Loe is 'Be the Fly' at Sierra Drifters Guide Service, 760-935-4250 business, 760-937-2015 Iphone, driftfish@qnet.com, sierradrifters.com. Don Quilici contributed to this report.

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