Trying out the Eastern Sierra bite
I was down at the Eastern Sierra opener during the opening weekend. As I have said before, this region boasts some really great fishing opportunities.
Usually the high-mountain lakes are all frozen over, but this year they actually have received less snow than we have in our region. Many of the mountain lakes were reported to have some open water. For example, friends of mine fished South Lake on Saturday and said that it was half ice-free.
I had an opportunity to fish the lower Owens on Monday with a group of six outdoor writers. Each of us had a guide. My partner for the day was John Loo, an outdoor writer from San Diego who writes about saltwater fishing. He had not fly fished for trout in nearly 10 years. He had an old fiberglass rod. The guides quickly put some graphite into his hand.
Our lead guide was Fred Rowe, who used to own and operate Sierra Bright Dot, a fly fishing shop. He no longer owns that business but continues to guide and is into his 25th year as a guide in this region.
His assistants, Mark and Perry, were extremely good as well. John and I were sent out with Perry. A UPS driver on his main job, he guides with Mark when the need arises. He told us that we would be fishing small nymphs or midges under an indicator. The indicator would be mostly between five and six feet to the terminal fly. A dropper could be fished if we wanted, but they typically only fish one fly. I rigged mine with a dropper, since that is how I always fish nymphs, and was glad that I did because most of the fish I caught were on the dropper.
The flow was somewhere in the 200-cubic-feet-per-second range, which means that the Owens was pretty tame. Anything approaching 300 c.f.s. makes it very hard to fish. At this range you can actually wade.
If you wade the Owens, do not forget that this water has the New Zealand Mud Snail. It is an invasive species that can cause havoc with the trout food chain. As a result, you must make sure that you treat your wading gear. The Department of Fish and Game now recommends the following to prevent the spread of this invasive species:
If you wade, freeze waders and other gear overnight, or for at least six hours.
Have extra waders and boots that are used only in infested waters. Store them separately.
After leaving the water, inspect waders, boots, float tubes, boats, trailers ” any gear used in the water.
Remove visible snails with a stiff brush and follow with rinsing.
If possible, freeze or completely dry out any wet gear.
Never transport live fish or other aquatic animals or plants from one water to another.
Snails range in size from a grain of sand to 1/8 inch in length and are black or brown in color.
Because I had some experience, Perry worked with John.
I stepped into the lower part of the run that he had us fishing and immediately connected with some small brown trout. Nothing I landed during the day would exceed 10 inches, but it was fun nonetheless. With Perry’s guidance, John also began to catch fish. In fact, everyone in our party caught fish.
After lunch, Fred Rowe took me to a few of his favorite runs and we had some fun. In the first run he had me fish, I was able to land five fish.
All in all it was a great day on the Owens. Although we only caught fish to about 13 inches in our party, there are plenty of large fish in the Owens. The best tactic to get those fish is probably to dredge streamers or perhaps a crayfish pattern.
If you get down to this region and want a guide, I would strongly recommend Fred Rowe and his friends. Unfortunately, I did not get Fred’s contact information, but you can contact the Chamber of Commerce at (760) 873-8405 or look him up in the phone book.
Bishop is a small town, but has lots to offer. The people are friendly, there are great restaurants, the late Galen Rowell’s artwork is on display at the Mountain Light Gallery and the fishing in the region can be outstanding.
The southern Sierra Nevada is very impressive, with mountains rising abruptly from the valley floor ” quite a contrast to the mountains in our region.
If you have not visited this area, it is a trip worth making. Once you do, you will be drawn back again and again.
Bruce Ajari is a Truckee resident and regular fishing columnist for the Sierra Sun and other area newspapers.
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