Last Thursday marked the first day of lift access at Mammoth Mountain, and this next Friday brings in the final day of fishing throughout the majority of Inyo and Mono counties. One chapter closes, another begins. We truly live among the seasons in this corner of the state. Unlike Southern California, which experiences nine months of spring, and three months of summer, we live with four distinct seasons: six months of winter, three weeks of spring, four months of summer, and five weeks of autumn. Yep, we file away in the archives yet again another brilliant October, reminiscent of some of the most spectacular golden aspen we have seen in a few years. Our autumn is that time of year to get into a few late season browns, while thinking about pulling the skis and boards out of the rack, to file an edge or two, and lay on some ironed wax. Well, folks, we are turning that corner now.
What can be said of the 2013 fishing season? It started off as strong and consistent as ever. With below average snowfalls the winter prior, anglers came out swinging. Little time was wasted before Steve Marti and his gang up at Lower Twin Lakes in Bridgeport made the front cover of Western Outdoor News for the numerous double-digit trout coming out of the world-class stillwater fishery. Crowley Lake made an immediate appearance into the spotlight as well. One of the most memorable fly fishing experiences I have had for quite some time was spending a morning on Crowley with fellow guide Cog MacNeil, assisting Mark Spieler and DSES with a wounded warrior water excursion. Hot Creek started off strong. The Upper Owens fished well all summer. The creeks in the high country produced numerous glorious hiking and fishing day trip excursions, away from it all.
Word about the world-class angling in Mammoth Lakes and its surroundings got out quickly in Southern California. This was a busy summer. It seems that every time I got on the water, be it Hot Creek, the Upper Owens, or Crowley, there were plenty of guides busy with clients. We pulled off another successful Independence Day party. I spent that morning fishing the San Joaquin River with former MUSD Superintendent Rich Boccia. We got into a lot of goldens. The San Joaquin fished well all summer.
The latter half of July brought a bit more challenges to the fishing season in our parts. The air quality from the Rim Fire went south, and put a two-week dent into the enjoyment of being outdoors, under any capacity. I followed the fire from afar, as I spent some time up in Oregon and Washington this last summer crawling in creeks with a fly rod in hand, and a muddy labrador at my side. I wanted to experience fly fishing in another part of the Western United States. And, I found world-class angling in the Cascades Mountain range. The head waters of the Upper Deschutes is pristine, beautiful country. I spent some time around Sunriver, Oregon, next to Mount Bachelor Ski Area. It is a lot like Mammoth, impressive skiing in the winter, great angling in the summer. You can stand in Sunriver, throw a dart in any direction, and it will land on a trout species, salmon, or steelhead fish. The fishing there is no joke. I returned to Mammoth, and realized, we also live in undoubtedly world-class trout fishing country. Our rivers flow closer to 150cfs (cubic feet per second) compared to 4000cfs, but, Hot Creek is recognized as the most densely-populated trout stream in the entire whole of North America. There is something to be said for that.
August incurred some challenging moving water casting. With the snowmelt completely gone, water levels were low and vegetation was high. I lost my fair share of flies at Hot Creek, as did everyone else. But, the dry action turned on, and held pretty steady for a couple of good months.
The Upper Owens gets my pick for September. It just fished sweet. I so easily overlook it, since Hot Creek is a closer drive, and doesn’t require wet wading, but the Owens has some holes stacked with beautiful trout. The Upper Owens will remain open from the bridge on up, and it will be worth hitting.
Only a couple weeks back I made the transition to the lower valley, casting flies in the Wild Trout Region of the Lower Owens. What a majestic place. The views of Mount Tom standing so high overhead make for one of the most scenic places to fish in the entire region. Fishing on the Lower Owens right now is epic. Fly anglers are dialing into lots and lots of trout. Mostly wet flies, but some midmorning dry action as well.
So, we start a new season. The lifts are spinning. Guests are coming into the town to get their first few turns of the season. I have my season pass locked and loaded for spending a few hours on Mammoth Mountain and June Mountain this upcoming winter. I don’t believe though that I am ready to close that last chapter of tying on flies and hooking trout. We live in a part of the world where I can wake up on a Saturday morning in the middle of winter, and find myself casting a rod in the sunshine on the water near Bishop, return to Mammoth in the early afternoon, and drop into the Avy Chutes off Chair 22 for the last hour of skiing on the mountain. Plenty of folk in Southern California enjoy their nine months of spring, and three months of summer. I am glad they do. It works for them. I’ve been here for over nine years now, and I’m not leaving any time soon.
A more detailed report can be found at http://kittredgesports.com/fishing_report.php. Leonard guides for Kittredge Sports. Call 760.934.7566.