Comfortable temperatures, fewer anglers and a trout population that has been energized by cooler water has been for decades the reward for the fall season angler.And there's the chance at weighing in a trophy wild brown trout judged by pounds rather than inches.
It's also that time of year when the wild trout population experiences a hormonal change approaching spawning time, becoming a bit more aggressive and less choosy when it comes to taking a properly presented offering.
FALL CONDITIONS may see lower water, but the colors and fishing can be spectacular. Bri\ng a fishing rod, a pair of hiking boots and camera. PHOTOS BY MIKE STEVENS
Following well-below average winter precipitation, this year’s water conditions will be a carbon copy of last year. Many lake levels will be on the low — but definitely fishable — side along with the flows in smaller streams. That doesn't equate to “no fish,” just changes in technique.
On the downside, in the Bishop area Lake Sabrina and South Lake, because of extremely low water, have been off the angling menus since late August. However, there won't be any problem with the waters of North Lake, Bishop Creek and Intake 11 producing limits.
Bridgeport Reservoir will be definitely fishable, but at a low-low level. Shore launching small craft near the Bathtub area will work with a little effort. Grant Lake is dropping slowly, but should last out the season.
On the wild trout scene, usually around the first part of October, approaching spawning time changes the attitude and feeding habits of wild brown and brook trout.
Heavyweight browns are the target of a rather obsessed clan of anglers, who make a yearly showing in hopes of topping the state 26-pound, 8-ounce record taken from Upper Twin Lake.Trolling and throwing lures near stream inlet locations where the browns are staging before the upstream run have historically produced bragging catches.
"I'll start throwing big Rapalas around the middle of September." said veteran Bridgeport angler Rick Gieser at Ken's Sporting Goods." Once the water cools, bait anglers should score on Power Bait/floating nightcrawler rigs."
On the flyfishing scene Chad Brizendine at the Troutfitter in Mammothis calling for a solid bite until the snow flies.
"It's a great time of year, the crowds are down and the fish are active," said Brizendine. "Trico patterns in the morning and Caddis and terrestrials afternoon and evening will be consistent producers."
The consensus of DFW biologist and veteran anglers is that just about all the larger Eastern Sierra lakes at lower elevations hold a population of heavyweight browns.
If you're into nonstop action and not size, brook trout (my choice) fill the bill.
Like the browns, they tend to gather near moving inlet or outlet waters. A 12 incher is considered a good-sized catch. But the 8 and 9 inchers are more than abundant and provide outstanding ultra light tackle action and outstanding table fare.
There are scores of one-day in ‘n outbackcountry waters populated with brookies. The colorful east coast import, on the Sierra scene since the early 1900s, will take just about any offering ranging from a size 20 dry fly to Power Bait.Because of their lack of birth control, overpopulation is a tendency. The special limit is 10 fish under 10 inches in addition to regular five fish bag limit — which equates to 15 fish under 10 inches.
On the DFW stocking scene, low water levels will eliminate many of the smaller streams from the stocking schedule by mid October. At the higher elevations truck trout usually call it a season around the end of October. The exception is the larger open year round waters in the Owens Valley (Pleasant Valley Reservoir and Lower Owens River} that usually see plants until, around the first of the year.
Inland Aquaculture (Alpers rainbows) will continue stocking heavyweights through September with a major plant scheduled for mid-month. Privately funded Alpers plants will continue into early October and possibly longer.
"We will be planting a big load of trophy size fish med-September," said Inland Aquaculture (Alpers trout) manager RavenAngeles. "Look for fish 5 pounds and better. Private resorts at June, Convict and Virginia Lakes will be funding plants on into October."
Beginning around early September weather conditions have a tendency to yo-yo. The past two late fall seasons have seen ideal conditions into mid-October before freezing nights are the norm. Later in the season, it's anybody's guess. Going into the last two weeks, die-hards come prepared and can experience snow, freezing temperatures and nonstop catching.
Towards the end of October some landings and resorts close down for the season, so call ahead.
For an added bonus, if you're into the camera scene, beginning around the middle of October Mother Nature paints the landscape with fall colors that rival those found on the east coast.
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Martin Strelneck is a longtime WON staffer and High Country reporter who lives in Lee Vining.