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Hot Creek, Owens, Little Lakes Valley all showing signs of life

A Little Lakes Valley golden trout.
A Little Lakes Valley golden trout.Photo by Brian La Rue

A mid-week run down south to Bishop, Mammoth Lakes and Bridgeport proved to be fun for James Lawrence of Reno Orvis and myself. He made the run knowing the Lower Owens was up to 300 CFS, the Upper Owens was down to 57 CFS, Hot Creek was below 20 CFS, but we knew we'd have many spots to ourselves.

James Lawrence from Reno Orvis enjoys a little backcountry outing in Little Lakes Valley.
James Lawrence from Reno Orvis enjoys a little backcountry outing in Little Lakes Valley.Photo by Brian La Rue

We starting our drive south from Reno about 4:30 in the morning. We chose the Lower Owens for the first stop. We picked the area near the Wild Trout Section and near the cement plant just east of town. We came to a clearing where I once fished with Kevin Peterson some 15 years ago. The brush had become overgrown since those days and water was up as predicted, but the browns didn't disappoint.

They hit two-bit hookers, gold ribbed hare's ears and a few even hit a Hare Sculpin. The only bad things was the brush was so thick and the flows were up so high, that it made extended periods of wading impossible and when you left the cool waters, you had to bush whack to get to the next pool. It would've been better suited for a driftboat.

We fished it for about 3 hours before heading up the Chalk Bluffs deeper into the Wild Trout Section. Here we threw hoppers and the same tandem rig with a gold-ribbed hare's ears working best. There were a few other guys here and there, but the Bishop summer sun sent us for a cold drink and to higher elevation.

That higher ground was above Tom's Place high above Rock Creek Lake. Lawrence had never been to Little Lake Valley so I thought I'd introduce him to the productive valley. We parked at the highest parking area and quickly rigged up with some smaller elk hair caddis patterns. Golden, browns and brookies couldn't pass on our offerings. They weren't big, but every riffle and pool produced an aggressive strike. We enjoyed some great views and solitude. The top fish was a 13-inch brown.

The following morning we found ourselves on Hot Creek. The weeds/low flows made for some tough fishing, but a couple pools yielded a handful of browns and rainbows for Lawrence. As the morning heated up, a well-placed Joe's hopper produced numerous strikes along the fair bank. The pesky 10- to 14-inch fish hammered the hopper much like the rainbows and browns did for me the week before in Idaho. Can't beat big dries and aggressive strikes.

As things got even warmer, the plan was to hit the Upper Owens. He hit the Brown's camp area near Benton crossing with hoppers and droppers. We each caught about a dozen fish, but the low flows made fish a bit spooky. They hit a foam hopper, Joe's hopper with 14- and 15-inch rainbows highlighting the action. Above the bridge was getting crowded and flows were even lower there so we packed it in and headed for home.