CROWLEY LAKE UPS AND DOWNS

by Ernie Gulley Fly Fishing
in Blog
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Crowley Lake continues to provide the best "Stillwater" action we have in the Sierra.   You won't be able to find another stillwater that will provide you with the opportunity to catch all three species, Rainbow, Cutthroat and Brown all over the 20" category in the same day of angling.   This is known as the "Crowley Slam" and happens every day at Crowley Lake.  The big fish are on the prowl right now 20" all the way into the 24" range and the numbers to the net can be into the 50 range for two or three anglers.   Its a great place to bring your children and have them have good success out on the water!

 

As with every stillwater, it has had its ups and downs so far this season.  However the down periods don't last very long.  The fish have been moving about the lake and will stay in certain areas for about a week and then move on to another spot.   Because the the streams and rivers being blown out so far, many, many anglers have migrated over to the stillwater side to be able to fish and have good success.   This has had a big effect on the amount of anglers out on the water in certain areas.  Also the water rising at a very quick rate effect the fish also.  Areas where a few weeks ago you were fishing in the 15 foot range are now in the 20 to 22 foot range and still rising.  This has put way more pressure on the groups of fish moving around the lake and when the fish have had enough, they try to move to other areas where they feel they can be left alone.   They have showed up in some unexpected areas, however that is all about to change since the water temperature will now certainly dictate where they will be staging.   With the record breaking snowfall we have had in the Eastern Sierra this year, the dynamics of Crowley Lake will finally come into play like it has in the past with a good snow pack year!

 

The water temps have been very high on the surface of the lake.   Temps have sometimes been in the 70 to 74 range in the middle of the day.   I have taken the bottom temps when the surface has been in this range and the bottom temps are in the 59 to 60 degree range.   This is going to push the bulk of the fish into the areas of the lake where we have cold free flowing water from the snow melt and this is where the dynamics of the lake start to work like in the past.   This is when we will see high concentrations of fish in very small areas and the catching becomes very fun with big numbers of fish to the net!  Upper Owens (North End) of the lake will pull in a lot of fish very soon!   McGee Bay or (McGee Bay Madness) will also pull in the bulk of the fish soon.   We have seen a lot of fish moving into McGee Bay, however not as many as we will see in just a few more days or weeks to come.  Right now the 16 to 20 feet of water has been holding some fish but I think they will be moving up into shallower water and into the channel real soon!  The other alternative is to fish out deeper, 25+ feet of water and this is working now but in a few more days to weeks, the bottom temps will be too warm and the fish will have to find the colder water closer to the mouths of the incoming creeks.  Little Hilton and the creek that runs into little Hilton is going to pull a lot of fish into a very small area and this will be a tough and tight place to fish.  Crooked Creek is flowing very well also and will hold a lot of fish soon but again a very, very small area to fish.  

 

With warming temperatures I would ask that everyone try to handle our fish as quickly as possible.   Try not to bring fish out of the water for photos.   Try to keep them in the net and kneel down next to the net and get your photo.   This is always a tough thing when you are an experienced angler or guide and the clients want photos but we must try to protect our fish as much as possible.   I will be practicing not taking the fish out of the water for a while.  Other options are to fish heavy leader.  I have not once fished anything less than 3x to my bottom fly this whole season so far and I have fished as well as anyone out on the water.   By using 3x you can land your fish quickly and not tire them out as much and give them enough energy to make it back down to the cool depths of the lake floor.  I have seen way to many battles already with these large fish with small leader and many floating fish for the pelicans lately.   Heavier rods in the 6 and 7 weight category along with the heavy leader will also help.  NOW I know you are saying to yourself, come on man, you are so full of it, 3x the entire season, you can't catch fish on 3x the  whole season.   Last year was the first year I never used 4x for the entire season and if we don't move into clear water, I will not be using 4x this year also.   Also, think about this:  Deeper water, 16 to 25 feet, with algae in the water, how much light do you really feel is getting down into the water for the fish to distinguish the difference between 5x, 4x or 3x.   Think about this also, you have seen me on the water guiding and fishing, I always hold my own with everyone out on the water.   If I were getting out fished by leader material, I would certainly change my tactics in the beginning of the season when the water is colder, clearer and time on the rod for fish would not be as critical as it is now.  I haven't had to fish anything less than 3x so far and by the way, 3x goes thru a size 16 (TMC 2457 scud hook) very easily!   

 

Another tactic to try to remember when we are fishing deep water with long leaders or fishing close to the mouth of the creek inlets, make sure you have enough weight on your leader systems.  You must make sure that you are using heavy flies and more split shot to keep that leader nice and tight to the bottom of the lake floor.  The extra weight will also help get your fly down thru the algae that is becoming very thick and stringy at this time.   The algae is only about 3 feet deep, however its tough to get your fly thru the algae before it wraps itself around your fly, knots and leader system.   Once you feel the fly has made it to the bottom and the leader is straight, give your rod a few quick and hard jerks and pulls so that you can possibly clean you fly of the algae it has picked up on the way down.   Clean and recast your flies every 5 minutes, the algae will also follow the leader down to the fly because of the current that we have in the lake right now.

 

It seems the areas of the lake right now fishing the best are McGee Bay out next to the S.S. Porta pot and inside towards the mouth of McGee Creek inlet. This seems to be in the 16 to 22 ft range.  Big Hilton and Little Hilton have come on as of late but not as well as McGee.  I look for the North Arm of the lake, with very few anglers fishing back in that area to bust wide open soon as well.   The water is more of a stained color, however it is still very clean and not as much algae.  

 

The perch fry and the Damsels are out!   Perch fry being very tiny, check out my videos of the fry on my Facebook page or Instagram page.   They are currently the size of the striking side of a wooden match stick but will become much larger as the days go on.   A size 20 tan colored hares ear will do the trick.  The Damsels are making a good showing but still not in full tilt yet.   The fish are keying in on them and aggressive slashes on the surface are happening all around the fleet even out into 20 feet of water.   A Cortland Clear Camo Intermediate or the Cortland Nymph Taper floating lines are excellent with a 12 foot leader and would work well for casting and retrieving to the fish up in shallower water around the submerged weed beds. This is also a very good setup for fishing the small perch fry patterns but fish them much closer to the bottom with the Clear Camo Intermediate. 

This Hardy Ultralite ASR Cassette Reel if the perfect choice for using Floating Line, Clear Camo Intermediate and Sinking line and being able to change them out within seconds.

 

My colors that have been working are just the basics, not the more exotic colors that I usually use to try to show fish something different.  Black/Copper, Black/Red, Black/Silver and those combinations in the Red bodies early in the morning.   Once the hatch starts the Grey/Black, Grey/White, Grey/Red have been doing very well.   Fish tight to the bottom in the early A.M. before the hatch and raise your grey patterns up to 12"   I wouldn't try anything any higher than a foot right now with the coldest water being on the bottom of the lake floor in the mud.   The weed lines keep getting deeper and deeper as we get more and more water into the lake.   Currently 16 to 17 feet seems to be where the weeds end and the muddy bottom begins.   This is a good area to set up shop in your water craft!