It has been a strange summer here in the Eastern Sierra. We’ve had prolonged periods of above-average heat broken up by a very wet, cool mid-summer. By mid-July, fires were starting in Yosemite, smoke was settling over the high country, and it appeared that our fishing season may be cut short. Then, the monsoonal showers started rolling in almost every afternoon, helping to get the fires under control and clearing the smoke. Now, we’re back to typical Sierra weather with clear days and hungry fish waiting in the alpine lakes!
Since mid-July, any sunny day has brought on excellent dry fly fishing in the high country. Wild fish have often hit lighter-colored patterns. I’ve had success on various small and mid-sized caddis, parachute Adams, mayfly, and cahill patterns. In high elevation streams, dark-colored patterns resembling local gnats and mosquitos have been effective.
I have been a big fan of using a double dry rig this season. On most outings, I’ve used a large October caddis tied about 18 inches above one of the smaller dries I mentioned in the previous paragraph. This seems to draw more attention when fish are actively feeding and occasionally drawing in the bigger fish that may not be as interested in the smaller fly. The downside to this rig is that fish sometimes become tangled or hooked in the body during the fight, so a barbless hook and a net are a good idea if you’re planning to catch and release.
The forecast for Labor Day weekend calls for very high temperatures and alpine lakes are a great way to escape the heat. Dry fly fishing should still be good, likely best mid-morning and possibly in the evening. While it will be much cooler than at lower elevations, the high country will still be warm and the sun intense. Be prepared for this by carrying plenty of water and protecting yourself from the sun. It’s always a good idea to wear a long-sleeved sun shirt, hat, and carry more water than you think you’ll need. You might also consider carrying a Sawyer Squeeze filter or life straw.
After the holiday weekend, it will likely start to feel more like fall in the High Sierra, and the wildfire season could take off at any time. Fall weather means the end of prime dry fly fishing up high and brings on better fishing in middle and lower elevation lakes and streams. So if casting dry flies into alpine lakes is your style, then get into the mountains and get it while you can!