Well-known to fly fishers, Markleeville starts GoFundMe page

I once watched plein-air painters try to capture the beauty surrounding this small community. After twin catastrophes, the town is asking for your help. (Credit: Alpine County Chamber)

On August 3, 2022, just over a year after the Tamarack Fire of 2021, the town of Markleeville sustained the impacts of heavy storm activity accompanied by mudslides and flooding. The damage ultimately closed Highway 89 north of Markleeville for an undetermined amount of time, and it remains closed. Until this access route is reopened, Markleeville’s small businesses have once again been brought to a standstill. 

Therefore, we ask for the support of all who love Alpine County and the town of Markleeville. The town’s small businesses have faced incredible odds over the past three years, and they can use our help now more than ever before. 

“Our businesses are the backbone of our community. Their resilience in the face of adversity should be recognized. Support for our businesses is the best vector for recovery, as we once again begin the recovery process.” JT Chevallier – Alpine County Economic Development Director

DFW ‘Hoot Owl’ recommends include Hot Creek and Deep Creek

“Hoot Owl’ recommendations mean fishing during the cooler hours to preserve healthy fish. (Credit: Jim Burns)

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) is asking recreational anglers to begin “Hoot Owl” practices when fishing – voluntarily changing how, when and where they fish to minimize stress and mortality among fish populations suffering from drought conditions.

“Hoot Owl” recommendations reference being active during times of day when owls can still be heard hooting. These times are typically earlier in the day when weather conditions are cooler. CDFW uses the term “Hoot Owl” to describe its guidelines for fishing during a drought which recommend fishing before noon on certain inland waters, as even catch-and-release angling during the hottest parts of the day can greatly increase fish stress and mortality.

“California’s drought cycles require all of us to work together to manage our fisheries,” said CDFW Inland Fisheries Manager Sarah Mussulman. “Multiple years of drought plus fluctuations in the timing of precipitation creates many challenges for our cold-water fish species. Anglers can play a part in lessening impacts to their favorite fishery by not fishing past noon during the hot summer months.”

Coldwater species such as trout, salmon and steelhead have the greatest likelihood of being affected by the drought this year, but low water levels and high-water temperatures can potentially affect all inland aquatic species.

CDFW has introduced a series of voluntary “Hoot Owl” Recommendations – directing anglers to focus their fishing during the cooler “hoot owl” periods of the day when water temperatures are lowest. A watchlist of specific waters anglers should fish before noon is included and will be updated as conditions change. Sustained afternoon water temperatures exceeding 67 degrees Fahrenheit for trout fisheries could trigger additions to the list.

Currently, the list of waters include:

  • Lower Owens River (Pleasant Valley Dam downstream to Five Bridges) in Mono County
  • Hot Creek in Mono County
  • Mill Creek (Walker Basin) in Mono County
  • Lower Rush Creek (Grant Lake to Mono Lake) in Mono County
  • Bridgeport Reservoir in Mono County
  • Deep Creek in San Bernardino County
  • Crowley Lake in Mono County
  • Truckee River (Lake Tahoe to the Nevada state line) in Nevada, Placer and Sierra counties
  • Upper Truckee River in El Dorado County

As conditions change, CDFW will post the updated list on the “Hoot Owl” Water Watchlist page.

Elevated water temperatures, lower oxygen levels, disease, low flows and low water levels are among the drought-related effects impacting many of California’s coastal waters and inland fisheries.

To reduce fish stress during the drought, anglers can:

  • Minimize the time you spend “fighting” the fish and any hands-on handling.
  • Use rubber or coated nylon nets to protect a fish’s slime layer and fins.
  • Quickly remove the hook with forceps or needle-nosed pliers.
  • Minimize the amount of time the fish is exposed to air, especially when the weather is warm.
  • Keep your hands wet when handling the fish.
  • If the fish is deeply hooked, do not pull on the line. Instead, cut the line as close as possible to where it is hooked and leave the hook so it can dissolve.
  • Allow the fish to recover in the net before you release it.
  • If the fish does not stay upright when you release it, gently move it back and forth.
  • Avoid fighting fish from deeper, cooler waters and bringing them into warmer waters at the surface if your intention is to release them.
  • Target fisheries that have stable water levels and species that are more resilient to elevated temperatures.

CDFW suggests all anglers follow these best practices even if anglers are only interested in harvesting fish to eat. Mortality may result from non-targeted species caught and released or fish outside of legal size limits that must be returned to the water.

Great Basin Water Justice Summit begins Aug. 3

The general public is invited to join the Owens Valley Indian Water Commission and the Great Basin Water Network via webinar on Wednesday, Aug. 3, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Pacific Time, for the first ever Great Basin Water Justice Summit, a FREE event that is bringing together communities fighting for water justice in the Great Basin. 

The Summit will feature virtual panels and discussions with the organizers as well as representatives from various other groups and entities, including the Keep Long Valley Green Coalition, of which Friends of the Inyo is a leading member, the Sierra Club, Mono Lake Committee, Big Pine Paiute Tribe Environmental Department, Confederated Tribes of the Goshute, Great Basin Resource Watch, and others.

“The Great Basin Water Justice Summit will enable communities and individuals to share information on water and the environment while building relationships to tackle important water, energy, and climate issues together,” said Teri L. Red Owl, Executive Director of the Owens Valley Indian Water Commission. “The collaborative relationships and strategies that emerge from the Summit will help build on the work that is ongoing and evolving. The Owens Valley Indian Water Commission encourages everyone interested in these important topics to attend the summit to learn more, to share, and to get involved.” Friends of the Inyo’s Executive Director, Wendy Schneider, said, “This Water Justice Summit is a very important event. It is high time that the water protectors in Inyo and Mono Counties join forces to push back against water extraction.” The public can register to attend the Summit virtually: tinyurl.com/WaterSummitD1For more information about the Great Basin Water Justice Summit, please refer to the Summit flier above or contact Teri@oviwc.com.

The Great Basin extends through most of Nevada, half of Utah, and sections of Idaho, Wyoming, Oregon and California in the United States, and Baja California in Mexico. According to the Eastern California Museum in Independence, this inland region is one from which water does not flow outward to any ocean. The area is dominated by a series of mountain ranges trending north-south and separated by long, narrow valleys. The Eastern Sierra and the Owens Valley are at the westernmost edge of the Great Basin.  

According to the National Park Service, the terms Great Basin and Great Basin Desert are sometimes used interchangeably. The Great Basin Desert is the only “cold” desert in the United States, where most precipitation falls as snow. Until about 10,000 years ago, water was abundant here as glaciers advanced and retreated in a climate that was cooler than today, and numerous large lakes formed. Then, the weather started getting warmer and many of the lakes within the Great Basin dried up. As glaciers melted, the water seeped into the gravel subsurface and remained protected from evaporation. These reservoirs of groundwater, known as aquifers, remain beneath old lake beds. Aquifers are recharged from surface precipitation, typically snowmelt. In the Great Basin Desert, however, with less than 10 inches of annual precipitation, there is little to no recharge of these aquifers.

Fish Piru Creek? The Forest Service seeks comments on its draft management plan

The Forest Service is soliciting comments by Aug. 31 on the draft Piru Creek Wild and Scenic River Comprehensive River Management Plan. Piru Creek begins a half-mile below Pyramid Dam near the Grapevine of Interstate 5. Note, it takes some clicking to get where you want to go. (Credit: USDA Forest Service photo by Jonathan Schwartz)

‘Whatever happens to the salmon happens to us’

From the Los Angeles Times: California’s Chinook salmon haven’t been able to reach the McCloud River since 1942, when the construction of Shasta Dam blocked the fish from swimming upstream and sealed off their spawning areas in the cold mountain waters near Mt. Shasta.

After 80 years, endangered winter-run Chinook are about to swim in the river once again.

State and federal wildlife officials this week collected about 20,000 winter-run salmon eggs from the Livingston Stone National Fish Hatchery near Redding and drove them for three hours to a campground on the banks of the McCloud River.

Members of the Winnemem Wintu Tribe, who have long sought to return salmon to the river where their ancestors lived, held a ceremony as the eggs arrived in a cooler.

“This is history for California that we’ve done this,” said Caleen Sisk, the tribe’s chief and spiritual leader. “It’s a real blessing.”

Museum reintroduces the classics — I want one!

In this new film series from the American Museum of Fly Fishing takes vintage rods from their collection and puts them in the hands of modern anglers. In various locations, bamboo rods of yesteryear are put to the test in both salt and fresh water, and anglers share their take on what it’s like to fish with classic equipment.

Featured in this episode: 1973 Orvis Battenkill, 8′, 8wt, 2-piece.

See you on the river, Jim Burns

CalTrout Photo Contest opens today

Now Accepting Submissions for CalTrout’s 2022 Photo Contest!

Show how you enjoy California’s natural beauty through your lens.


Join CalTrout’s annual photo contest by sharing your best photos of California’s rivers, wild fish, and your outdoor experiences. Remember to #KeepFishWet. Photos may include fish, anglers or others enjoying California waters, or be more scenic in nature. View the 2021 Photo Contest winners.

Enter today for a chance to be featured on CalTrout’s website and in CalTrout promotions and to win some great prizes. Photos must be submitted by 11:59 pm PDT on August 31, 2022. Give us your best shot, and good luck!

Winners & Prizes:

Featuring prizes from California Trout, Galvan, YETI, Redington, Patagonia, High Camp Flasks, Sunday Afternoons, and Buff.

  • GRAND PRIZE – 1 Winner
    Your photo featured on the CalTrout website and in CalTrout promotions, a one-year CalTrout membership, a CalTrout custom Galvan Torque T5 Reel, a YETI flip-top soft cooler with CalTrout logo, a High Camp Flasks Firelight 375 flask with engraved CalTrout logo, a CalTrout Buff, and a CalTrout fly box ($1,050 value).

‘Conservation through consensus’ aims to keep Montana’s Big Hole River flowing

I fished Montana’s Big Hole River a few years ago and was impressed by the way most everyone cooperates on that watershed to keep it flowing. Ranchers, fishing guides, environmentalists and community members find a way every year to manage what could be conflicting interests for the good of the watershed. What they all do is truly inspiring: “Conservation through consensus.”

A beautiful Cutty, caught at a former Superfund cleanup site in Montana. (Jim Burns)

As the West looks for solutions to the drought, this is what the Big Hole Watershed Committee writes in their summer newsletter. For context, in California, water cuts to farms reached 5,800 water rights Thursday on the Sacramento and San Joaquin rivers. That means the State Water Rights Control Board now has curtailed more than half the 16,700 water rights in those watersheds, an unprecedented move, according to the Los Angeles Times. The priority date to continue using water is — 1910.

With the water at historic lows, A World War II-era vessel just appeared in Lake Mead, after spending decades submerged at 200 feet. Now, most of it is visible.

Meanwhile, closer to home for fly fishers, a State of California Court of Appeal upheld the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power’s authority to withhold irrigation water from Long Valley and Little Round Valley in Southern Mono County. (Think Mammoth.) The ruling comes after an initial win for Mono County and the Sierra Club in 2018. LADWP hasn’t indicated how much water it plans to withhold, but given drought conditions and the meager water savings from Angelinos, “you don’t have to be a weatherman to know which way the wind blows,” as old poet Bob Dylan once sang.

Keep Long Valley Green adds humor to its serious water message at the Mammoth Lakes Fourth of July Parade this year. (Courtesy Friends of the Inyo)

 California’s Gov. Gavin Newsom called on Californians to voluntarily cut water use by 15% at the beginning of the month. Since then, residential water use overall in the state has decreased by 2%.

From the BHWC:

Despite a colder and wetter April than usual, we’re still on track for a poor year for water in the Big Hole. Drought undeniable brings stressful times and tough decisions for anyone whose livelihood depends on water. But times like these also create openings for us to find common ground on long-lasting solutions. It was times like these 27 years ago that catalyzed the formation of BHWC. The opportunity the current drought has created for us is to re-engage on water storage. As with ecological systems, human systems thrive on diversity. So, as we look to solve our water supply issues, instead of a single, silver bullet solution, we’ll pursue a constellation of improvements throughout the landscape that get us the consistent water supply needed for both fish and people.

The approach our founders chose –that of consensus and collaborative conservation — is more recognized and relevant now than ever. One of the message resonating with people is the need to solve problems from the ground up.

There are, of course, hard realities that define limits to what we can do. Drought and water lawy are realities we won’t be changing. Despite tremendous acts of water conservation by many land owners, and dozens of projects we’ve funded over the years, when headwater tributaries dry up as they did last year, there are no good options. Similarly, private property rights to use water are among the stae’s bedrock tenets.

Our door is always open to anyone in search of common ground. Those who complain (often loudly) do so from the sidelines with nothing to bring to the table Their tool of choice is often costly litigation that typically compels agencies to re-do years of work. Given the relentless trend of changing precipitation patterns and the influx of new residents to the state, we need action in the direction of resilience, not resistance to active and adaptive management. As one prominent water expert said recently, “Going slow is losing.”

The work on our plate is to deepen and strengthen our partnerships. From these relationships we can build impactful projects. We’ve brought on a new board member with deep experience working with our forests; we have long-term agreements in place with multiple federal and state agencies and the support of county commissioners; and we’re developing big projects at Pennington Bridge, Elkhorn Mine, the Eastern Pioneers and the upper river. You’ll soon see an announcement for the first Partner Businesses for our 1% for the River: Big Hole Conservation Fund, new signage at the Fishing Access Sites, and a glorious new map of our watershed! There are plenty of seats at the table for anyone willing to do the work. Let’s get to it.

See you on the river, Jim Burns