Category Archives: Lower Owens River

Solunar Theory: As Applied to Fly Fishing

For the last 4 months, I have been studying Solunar Theory.  There is plenty of information on the internet and countless books on it.  My infatuation with solunar theory started when I fished in the Ecuadorian Andes with Eduardo Campuzano, owner of Campuchoca Lodge near Quito, Ecuador.  That adventure is detailed here.  My amusing / eye opening experience was Eduardo using an app on his android phone, staring at it for a period of time and then saying, “Tim, you have come on a below average stretch of fishing days.  You should have come next week.”  At first I thought a storm must be moving in with the barometer falling.  However, the weather was perfect, sunny and even some clouds for potential hatches.   I asked him what he was staring at and he basically said, “The solunar score for today’s fishing.  It’s only a 44 and tomorrow is 43.”  Amusingly I said, “out of 100?” and he said yes.  Now, I was really skeptical, but intrigued.   I stared at his application on his phone and he showed me how the week coming the scores were in the 80s and 90s.  He told me it was based on science.  And that statement is what got me motivated to learn more about Solunar Theory.

I did pretty darn well in hot creek on a poor solunar fishing day

I did pretty darn well in hot creek on a poor solunar fishing day

Well, we went out fishing and I did well.  After practically every fish I caught, I teased Eduardo with the statement, “Below average fishing.” with a smile on my face.  He always retorted, “You should come back when it’s good.”  So after two, what I would call good days of fly-fishing and some cocktails, I decided I needed to learn more.

Since then I have tested Solunar Theory “in the field”.  This is about my findings and conclusions.

a big spawing rainbow caught on the upper owens river on a good solunar fishing day.

a big spawing rainbow caught on the upper owens river on a good solunar fishing day.

Background on Solunar Theory

John Alden Knight created the Solunar Theory.  Essentially Solunar Theory is that fishing is best when the sun and moon are closest.  Mr. Knight was an avid fly angler and wrote many books on fly-fishing.  He wrote three important books on Solunar Theory:

In 1926, while fishing in Florida Mr. Knight analyzed some local folk lore that which inspired him to evaluate 33 factors that seemed to influence behavior of fish.   The theory was that these 33 factors caused fish to be periodically more active.  One by one each factor was disproven until 3 remained: sun, moon and tides. It was from this field research that Mr. Knight created Solunar Theory.  Sol for sun; Lunar for moon.

It is also commonly accepted that Solunar Theory applies to all living things.  from www.solunar.com:

“It is now known that the sun and moon are the two major sources of the astral energies that daily bombard the Earth and all her life forms. The closer they are to you at any given moment, the stronger the influence. The day of a new or full moon will provide the strongest influence in each month.”

You can learn a lot more about Solunar theory from Mr. Knight’s books or www.solunar.com.

We've had a record winter in the Sierras this year and water temperature definitely affects the fly-fishing.

We’ve had a record winter in the Sierras this year and water temperature definitely affects the fly-fishing.

Field Testing Solunar Theory

After i got home from Ecuador i intended to immediately buy the Solunar Theory app that Eduardo uses.  Well, i thought i bought what i thought was the app.  The app store is so saturated now that i bought a solunar theory fishing app, but it was the wrong one.  i was really disappointed with it.  Turns out I bought the wrong app.  After some investigation, I bought the right app; the app that Eduardo uses, called “Fishing & Hunting Solunar Time Pro” from the iphone app store for $2.99.  It’s a really well written app.  I’m a software guy.  I know a good piece of software when I use it.

You can download the app in the apple store here.

You can download the app in the google store here.

I reached out to the developer of the app, Anton Nikitin, anton.nkt@gmail.com, and he was very responsive to a few questions I had on the use of the app.  I now use the app all the time.  It’s one of, if not the only app I use with fly fishing.

An excellent Solunar Fishing day on the Lower Owens River as reported on the Fishing & Hunting Solunar Time Pro app

So, I started my testing of Solunar Theory fishing on excellent solunar fishing days.  My first fishing day was in the surf in Carlsbad, CA….skunked.  The solunar app told me it was a “93” day and I caught the rising tide perfectly in the morning.  I only fished for a couple hours.  Skunked.  Why?  Because the waves were huge.  It was impossible to get a cast and the line down with enough strips to make it effective.  That was my first lesson on solunar theory: so many other factors can screw with it.

But, I did have 2 back to back weekend trips to the lower Owens River in the eastern sierras just weeks later.  The first weekend was 3 days where the app showed excellent Solunar fishing days above 90.  The following weekend it showed the exact opposite solunar fishing days: poor, in the 20s and 30s.  Surely that would be a good test: fishing the exact same place on both good and poor solunar days.  It was not.  Why?  The river was blown out.  But, I did go to the upper Owens river for a single day each of those weekends where the river was not blown out.  The problem was that I did good on both weekends there.  Not great; good.  I caught big fish on both those days.  I even caught a handful of quality fish in Hot Creek on a bad solunar day.  Hot creek has not fished well in a long time because of the drought.  I did slightly worse on the bad solunar days, but, not enough to blame it on solunar theory.

An poor Solunar Fishing day at the beach in Carlsbad as reported on the Fishing & Hunting Solunar Time Pro app

An poor Solunar Fishing day at the beach in Carlsbad as reported on the Fishing & Hunting Solunar Time Pro app

Summary

I believe Solunar Theory as applied to fly-fishing does help.  I am going to continue to field test Solunar Theory.  If I was guiding full time I would use Solunar Theory religiously for the way I fished; not when I fished.  In good weather and good river conditions, I’d be much more apt to dry fly on excellent solunar days and much more apt to fish “under the bobber” on poor solunar days.

However, as contrasted to hunting or fishing conventionally there are so many other factors that affect success in fly-fishing: Weather, the Barometer, river flow, water temperature, time of year, hatches, spawning, etc.  Nothing, including Solunar Theory replaces skill, knowledge and a little luck: a good cast that puts the bug in the right water at the right time and even a little luck is still the best prescription for fly-fishing success.  But, if Solunar Theory can help your chances of success, then why the heck not leverage it?

 

 

 

Like I really need another annual fly fishing trip…

Like I really need another annual fly fishing trip…  To my wife it seems like i have one every month.  But, I just couldn’t resist when a buddy of mine asked me months ago.  This buddy is Ken Foersch, president of my high School, Crespi Carmelite, an all-boys catholic high school in Encino, CA.  Ken told me this father-son all guys fishing trip in Bishop started with his dad like 30 years ago.  And they have been fishing the lower Owens river every year since.  I told him I’d be happy to teach some of the younger boys how to fly fish.  Little did I know that would be the most fun part of the trip.

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Check out the white tips on this typical 12″ brown in the lower owens river

Firstly, I knew that some of my friends in “the club” would be able to help.  I serve in the San Diego Fly Fisher’s club and there was a club trip to bishop just a couple weekends prior.  I got a ton of guidance from my buddies in the club on what to expect.  But, what I didn’t expect to hear is that a few really good fly fishermen from the club did not do well at all.

I did well.  Arguably really well.  I fished it Thursday, Friday and Saturday… I got out of there just in time in the morning yesterday before the huge storm hit.  The wind on the way home was crazy…and mammoth took 4 feet of snow!

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So I did the dawn patrol Thursday morning leaving at 4am so I could be on the water in time for the hatch.  The rest of the gang (which I had yet to meet) was not due to show up until that night and I wanted to figure out the river before they got there.

I was also pretty excited to fish a new rod.  I broke my go to 3 Wt. last year and got a ton of guidance from Mark Boname of North Platte River Fly Shop on its replacement.  I ended up buying a Temple Fork Outfitters BVK from the North Platte River Fly Shop.  What an awesome rod!  It casts the dries so well now I want to fish it everywhere.  It weighs only 2.4 Oz!  which makes it perfectly balanced with my super lightweight Lamson reel.  The BVK is a light, fast action rod, but has a soft sensitive tips.  So, it’s easy to cast like a fast action rod, but the feel is more like that really slow load on a medium action rod.  So fun to cast!  And what a great rod for the price!  It’s the only TFO rod I own and now I’m a big TFO fan.  Honestly I cannot wait to buy another TFO rod.

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“Huck-Truck” parked on the banks of the Lower Owens River with the Sierras in the background

I decided on the way to bishop, that I would go to the head of the fly fishing only section (below the footbridge at the south end of the campground) of the Lower Owens River just to see how crowded it was.  I have never been able to fish there because there are always a ton of fly fisherman there; usually shoulder to shoulder.  Last year, two buddies of mine from the club just killed there.  To my surprise no one was there.  And the midge hatch was on.  I saw some rises in the bait section so I threw a midge adult floater just feet from my truck and boom!  2nd cast and I had landed a nice wild brown.  “Hmmm… this could be a good day.”  And I was.  I fished a midge dry trailed by a midge emerger and did really well.  And then the BWO hatch went off…. so I switched to a light green bodied size 18 BWO and man, was that fun.  Once the hatches ended, pretty much so did the good fishing.  But, I had hooked 25 or so and landed half of them by 1pm.  The weird thing was that every fish was a wild brown in the 10” to 12” range.  I was not catching big fish, nor was I catching tiny fish.

I met all the guys that night….great group.  Totally fun.  some of them had fished the stocked section in bishop in the afternoon and they did pretty well on bass and stocked trout on traditional tackle.

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Austin casting dries to rising fish on the upper C&R section of the Lower Owens River

Well, the next day (Friday) I headed right back out to the head of the Wild fly fishing only section and parked exactly where I did the day prior.  No one there.  “No way!” I said to myself.  “Where in the world is everyone?  Do I not know something they know?”  The reality was the opposite.  There was no one on the 3-mile section of the lower Owens river and the fishing was great.  And no one knew it but me.  I did even better this day.  I probably had > 30 takes on the dries and landed more than half of them.  But, the same cookie cutter 12” browns.  All of them.  That is weird.  When the hatch died off and the fishing came to a halt around 1:30 PM I switch to streamers and did the 2+ mile walk downriver hunting for troutzilla.  And I caught a few….but the same cookie cutter 12” browns.  Troutzilla may have stuck me.  I got hit so hard on the swing it almost knocked the rod out of my hand.  But, he didn’t stick.  I’ll never know.

The next day, Saturday was one of the most fun fly fishing days I have had in a long time.  It was the best part of the trip and I didn’t even fish; I guided.  And not only did I get to guide, but I got to guide a newbie 15 year old high school sophomore named Austin.  Great kid!

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My buddy Ken Battling on a custom rod made for me by Tom Young

And no one was on the river again!  A Saturday!  I couldn’t believe it.  When we started I told Austin and his uncle Ken (who asked me to teach him): “You are not going to catch a fish today.  But, a great goal is to make you a proficient cast and see if we can fool a couple fish to rise to your drift.  You won’t land them, but I’d love to see you hook one.”   I taught him how to cast….and he was doing ok…and he got better… and he missed about 5 takes.  Which was awesome.  I was happy at that.  then he started hooking fish….and missing them….  And then it happened…. Just like god looked down on us and took pity … he made a perfect cast in between two swift seams…right into soft water.  He mended and his drift was perfect.  Whack!  A 12” brown hit him hard and he set perfectly…. Before I could even coach him he had the fish on the reel.  At this point I was pretty much doing cartwheels in joy and screaming the f word “f’ing awesome!  woo!  Play him!  Don’t reel him in… f’ing awesome!”  he swung the fish to my net…. “Woo!!!! “ I screamed that so loud the whole owens valley heard it….   And then I apologized to him for getting so excited and saying the F word.  He laughed.

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Austin with his first fish landed on a fly rod!