Eastern Sierra

Eastern Sierra Report: Weather keeps winter Sierra fishing up and down

BY ERNIE COWAN/Special to Western Outdoor NewsPublished: Feb 08, 2017

BISHOP — You might call this the “window season” for winter anglers in the Eastern Sierra. Unlike many winter seasons, this year, the continuing winter storms have created only small windows when anglers can get out and fish on waters that remain open under special regulations from the general season that reopens in late April.

Pounding storms, deep snow or arctic-like cold have kept anglers off the water the rest of the time.

lockediniceLOCKED IN ICE — During one of the better weather windows, Tim Falsken joined Sierra Drifters on the Upper Owens and enjoyed tight lines and a bent rod. This was a big one, but he escaped just before coming to the net.

This week was one of those windows, but tackle shops from Bishop to Bridgeport were not seeing many anglers.

“We were seeing mornings that were crisp and clear with temperatures between 20 and 25 degrees, so it’s still better to wait until 9:30 or 10 a.m. to go out,” said Jeff Nelums at Reagan’s Sporting Goods in Bishop.

One of the best fishing areas this week, Nelums said, was the wild trout section below Pleasant Valley Reservoir.

“The river has cleared and the fly fishermen were doing pretty well up there,” he said.

Predicted storms again this week could mean more stained water and increased flows, again closing the fishing windows for a time, at least.

Nelums said he had few reports from the Owens River east of Bishop, and he has had no reports of that section being stocked recently.

Both winter and general season anglers should benefit from the efforts of the Bishop Chamber of Commerce & Visitors Bureau that has made arrangements with Desert Springs Trout Farm to stock some extra fish in Pleasant Valley Reservoir and the Owens River Near Bishop in coming months.

The first load of rainbows should arrive next week, in time for the Presidents’ Day Weekend.

Chamber Executive Director Tawni Thomson said the trout range between 1.5 to 5 pounds in size. These fish will be in addition to regular stockings by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.

“While the surrounding mountains are still covered in snow, the Owens Valley is mostly clear now, so accessing favorite fishing holes at PVR and along the river should be no problem,” Thomson said.

Flows on the Middle Owens have jumped up to 200 cfs and the deeper pools are holding a few bigger fish with a mix of sizes throughout the rest of the river.

Guides are reporting that water temperatures are at winter averages; so most of the fish are podding up together and spreading out midday once the BWO hatch starts.

Storms this week could again stain the water; so bigger streamers are a good choice when you encounter this condition.

Sierra Drifters Guide Tom Loe said there is not much to report from Hot Creek.

“Roads are still snowed in but you can walk in and fish both the Interpretive Site and the canyon,” Loe said.

The interpretive site is good for dry fly action and the best choice for the canyon is nymphing or a dry/dropper setup. Flows are up to 42 cfs.

The ice that covered the Upper Owens last week is now starting to recede with warmer daytime temperatures.

Last week’s warmer weather allowed the ice covering the Upper Owens to recede. Roads are still impassable, so the only access is by snowmobile or a long hike on snowshoes.

Guide Loe said the Upper Owens has fish holding in the slow, deep water to escape the cold and expend as little energy as possible. As might be expected, fishing pressure is very light.

Despite warmer temperatures, anglers have not returned to the East Walker River out of Bridgeport Reservoir.

“I haven’t seen anyone in here in two weeks,” said Jim Reid at Ken’s Sporting Goods in Bridgeport. Flows have also bumped up to 270 cfs as extra water is being released from the reservoir to allow room for the spring runoff.

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Ernie Cowan is a veteran outdoor writer and photographer who focuses on the Eastern High Sierra. Follow him at

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