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Eastern Sierra

Sierra storms bring the ‘winter’ to winter trout season

BY ERNIE COWAN/Special to Western Outdoor NewsPublished: Nov 27, 2019

BISHOP — Right on cue, the first storms of winter dumped on the Eastern Sierra as anglers settled into the first week of winter trout season. Snow fell from Lone Pine to Bridgeport, bringing wet, cold and sloppy conditions, and reducing the number of anglers on the water. Those who did brave the weather, however, were rewarded with some pretty good fishing. Overall, the colder weather has triggered the fall-spawn feeding pattern for trout.

Typically, the Lower Owens escapes the worst of the winter storms and remains accessible this time of year. Flows have dropped on the Lower Owens and Andre Nersesian at the Country Kitchen in Big Pine reports more of the bigger rainbows are starting to show up early and late in the day. Sierra Slammers, Mice Tails and crickets are all getting attention from both rainbows and browns, and the arrival of colder weather should energize the bite even more, Nersesian said.


beforethestormBEFORE THE STORM — This was before the first winter storm dumped snow on the Upper Owens but the fish are still there, and Eric Hamme from Anaheim landed this hefty rainbow while fishing with Sierra Drifters guide Hans Grotewold last week.

Tinemaha Reservoir remains steady with some catfish being caught late in the day. Bass have also been active around the dam. The river section directly below Tinemaha has been hot, with most anglers catching trout limits with the occasional bigger fish and some bass mixed in.


The Middle Owens around Bishop is also picking up, as lower flows mean water clarity is improving. This is good news for drift boat anglers that are reporting some bigger rainbows and browns showing up daily. Doug Rodricks with Sierra Drifters said streamer patterns on sink-tip lines has been a good bet in the deeper pools.


“Work the undercuts and eddy pools along the edges as well, as these are great holding spots for trout this time of year,” Rodricks said. His suggestion for the best flies includes Spruce-a-Bu #8 Light and Dark, Loeberg #10 all colors, Agent Orange #8-10, Crystal Leech #8-10, Punk Park dark and light #8-12, Flashback PT #16-18, Copper Tiger Midge #18-20.


Few reports last week from Pleasant Valley Reservoir, but the best fishing has been near the dam for both larger rainbows and browns. As the winter weather cools things even more, look for the PV fish to go deep.


Storms have yet to shut down easy access to Hot Creek, and anglers are reporting a decent bite using smaller bugs and egg patterns. Both sections are fishing pretty good right now.


catchandCATCH AND RELEASE — Steve Moss from Thousand Oaks shows off a nice, 5-pound, 8-ounce brown that he caught on the East Walker River using a barbless, black and silver Broken Back Rapala.

Weather may soon become a factor for access to the Upper Owens. Cold is already there, but deep snow will limit access to snowmobiles or hardy anglers willing to hike in the white stuff. Larger rainbows continue to move up into the Upper Owens from Crowley Lake and Doug Rodricks with Sierra Drifters reports that egg patterns and Crystal Leeches worked along the undercuts and deeper pools is a good bet.


“Water is cold, so get those imitations right in front of their noses. The water is also clear, so have a stealthy approach and don’t get too close to these larger fish while casting,” Rodricks said. Some smaller fish are sipping small midges in the eddies, so don’t overlook that opportunity.


The East Walker River out of Bridgeport Reservoir is a premier winter fishery, but also an area subject to the coldest arctic-like temperatures, ice and snow. So far, snow has not been much of an issue, and river flows are now down to winter levels of about 20 cubic feet per second.


This is thin water, so look for fish to be stacked in the deepest pools. Like other areas, egg patterns are effective through the winter months. Trout hunter Steve Moss from Thousand Oaks got a sample of the good fishing on the East Walker before the snow hit, landing a 5-pound, 8-ounce brown using a barbless Broken Back Rapala in silver and black.


closingtheCLOSING THE SEASON — Veteran trout hunter Alyssa Evart from Orangevale had an epic outing at Crowley Lake in the final days of the general season with this 6- to 7-pound rainbow that she caught with a black leech. Some of these bigs should now be moving into the Upper Owens River that is open to winter angling.

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