Eastern Sierra

Sierra winter fishing gets real

BY ERNIE COWAN/Special to Western Outdoor NewsPublished: Dec 12, 2018

Storms bring widespread snow

BISHOP — Eastern Sierra winter trout fishing lived up to its name last week with the arrival of a series of storms that brought decent amounts of snow to most areas.

As usual, Pleasant Valley Reservoir and the sections of the Owens River below that escaped snow, allowing anglers easy access to wading and drift boat fishing.

For now, this portion of the Middle Owens has provided some of the best winter fishing, but that does not mean other areas are bad. It just means they can be challenging, but also rewarding.

JUST DRIFTING ALONG — Warmer temperatures, the lack of storms and good fishing conditions right now on the Middle Owens River around Bishop make this a good winter fishing location for drift boats, shore fishing or wading.

Flows on the Middle Owens are at about 100 cfs out of Pleasant Valley Reservoir and guide Doug Rodericks with Sierra Drifters said this is making access to all the good runs and pools very easy.

The new BWO generations have been emerging daily around noon to 2 p.m. most days, and fish are hungry for streamers like Loebergs, Spruce-a-bu’s, and Punk Perch, Rodericks said.

Weather, and duck hunting, has kept many anglers away from Pleasant Valley Reservoir, but the few reports say the bite has been good for smaller fish, with a few bigs chewing now and then. As temperatures continue to drop, work deeper for best results.

So far, storms have not cut off access to Hot Creek, but check with tackle shops before going out, because conditions could change at any time.

Chad Kasten from The Trout Fitter in Mammoth Lakes said Hot Creek has been fishing very well, with a variety of fish biting from 6- to 19 inches.

Kasten said he has been using Hare’s Ears successfully, “but the fish don’t seem very picky.”

Runoff from recent storms has also stained the waters, making it harder fish to see approaching anglers.

About a foot of snow fell on the Upper Owens River, but guides are reporting that roads are still accessible with four-wheel drive. Drifts are deeper, so drivers are advised to be extremely careful, because some vehicles have gotten stuck in the deeper snow.

A warm spell could also turn roads into mud pits that will be difficult even for four-wheel drive vehicles to travel. Temperatures did warm up a bit during the storms, but the Upper Owens can see single-digit temperatures, or lower, when the air clears.

upperowenspostcardUPPER OWENS POSTCARD — The first heavy snows of winter arrived in the Eastern Sierra, dumping about a foot of snow along the Upper Owens River. Access to the river is still possible with four-wheel drive, but more snow could limit access to snowmobiles only.

Doug Rodericks from Sierra Drifters said some larger rainbows have moved up river and afternoons have seen a solid midge and Mayfly hatch.

“The cooler water has prompted the fish to feed in the deeper runs now and target nymphs and egg imitations,” Rodericks said.

If you want really cold, head to Bridgeport and the “Miracle Mile” section of the East Walker River, where temperatures are expected to dip to as low as 20-below zero once thing clear from recent storms.

Ken’s Sporting Good owner Jim Reid said most of the anglers who winter fish that stretch of water are duck hunting, but the few anglers on the river are connecting with some nice fish.

“I get a few calls from people in Southern California and I tell them it’s not work a drive that long right now,” Reid said.

That will change, and already the bite has shifted from mostly rainbow to mostly browns, since the brown trout have finished spawning and are now feeding.

Reid said streams seem to be getting the most interest and egg pattern that were working last week seem to be done now.

Low flows on the East Walker mean the fish are spooky and successful anglers will approach low and slow and cast well ahead into likely pools.

IN THE STORM — We are not sure who this is, but The Trout Fitter in Mammoth Lakes sent us this photo of an obviously hardcore angler toughing it out during a snowstorm last week on the Upper Owens. This is real winter fishing.

belowthestormsBELOW THE STORMS — Crowley Lake resident Tyler Haakana took advantage of the better weather at lower elevations on the Owens River and connected with several nice rainbows like this one being held by Sierra Drifters guide Devin Preston.

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