Eastern Sierra

Eastern Sierra: Winter anglers enjoying primo conditions

BY MIKE STEVENS/WON Staff Writer Published: Feb 05, 2020

BISHOP — The New Year remains relatively dry in the Eastern Sierra, and while a respectable snowpack would help power the summer season, the lack of precipitation has kept fishing on the Upper Owens River consistent. It’s fly-fishing only up there this time of year, and while a variety of bugs out of a standard sub-surface arsenal have been working, they don’t all work all the time. For that reason, experimentation right now can make all the difference on the Upper Owens.

PLEASANT VALLEY RESERVOIR kicked out browns of 18 and 14 inches and a 13-inch rainbow for Palmdale angler Albert Gregg. He stopped to throw a black Rooster Tail in PVR after duck hunting Crowley Lake that morning. PHOTO COURTESY ALBERT GREGG

“Big fish are still in the deep pools and taking green and gold Prince Nymphs, Hot Spot Pheasant Tails and Stoner Nymphs,” said Fred Rowe of Sierra Bright Dot Flyfishing. “There’s also good action on pan-sized rainbows in the river feeding on midge nymphs.”

Other patterns to keep on hand in the Owens upstream of Benton Crossing should include Zebra Midges, WD-40s, Copper Johns, San Juan Worms and egg patterns. There is some swampy ground out there on the dirt roads providing access to this stretch, so, a 4wd vehicle, or at least one with a decent amount of clearance is recommended.

Long rodders targeting Hot Creek are also taking advantage of the comfortable weather, and access is available throughout the canyon as well as through the stretch near the Interpretive Site. Flows are good at just below 10 cfs, and the mayfly hatches have been getting more significant and catching up with the morning midge hatch. If neither is going on, streamers, San Juan Worms and the occasional egg pattern are also getting grabbed.

Midges and mayflies are also working in the Lower Owens according to Rowe.

The Wild Trout Section is picking up with midges and mayflies providing the action,” he told WON. “I’ve been fishing nymphs and midges in tiger, olive and zebra, sizes 18 and 20.Mornings have been more productive on the Lower Owens River but the afternoons are getting better with the mayflies coming off mid afternoon. The mayfly hatches are not consistent so don't just hammer one spot, keep moving until you find where they're at.”


BIG SHOULDERED “Crowley Lake steelhead” as well as scrappy holdover stockers are both biting in the Upper Owens River. PHOTOS COURTESY SIERRABRIGHTDOT.COM

Spin guys are getting it done in the Lower Owens as well. Andre Nersesian of Country Kitchen in Big Pine says action has been “limit style” down in his stretch, with several rainbows in the 2- to 3-pound range being nabbed near the Highway 168 bridge and south to Bartell. There have also been steady action in the river below Tinemaha Reservoir where it’s more brown trout than rainbows being caught.

All around, fishing has been great and it should continue with the mild weather forecasted long term,” said Nersesian. “Sierra Slammers, Thomas Bouyants, Panther Martins, salmon eggs, nightcrawlers and Mice Tails are all working.”

“Gear” anglers are running into a fair bite at Pleasant Valley Reservoir where numbers are on the light side, but better quality fish are what’s biting.

WON reader Albert Gregg of Palmdale made a 2-hour stop at Pleasant Valley Reservoir after duck hunting up at Crowley Lake. After battling high winds for two hours and one mallard drake at Crowley, he found “calm, warm weather” down at PVR where he picked off brown trout of 18 and 14 inches along with a 13-inch rainbow, all on a black Rooster Tail.

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