Eastern Sierra

Smokey conditions blur Sierra scenery, trout bite through it

BY MIKE STEVENS/WON Staff WriterPublished: Aug 09, 2018

BRIDGEPORT — This time of year,the theme of most Eastern Sierra reportssent down the hill from WON sources is predominantly of the “warm water, fish deep with bait or troll leadcore” variety. It does seem like that’s right around the corner, but it hasn’t taken hold yet, and at least one trout thought it was already fall. If anything is standing out as a recurring theme, its smoke blowing in from the Ferguson fire.


THIS PRETTY MUCH sums up the present-day Eastern Sierra fishing scene: quality fishing with a lot of smoky backgrounds. These/This one were/was caught by Corona angler Brian Anderson who hit June Lake on a ‘quick turnaround’ trip and was rewarded by this/these quality cutthroat. He and his buddy were fishing Needlefish and Thomas Buoyants deep on leadcore and downriggers.

Irvine angler Gregg Hanour was trolling a Smithwick plug in two feet of water when he connected with a 16.53-pound brown trout in Upper Twin Lake in Bridegeport and weighed it in at Mono Village. According to Austin Byers there in the boathouse, Hanour was working a school of fingerling trout in the evening, and he added fishing has been excellent overall with a lot of 3 to 4 pounders falling for “a little bit of everything” including Rapalas, Mice Tails and PowerBait.

Taking a big-picture look of the Bridgeport area, Ray Robles at Ken’s Tackle, said Virginia Lake outside of town has been the hot spot, Bridgeport Reservoir is fishing well for mostly bait anglers with some troll fish coming in on Thomas Buoyants or nightcrawlers deployed on leadcore, and Robinson Creek is solid on salmon eggs or nightcrawlers in pretty much any stretch near a campground. Robles also said a lot of the bigger trout brought in by the Bridgeport Fish Enhancement Foundation are hitting scales all over the region. Lundy Lake is also fishing well especially in the quality department with lots of 4 pounders coming in on Berkley Pinched Crawlers and other floating baits.

THIS 16.53-POUND brown trout was caught by Irvine angler Gregg Hanour near Mono Village on Upper Twin Lake in Bridgeport. He was trolling a Smithwick plug two feet deep.

Up Tioga Pass, Saddlebag Lake is low, but that’s not affecting the fishing. It’s still a ghost town with no rental boats, water taxi, store or café available at the currently-for-sale operation, but trout to 4 pounds are being reported. The water level at Ellery Lake is good, and fishing is decent on the inlet end of the lake, the cove by the campground and the shorelines on either side of it. Buoyants and jigs will get the job done, it’s just a matter of fishing a school, so don’t attach yourself to one spot if you aren’t getting bit. Lee Vining Creek has been shining all season in terms of moving-water Sierra fisheries, and that has continued here into August. Drifting scented plastic eggs or working minijigs into the deeper holes throughout the stretches in the big meadow downstream of the campgrounds is how to get it done.

The June Lake Loop has been really wearing that smoke when afternoon winds blow that way, and to make matters worse, a mudslide covered the road on the Silver Lake side of the June Lake Loop temporarily eliminating the ability to drive the entire loop. As far as the smoke, most anglers say it’s not as bad as it looks. Jeremy Ross at Ernie’s Tackle in the Loop told WON late-summer fishing patterns are starting to take hold with most biters coming early and late. Trolling way down 8-colors with Character Lures (spoons locally-designed and exclusive to the June Lake Loop) is resulting in quality cutthroat while other cutts opt for Pinched Crawlers or jigs. Trolling copper-colored metal like Triple Teasers or Needlefish, or frog-colored Tazmanian Devils or Buoyants at 5 colors is working at Gull Lake along with fishing Mice Tails or chartreause PowerBait on a longer 4-foot leader. On Grant Lake, trolling orange Rapalas or big streamers like Woolly Buggers and Matukas are working in the evenings, and bait guys are using yellow Sierra Gold or nightcrawlers to keep rods bent during the day. Rush Creek is slow to fair with the better days seeing some stockers caught on salmon eggs or Super Dupers worked through the slower areas.

stephenharrisonandSTEPHEN HARRISON AND Andrew Valtierra with a couple quality rainbows they caught out of Lake Mary using B. Line jigs.

Rick Flamson of Rick’s Sportcenter (Mammoth Lakes) fame could not say enough about the “truly crazy” hopper bite going on in just about every creek between Mammoth and Rock Creek. He said on every drive in to work, his truck is covered with hoppers, and “even beginners can get them (on hopper patterns) if they can cast.” Took take advantage of this “biggest hatch in years,” Flamson told WON anglers should go with a hopper-and-dropper with a John’s Crystal Hopper, Dave’s Parachute or Ray’s Flesh above a flashy nymph such as the Psycho Prince or Copper John.

Rick’s Sportcenter staffer Eric Holland told WON lakes Mary and George are standing out in the Mammoth Lakes Basin. Usually, this is when you’ve got to troll or bait deep for biters, but that hasn’t gripped the area yet according to Holland who said Sierra Slammers 2-inch swimbaits working well. He added some fish are in late-summer mode an can be caught on pink and white Mice Tails or Pinched Crawlers early in the mornings and late in the afternoons. The water level is actually very fishable at Twin Lakes, and upper Twin is serving jig-chucking float tubers well, but atop the waterfall, Lake Mamie has been slow. Mammoth Creek stockers are biting in the meadow stretch from Highway 395 down to 203.

The rainbows stocked in Hot Creek last year are now in the 10- to 12-inch range and are slurping down dries like #18 Elk Hair Caddis and hoppers with or without a dropper in low flows. Doug Rodricks of Sierra Drifters Guide Service said nymphs fished through deeper pools and slots between the weeds are also getting bit. Deeper pools are kicking out nymph and dry-droppers in the Upper Owens River from the Monument all the up to Long Ears according to Rodricks. As for Crowley, he told Western Outdoor News it’s the best fishing in six years with “almost zero slow days.” Rodricks is connecting Sierra Drifters clients to big trout that are feeding on midges, callibaetis nymphs and perch fry throughout McGee Bay, in the flats, in deep water over mud and all over Crowley’s North Arm.


GREAT TRIP — Mike Meyers of Carlsbad used Berkley Pinched Crawlers to catch a 4-pound rainbow at Lundy Lake and a 2.50-pound cutthroat at June Lake.

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