Easteren Sierra

Eastern Sierra: Few anglers on Sierra winter waters but bite good

BY ERNIE COWAN/Special to Western Outdoor NewsPublished: Dec 11, 2019

BISHOP — Yes, it’s been cold, wet and miserable, but so far, winter snows have not built up enough to hamper access to open Sierra waters and trout continue to bite aggressively.

So, let’s take stock of fishing conditions from south to north, keeping in mind that the parade of storms predicted over the next week might change conditions quickly.

The Lower Owens River saw a lot more snow than they are used to, but fishing and access remains good.

IT’S COLD OUTSIDE — A little cold and snow didn’t stop Geoff and Vicki Juneau from Bakersfield from taking advantage of the big rainbows moving into the Upper Owens River from Crowley Lake. Fishing with Sierra Drifters guide “Two Bug” Doug Dolan, they connected with this beauty last week.

“We have been hit with a series of very cold storms the last few days. We got eight inches of snow in Big Pine Wed­nesday and Thursday and temps haven’t been above freezing since,” reported Andre Nersesian from the Country Kitchen in Big Pine.

Despite that, fishing in the Lower Owens has been good as flows continue to settle down and waters clear.

Nersesian said storms also seemed to change the bite from morning and evenings to all throughout the day.

Sierra Slammers, Mice Tails, Thomas Buoyants and nightcrawlers are all catching fish.

“Nothing big reported this week but they are in there and it’s only a matter of time,” Nersesian said.

Another good fishing hole if you want to escape the worst of the bad weather is Tinemaha Reservoir.

Nersesian said there is still some action at the reservoir, but the best fishing in that area is just below where browns and rainbows are showing up in good numbers in the river with traditional baits and lures.

“The key this time of year with decreasing flows and colder temps is to keep moving. Don’t get stuck at one spot for too long just because a fish came out,” Nersesian said.

Flows on the Middle Owens below Pleasant Valley to Bishop are now at ideal levels for wading, shore fishing and drift boat fishing.

Reagan Slee at Reagan’s Sporting Goods in Bishop said anglers on the river using Kastmaster, Rapalas and Rooster Tails have been catching good numbers along with a few larger fish.

Drift boat anglers are also pulling some larger rainbows that are hugging the cutbanks and holding in deeper holes. The secret is to keep moving.

Slee said there have not been a lot of anglers on Pleasant Valley because of last week’s storms, but there have been good reports of fish being caught at the dam and at the inlet.

“Lures seem to be working well at Pleasant Valley,” Slee said. Storms have not created any access issues.

Sierra Drifters owner Doug Rodricks reports that egg patterns starting to do the trick in Hot Creek as the weather cools and the fall spawners kick into winter mode.


JUST ADD ANGLERS — Flows are perfect on the Owens River around Bishop and the drift boat is launched and ready for the lucky angler who will enjoy a day of great fishing. Trout hunters on the Owens are finding excellent fishing right now, no matter if they are wading, shore fishing or drifting.

“Even the non-fall or spring spawners will gladly take a slow drifted egg pattern this time of year. Get them on the bottom and bouncing along slowly. Smaller midge patterns and mayfly patterns are also getting takes,” Rodricks said.

Fish are still spread out throughout both sections of the creek.

Access to Hot Creek can become an issue at any time as snow levels accumulate, so check with tackle shops or guides before heading out.

Cold and snow are now part of the landscape on the Upper Owens, but so are big, migra­tory rainbows that have moved up from Crowley Lake to spawn.

At press time there was only about a foot of snow on the Upper O, but that may change quickly with the predicted storm, meaning the only way to get to the fish will be via snowmobile.

Guides are reporting very cold water has taken some of the aggressiveness out of the trout, so it’s important to get flies right in front of the fish. Clear water also means fish are spooky, so approach likely holes quietly and slowly and cast well ahead to avoid startling the fish. Small midges are getting sips in the eddies.

The East Walker River out of Bridgeport Reservoir has seen plenty of cold and snow, but not enough to limit access to the water as yet.

Jim Reid at Ken’s Sporting Goods said flows are down to around 20 cfs, and this lower level should be maintained throughout the winter.

This is thin water, but the creek is in good condition and holding plenty of fish.

Reid said anglers are using small nymphs and some streamers to connect and tiny, size 20-22 midge patterns are hit and miss.

“I’m getting reports of 12- to 14-inch fish below the bridge and 16 to 20 inches above the (Highway 6) bridge,” Reid said.

Storms last week kept most anglers off the water and it was a good time for Reid to bag an elk in Montana.

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