Eastern Sierra

Eastern Sierra: Upper Owens fishing unaffected by recent snow

Lower Owens picking up

BY MIKE STEVENS/WON Staff Writer Published: Jan 22, 2020

MAMMOTH LAKES — Some much needed snow arrived prior to the weekend that will help power trout fishing this summer, but it was relatively light around the Upper Owens River meaning flyfishing is still solid and access remains largely accessible.

“Fish are starting to move into the not-so-common areas along the banks and undercutts, and with each snow, we typically get a new batch of fish up river to freshen up the bite,” said Doug Rodricks of Sierra Drifters Guide Service.

As far as fly selection, Rodricks has been reaching for Crystal Leech in size 16, Flashback Pheasant Tails in 14, San Juan Worms, Flamingo, Tangerine flash and kiwi egg patterns.

MORE FOR MOHR — Big rainbows have moved into the Owens River, and Lomita angler Jeff Mohr came tight on this one. PHOTO COURTESY SIERRA DRIFTERS

Rodricks went on to tell Western Outdoor News the dry-fly bite is very good on Hot Creek while resident trout key in on adult aquadic insects throughout the day. Rodricks said “micro patterns” are best, specifically, midge imitations in the smallest sizes available.

Jim Elias (FishMammoth.com) suggests Griffith’s Gnats CDC Baetis Dun, Baetis Emergers and JuJu Emergers for dries and 3x to 5x tippet. He said there is some snow on the road now, so anglers should proceed with caution.

“Blue-winged Olives are hatching around noon, and they are pretty sizable,” said Elias. “Fish are mainly keyed in on small midge patterns, although I did get a few grabs on smaller BWO dries, and I’m still hooking fish on scuds, midges and baetis patterns under a ‘bobber’ or tight lined.”

While things have been solid on the Upper O for several weeks and remains unchanged, fishing on the “Middle Owens” up around Bishop has really been on the upswing.

“The Lower Owens is firing now with really good fishing conditions,” said Chris Leonard who guides out of Kittredge Sportfishing in Mammoth Lakes. “Flows are at their usual winter level at around 150 cfs. It’s a healthy flow that allows for generally accessible wading, and my favorite place to fish down here is the wild trout section.”

Leonard went on to detail the mid-morning midge hatch that has been coming off in that stretch, and he promoted a “less is more” approach to fly selection.


THE OWENS RIVER produced a couple different flavors for trout for Mike Titgemeyer who was fishing with Sierra Drifters Guide Service.

“Wet fly action tends to prove more productive than dries, but there is some surface feeding this time of year,” he added. I would fish small black Pheasant Tails or small black midge patterns as wet flies, and we are also seeing some mayfly activity, mostly in the form of a BWO hatch around the middle of the day.”

When you run across surface activity, Leonard suggests a well-presented size 18 BWO on 6x tippet and a drag-free drift.

Spin guys are doing better further downstream in the Lower Owens as it charges south behind Lone Pine and Big Pine, and the bite has been consistent throughout the day.

“Sierra Slammers, Thomas Buoyants and Panther Martins are all getting hit,” said Andre Nersesian of Country Kitchen in Big Pine. “Bait is also gettign some fish, but the bite this winter has been definitely better on lures.”

He said the best bets for bait are nightcrawlers, crickets, salmon eggs and Mice Tails, and he tabbed the 168 Bridge, the stretch of river below Tinemaha Reservoir and the Bartell/Steward zone as the hot areas. Not many big fish have been reported out of the Lower Owens, but there was a 6 pounder that ate a custom fly (tied by the angler) out of Big Pine.

As for other year-round trout fisheries in the Eastern Sierra, the East Walker River is dealing with flows below 20 cfs. That’s rough on trout and the more sporting anglers are opting to leave those fish alone until conditions improve.

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