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Eastern Sierra: Lack of storms keeps fishing hot

BY ERNIE COWAN/Special to Western Outdoor News
Published: Dec 15, 2017
BISHOP — Winter anglers in the Eastern Sierra may find things a bit chilly, but so far there have been no major storms to limit access and the trout bite in open waters has been excellent.

Flows in the Middle Owens River east of Bishop continue to drop, creating ideal fishing for both drift boats and shore anglers.

Sierra Drifters guide Tom Loe said the river is lowering to fishable levels, but is still a bit high for wading in the wild trout section.

BEFORE THE SNOWS — San Francisco Fly-Fishing anglers Sabina Antonova, Anatolly Antonova, and Kristiyan Dimitrov are enjoying both the spectacular winter scenery and excellent fishing on the Owens River with Sierra Bright Dot guide Fred Rowe. They were scoring with #14 bead head, flashback gold ribbed Hare’s Ears and #16 bead head flashback Pheasant Tail nymphs.


There are daily Blue Winged Olive hatches, so Loe suggests staying with #18 Mayfly patterns.

“The trout truly focus on this cold weather mayfly. You will also observe some fish sipping midge clusters in the softer water, and larger pools and eddies,” Loe said.

Look for conditions to improve on the Middle Owens.

Pleasant Valley Reservoir has also been fishing very well for both bait and lure anglers. Browns and rainbows are being caught with PowerBait, nightcrawlers, and Thomas Buoyants.

Michael Mireles from Long Beach pulled in a 3.39-pound rainbow he caught at Pleasant Valley with a nightcrawler on a drop-shot with the split shot.

The lack of winter storms has also kept access to Hot Creek open and conditions there are excellent.

Trout Fitter guide Kent Rianda said he is seeing lots of midges and a fair amount of BWOs early- to mid-morning.

“Caddis are done for the season unless we go back into a big warm spell,” Rianda said.

THREE-POUND PRIZE — Pleasant Valley Reservoir continues to be a hotspot for winter fishing in the Eastern Sierra. Michael Mireles from Long Beach shows of a 3.39-pound rainbow he caught there with a nightcrawler on a drop-shot with the split shot.

Conditions on the Upper Owens are also excellent, with good access and plenty of migratory fish that have moved up from Crowley Lake. The good access also means fishing pressure has been high.

Guide Loe said the fish have spread out and are holding in deeper pools and the undercut banks.

“You will observe smaller resident trout rising on tiny midge clusters throughout the warmer days, rising in the eddies, and slower moving water sections,” Loe said. “The big fish have been tight to the bottom and on the move every few days.”

Crystal Eggs have been getting the best results, but Loe said to try a few others such as a Drifters Crawler, Crystal Leech, or Assassin.

The East Walker River out of Bridgeport Reservoir is still running at 50 cfs, and Jim Reid at Ken’s Sporting Goods said anglers have been reporting a decent bite. Both rainbows and browns are being caught.

Reid said some of the best patterns have been Zebra Midge, Flashback Emerger, San Juan Worm, Pheasant Tail, Copper John, Micro Mayfly, Zuddler, Moal Leech, Double Bunny, and Sculpzilla.

Despite the relatively mild winter weather, Sierra anglers should be prepared for sudden and severe weather changes.

Ernie Cowan is a veteran outdoor writer and photographer who focuses on the Eastern High Sierra. He can be reached at

PLEASANT VALLEY BROWN — Debbie Thompson from Santa Clarita had a great day fishing at Pleasant Valley Reservoir. She hauled in two beauties like this using PowerBait and a Thomas Buoyant. Both were released. Her husband landed another six. They were fishing at the boat ramp.
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