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Eastern Sierra Report: Winter Sierra waters still hot fishing destination

BY ERNIE COWAN/Special to Western Outdoor News
Published: Dec 06, 2017

BRIDGEPORT — The East Walker River out of Bridgeport Reservoir remains on fire for winter trout, but the Upper Owens River is not far behind for good fishing.

Flows on the East Walker are hovering at an ideal level of around 50 cubic feet per second, and trout seem eager to bite.

Mornings are chilly, and Jim Reid at Ken’s Sporting Goods said anglers can sleep in and hit the water about 9 a.m. for the best action.



UPPER OWENS BIG — Joel Carrizosa from Torrance showing off the largest Crowley Steelhead of the season thus far caught in the Upper Owens River. This rooster took nearly ten minutes to bring to net. Carrizosa had a dream day fishing with Sierra Drifters guide Tom Loe.

 Reid said there is a good mix of rainbows and browns, and patterns to try include, Copper John, Micro Mayfly, Micro Stonefly, Flashback Emerger, San Juan Worm, Zebra Midge, Mini Leech, Seal Bugger, Moal Leech and Zuddler.

The Upper Owens River has yet to be shut down by winter snows, and that means angling pressure has been high.

Guide Kent Rianda at The Trout Fitter in Mammoth Lakes said there are plenty of small fish along with larger Crowley migrants in the river. Brown trout have so far not made a huge run this year.

The deeper pools are holding good numbers of fish, but they do keep moving, so successful anglers are doing the same thing. If you are looking for bigger fish, stay on the bottom.

Rianda also reports that Hot Creek is running clear and cold and is stilled with lots of small fish that were planted a few weeks ago.

“I seriously mean a lot, to the point where it’s hard to finish a drift without getting a grab by one of these 6-inch fish,” he said.

These fish will be reproducing and represent the future of Hot Creek, so treat them carefully.

Rianda said he is seeing lots of midges and a fair number of BWOs early- to mid-morning. Access to Hot Creek is still wide open with no snow currently blocking the road.


OVER THE RAINBOW — Jeff Hudson from Yorba Linda hauled in some beautiful fish while fishing the East Walker River with Sierra Drifters, including this colorful rainbow. The bite continues to be strong with flows at ideal levels.

Pleasant Valley Reservoir has seen light action on weekdays and a slight spike on weekends.

Sierra Bright Dot guide Fred Rowe said water levels on the reservoir are as low as he has seen.

“I assume the fluctuation in levels is having a negative effect on the trout fishing,” Rowe said.

Reagan Slee at Reagan’s Sporting Goods in Bishop said the few anglers who have been fishing Pleasant Valley are catching both browns and rainbows, early and late in the day near the boat ramp.

“If you are fishing bait, go deep, and if you ae working a Kastmaster or Rapala lure, stay on the surface,” Slee said.

Flows on the Middle Owens east of Bishop continue to drop and some bigger fish have begun biting, along with good number of school-sided fish, according to Sierra Drifters guide Tom Loe.

“We have been fishing our sink tip lines and pulling streamers like Loebergs and Spruce-a-bus to draw these fish out of hiding,” Loe said.

As flows continue to drop, anglers can expect the bite to continue to improve.

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


IT’S WAYNE’S WORLD — He only gave his name as Wayne, but he had a nice 3-pound rainbow that he caught in the Owens River. Flows are dropping to ideal levels and the winter fishing has been picking up.

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