The Eastern Sierra is looking very winter like. Even where I live in Crowley Lake, the rain shadow, we received roughly 8” of snow from that storm system that arrived before the holidays. Now that the front has passed we are getting frigid Arctic air settling into the basins. The Upper Owens River has had morning temperatures hovering near -10º F. It is cold out there, really cold.
Lower Owens River
The Lower Owens is ambling along at about 75 cfs. This is on the lower side but it makes the wading easy. You can walk and wade just about anywhere. The trout are still in there, perhaps lethargic with the cold water temperatures, but they still like to eat. With the background peaks cloaked with fresh snow, Bishop is a nice place to wet a line. Try a hopper-dropper combo with either a black zebra midge or micro mayfly on the bottom. There is also a nice midday surface hatch along the foam lines to anticipate. Small, sized 18-20 bwo’s work great. I love when the browns start looking up. I usually use a 2 or 3 wt rod. You can throw super delicate presentations and fight feisty browns on a nimble rod-reel setup. Try an Adam’s or a hackle stacker. It is really fun!
Upper Owens River
The Upper O is snowy, be careful where you drive. I would recommend having a high clearance 4 WD vehicle. A towing charge will be astronomical even with AAA. With the surface of the reservoir freezing, the trout start their winter migration to spawn and to seek more oxygen. The fishing can be hot or cold. One day the river is really grabby, then the next it can punish you. I’ve had good success nymphing with a soft hackled pheasant tail, copper johns, and black zebra midges. Egg patterns work well too. The key is that the trout are moving up the river which means you should do the same. The fish are really spread out through the system. If you are not getting bumps, walk to the next run. The flows are low and clear, currently running at 52 cfs. Be stealthy. The sun angle is low now which means you cast a long shadow. Try to keep your shadow off the water and walk quietly to the river’s edge. If you see fish, they can see you.
Keep an eye on the flows, they’ve been all over the map the last couple of weeks but I believe they are settling into the winter mode. This morning it was about 28 cfs. If the river sits at below 50, I avoid the East Walker to give the fish a break. Just saying’….