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Eastern Sierra Fly Fishing Report

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Jim Stimson Reports on 12.24.2016

As I gaze out the window this morning, a cold, biting fog drifts in and out of the foothills. The sage and rabbitbrush are coated in a delicate frost from the Poconip. The thermometer sits at a chilly 18º F. I may try to sneak away for a couple of hours to fish the Upper Owens, see what I can dredge up before I hop into the car and make the drive to Southern California for Thanksgiving. I am looking forward to some family time, good food, and the opportunity to wear my flip flops one more time before the snow covers the Sierra.

I made a solo run to the Trinity River last week to seek out some chrome ghosts. Success was mine! So much of steelhead fishing is just plain, stupid luck. I caught two nice fish on the swing. I just happened to be at the right place and the right time. A good steelhead fishing trip boils down to a few considerations: landed some fish, didn’t fall in the river, didn’t break a rod, and I didn’t “mark” my underwear.

Oh! Beware. Many of the streams in the Eastern Sierra have closed for the season. Watch the regulations. The Upper Owens (above the bridge), Lower Owens, and the East Walker are open year around.

Have a nice Thanksgiving!

Lower Owens River

The Lower Owens is flowing at 75 cfs. This is on the low side but the wading is easy and the trout are ravenous. 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. Money! There is also a nice midday surface hatch along the foam lines to anticipate. Small, sized 18-20 comparduns worked well even though the most prevalent bug hatching was caddis. 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. It is really fun!

Upper Owens River

The Upper O is getting better. Larger fish are moving out of the reservoir and into the river system. The fishing is hot or cold. One day the river is really grabby, then the next it can punish you. I’ve still had good success nymphing with a soft hackled pheasant tail, copper johns, and black zebra midges. The key is that the trout are moving up the river which means you should do the same. If you are not getting bumps, walk to the next run. The flows are low and clear, currently flowing 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.

East Walker

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 26 cfs. If the river sits at below 50, I avoid the East Walker to give the fish a break. Just saying’….

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