It’s chilly for Eastern Sierra anglers but no storms

SMALL BUT MIGHTY — They may be small, but the trout in the Wild Trout Section of the Owens River are colorful and scrappy and fun to catch, like this one landed by Chris Leonard.


BISHOP — With bait and tackle restrictions for winter Eastern Sierra fishing, along with reduced or zero limits in some areas, it’s more about the catch than the size for many anglers.

That’s one reason that Kittredge Sports guide Chris Leonard enjoys taking clients to the Wild Trout Section of the Owens River below Pleasant Valley Reservoir.

This special water that extends for about 16 miles south from PVR to Five Bridges is open to winter fishing with a zero limit and anglers restricted to barbless, artificials only.


But what the angler can expect to catch are healthy, wild rainbows and browns, decked out in beautiful colors and willing to put up quite a fight.

Leonard said the area is on fire right now and worth a few layers to protect against the chilly mornings that soon warm up into the mid-50’s to low 60’s.

“Nights are below freezing but the morning is comfortable by 9:30 a.m., and the bug activity tends to show up around 9 a.m. and is pretty consistent throughout the day,” Leonard said.

Veteran anglers on the Wild Trout Section will tell you that you don’t need fancy flies. Just make sure they are barbless.

Leonard suggests for dries, BWO’s or PMD’s in the 18- to 20-size range. For wet flies, tie on a Hare’s Ear or Pheasant Tail in 16 to 18.

Flows are ideal right now at about 100 cubic feet per second, an that’s great for wading which allows anglers to access those overgrown bends you can’t reach from shore.

The popular fishing area sees more anglers on weekends, even during the winter, so if you can pull off a few days on the water during the week, you’ll have plenty of open water to yourself.

Elevations are a bit lower on this section of the Owens River, so when storms do arrive you are less likely to have serious snow.

To reach the area you can go north a few miles from Bishop on U.S. 395 to Pleasant Valley Dam Road or come in off of Highway 6 to Five Bridges Road and Chalk Bluffs Road.

There are no winter restrictions at Pleasant Valley Reservoir on the Lower Owens below the Wild Trout section and lower flows there are allowing anglers good wading access to the many holes where larger, stocked rainbows are hanging out.

Mike Harrie said crowds have “just now started to slow down,” likely because of Covid restrictions, but those anglers on the water are doing pretty well.

“We aren’t hearing about anything really big, mostly in the 2- to 3-pound range, but the bite has been good with just about anything at both Pleasant Valley and the Lower Owens,” Harrie said.

Storms have yet to limit access to Hot Creek or the Upper Owens River, although morning temperatures at the higher altitude has dipped into the single digits.

Guides at The Trout Fitter in Mammoth Lakes report a fair to good bite at Hot Creek, with emerging BWO action starting late mornings. That will likely end soon and be replaced with a solid midday midge hatch.

Reports from the Upper Owens are up and down, with one day being outstanding, and the next a bust.

Hatches are still weak with midges being the dominant bug along with a scattering of small mayflies.

Larger trout from Crowley continue to migrate into the Upper O, and they will often take a larger offering such as a #12 to 16 midge or perch pattern.

Flow still very low on the East Walker River and that means fish are very spooky. Approach honey holes softly and cast well ahead then keep moving if you don’t get a bump.

Fishing pressure has been light, and mornings have been arctic-like. Wait until about 10 a.m. to be on the water.

No reports from the West Walker River that won’t likely see much action until spring.