BY ERNIE COWAN
BISHOP — It’s the New Year, the winter solstice has passed, and days are getting longer. It’s a great excuse to do more Sierra trout fishing, right?
Things were on the slow side the past few weeks with increased Covid lockdowns, an aggressive winter snowstorm and, of course the holidays, but now it’s time to get serious about trout hunting.
Conditions will only improve as the calendar moves closer to spring and those hardcore trout hunters who don’t mind a little chill can score some epic fishing adventures.
Yes, it’s cold this time of the year and snow can arrive at any time, but veteran winter anglers are prepared for that and will adjust locations, equipment, and techniques as necessary.
This week saw unsettled conditions with some snow, but those who did get out over Christmas either before or between storms had some pretty good fishing.
The Lower Owens, below Pleasant Valley Reservoir and running south past Bishop is least affected by storm. Snow, if any is light and temperatures are generally milder.
The Wild Trout Section just below Pleasant Valley has been producing good numbers of smaller rainbows and brown. Remember, there are special regulations here, so make sure you are using barbless, artificials only.
Flows in the Lower Owens are at a low winter level now, and this can be good and bad. The fishing can be more challenging, but the low water also means anglers can wade into those areas not usually accessible from shore.
Best bet is to work the deeper pools where bigger fish will be hanging out. Lures and bait are ok here, and fly tossers will find midges work in the mornings with BWO and Caddis getting looks later in the day. Nymphing has been strong and consistent.
Depending on who you talk to, fishing at Pleasant Valley Reservoir is either a bust or a boom. Likely it’s up and down and you just need to be at the right place at the right time.
Hot spots at PV have been by the boat ramp and just below the power plant. Typically, the deeper water near the dam is good this time of the year, but you have to go to the bottom to get those bigs looking for warmer water.
Snow last week was enough to create a muddy mess on access roads to the Upper Owens.
At press time the amount of snow coming in with storms this week is unknown and if significant, it could limit access to hikers or those with snowmobiles.
If you can get to the water, there are some big Crowley rainbows on the prowl. Best bet is to work the deeper pools and cutbanks with #16 parallel Assassin Darks, or bigger midges and perch patterns.
Access can also be an issue at Hot Creek, so as conditions change, anglers should check with local tackle shops before heading out to get the latest reports.
Guides at The Trout Fitter in Mammoth Lakes say fishing on Hot Creek has been fair to good, with midweek best because of lighter pressure.
Days begin with a late morning BWO hatch, but that will be ending soon. Midge hatches midday in slow water can be impressive, guides say, but otherwise there have been few rising fish. If you are still there in the afternoon, there has been some caddis action.
Reports from the East Walker River are light, likely due to weather and holiday diversions.
Flows there remain as low winter levels, which mean successful anglers will be cautious about approaching a likely hole, casting well ahead and using smaller bugs.
Winter fishing on the Easter Walker can be up and down this time of the year but can produce some nice trout for anglers who use the right bugs and techniques.
Ken’s Sporting goods in Bridgeport is the best source for the latest weather, bite and bug information.
The West Walker is essentially done until warmer weather returns in late February or early March. Ice, lower water and challenging access also make the West Walker a difficult place to fish until spring.