A Sierra Drifters Fish Report for 3/23/18

Guided fly fishing trips for Crowley Lake, Grant & Silver Lakes, the San Joaquin, Upper and Middle Owens Rivers, East Walker River, McGee Creek, Pleasant Valley Reservoir, Hot Creek, & the Gorge located near Mammoth and Bishop Ca. will give you opportunities to catch trophy rainbows and browns while being guided by expert fly fishing pros. Sierra Drifters guides utilize top of the line center console bay boats, drift boats, float tubes, and high quality fly fishing tackle to guide you on these blue ribbon trout waters.


Quick Look Fish’N Conditions 3/23/18 

Lots of new snow on the mountains, with soggy/icy roads in the Upper Valleys. The Owens Valley also got significant rain. Cold air temps with additional precipitation and wind forecast for the weekend.

Rut Row! The water levels are trending up now in anticipation of considerable precipitation . The Middle Owens continues to be good for drifting. I strongly suggest this guided program if you are considering a trip this spring.  Recent plantings, & good water conditions are making memorable trips. Tugging streamers like Spruce-A-Bu’s or smaller Punk Perch along the deeper cut banks is the right call. The BWO hatch is in full swing, & the trout are focusing their feeding during this emergence. Nymphing with pheasant tails, Assassins, and midge emergers like gillies; or crystal pupa patterns before the hatch will get you grabs. Noon is when the adults start to pop. Blue Duns, or light olive bodied mayfly profiles #16, 18 will replicate the naturals. Dry/dropper rigs using hi-vis BWO adults with a bead head nymph can be deadly in the tailouts of select pools. Flows remain low, & stable currently. 

***The Upper Owens is experiencing the beginning of the cutthroat migration from Crowley Lake.*** These beautiful fish will only increase in numbers, & should be around through May. There remains some snow along the banks once again, & the potential for more on the way soon. Not huge accumulations; however the drive in is iffy on some of the feeder roads with deep ruts. 

The East Walker is ripping. Moving at over 400cfs. Go elsewhere until it recedes.

Hot Creek has the usual winter time aquatic weed issues. Water levels can move up due to some snow melt when it warms. There are good numbers of smaller fish concentrated just below the hatchery, & in the deeper pockets and slots in the canyon.  Be careful if you have felt soled wading boots on the snow/ice.

Lake level on the rise with off colored water in the transition section due to run-off from Pine Creek. Watch the mud near the lake after it thaws, it can be nasty! Intermittent power generation may be occurring in the near future; so if the turbine is boiling when you get to the parking area, head up into the gorge, or float tube the lake proper. Tubing has been good for fly fishers willing to kick around from the launch ramp to the inlet using full sinks, & streamer patterns. The small river section down from the powerhouse is good for wading, & casting dry/dropper bead head rigs so long as the turbine is not churning.

Gorge water releases are climbing making for improved conditions. Conditions are fine in Upper Gorge using dry/dropper rigs. BWO’s coming off at mid-day.

We have changed to a Gmail account. Please add driftfish1@gmail.com to your address book, & delete the driftfish@qnet.com account. Thank you.

Middle Owens River (Bishop Area) 3/23/18

Flows are beginning to move upward, & are currently at 115cfs. This trend typically continues once it begins this time of year. This March has been one of the best for drifting in recent years. We have been having some great trips using streamers. The blue winged olive mayfly hatch has been consistent. We are also observing some large brown drake mayflies coming off on the warmer days. The stone fly emergence is just beginning. Golden stones are like filet mignon to the trout! The BWO hatch begins most days around 12:30, and lasts for about ninety minutes. Use Assassins, flashback pheasant tails (large ones for the drakes), hares ear, or small punk perch patterns for nymphing. Midge activity can accelerate as high pressure sets in. It is wise to have smaller olive larva, and pupa patterns this time of year if the barometric pressure rises. Cooler weather may temporarily slow the bite down during periods of colder storms.  Crystal tiger, and olive zebra midges, small gillies, crystal midge emergers, and pupa patterns #20/22 will get you grabs in the deeper pools while fishing properly weighted, tandem rigs fished below an Under-Cator. Adult blue winged olives in #16 & 18, para midge adults, & Stimulators when the stone flies pop. Drift boat trips have been consistently fun; with good numbers of planted rainbows and browns showing each trip. A few large rainbows are also smashing our streamers most days. The sections we float are well downstream from the fire, and I am happy to report that water clarity remains normal; with no ash concentrations I have observed. We are primarily pulling streamers using the “dip & strip” method with sinking tip lines. There are opportunities to dry fly fish during the BWO hatch some days, & the fish are focusing on this emergence. Spruce-A-Bu’s, Loebergs, & smaller Punk Perch patterns have all been fooling the trout. Get your licks in soon here friends, flows will be moving upward soon. 

Veteran Drifter, and long time buddy Mike “Macman” McIntire had a great day for his float on the MO. Macman did the “dip & strip” with Spruce-a-Bu, & Punk Perch streamers. Fun dat pal, thanks.

Ramon Mendoza showing off one of the many large rainbows he bested while drifting for two days. This fish was fooled by a Punk Perch #16 during the BWO emergence. Bravo Ramon, impressive numbers.

Ramon punished the big rainbows for his two days of drifting. This big hen smashed a Spruce-A-Bu streamer.

Madison Kelly is back on the report showing off a great rainbow she caught on her first float with Doug Dolan. WooHoo Maddy!

Will Koh showing off one of his sweet browns he got on a Spruce-A-Bu.

Many thanks to officers Kyle and Ryan Gonzales. “LAPD” vs. “OC Sheriffs” first annual drift competition was a huge success! Lots of laughs with these two amazing brothers. Thanks for your service guys, be safe. 


This aerial shot taken on 2/19/18 shows the burn area along Chalk Bluff Road that parallels the Owens River along the Wild Trout section. The fire burned 3000 acres, & was stopped just above Five Bridges Crossing. Access to the wild trout section, and campground are open. 

This fishery remains open year around. Special regs from the footbridge at Pleasant Valley campground to the fishing monument 4.7 miles downstream. We guide you from a drift boat; or walk and wade the upper sections.

   Upper Owens River 3/23/18

Some cutthroat are now present. Flows have dropped to normal levels, although the water remains a shade or two off color due to significant rain.  Access roads remain a mess due to fresh snow, mud, and large puddles in the two track ruts.  It gets tricky for access after the ground thaws in some sections. The bite will begin to pick up after the next series of winter storms slashes through the region.  There are some husky spring rainbows also showing up. Numbers will steadily increase through early April-peak around the general trout opener, with migratory fish hanging around through most of May. Crystal Eggs, San Juan Worms, #16-18 Assassins (dark and light), #14-16 Crystal Leeches, and #16-20 Copper Tiger Midge, Zebra Midge, and Gillies have been good patterns fished with plenty of weight below an Under-Cator.  

The section upstream from the Benton Bridge is open year around with special regulations. Seasonal closures, and angling restrictions apply downstream from the bridge, check regulations before fishing in this section. We walk and wade guide here. During winter we will access the UO with snowmobiles.

Sherrif Kyle “KG” Gonzales cuffing a nice rainbow right before the series of storms that are forecast to move in.

This is the first migratory cutthroat trout we have documented for the spring run in 2018. Told ya they would be here a little early!

Jack Lyons tight to a nice rainbow he nymphed up using crystal eggs. Flows have dropped significantly here moving the trout into the deeper pools only.

Hot Creek 3/23/18

Light snow accumulations with colder weather forecast for the weekend. Weather is gonna get nautical. Numbers are decent here during warmer periods; with fish holding in the deeper slots and pools.  The stream bed is blanked by thick aquatic weeds. This is normal for the lower water periods of the year.  Best bite occurs during early afternoon when the BWO’s are emerging. Large midge hatches coming off during a high barometer. Dry dropper rigs with a #16-18  Para Hi-Vis BWO and a #22 Gillie dropper 12″-18″ below is a consistent rig currently. When you observe those noses sipping the adults in the suds, remove the dropper, and dope up those high wings so they ride high on the surface.  Longer leaders, & light tippet in the 5-6x class is best. During off hatch periods try attractor patterns fished without an indicator. You can get into some of the larger fish using this method during the winter months.

This is a year around fishery with special regs in place. We walk and wade guide here.*Tom Loe, Doug Rodricks, and Doug Dolan are under permit from the Inyo National Forest Service to guide Hot Creek.

Pleasant Valley Reservoir 3/23/18

Lake levels are on the rise after a prolonged stable period.  Access in the transition section near the inlet remains fine for the time being.  The mud along the river bank can  be extremely nasty after it thaws. It can be frozen on the surface; but will not support you when you walk on it during the mornings. Dry/dropper rigs are the hot ticket for trout sipping on midges, & mayflies in the transition section.  Still water addicts can get their fix here all winter. This fishery is planted all winter, & can provide some excellent fly fishing opportunities from a float tube; or near the inlet section that feeds the reservoir proper. Full sinking lines fished along the steep shoreline drop-offs using patterns like Loebergs, Crystal Leeches, Parallel Punk Perch, Parallel Agent Orange, & Spruce-A-Bu’s are good calls for “freeze tubers” during the winter. Locals call PVR “little Crowley” as fly fishers in the know will use still water nymphing techniques to score big numbers during periods of stable water levels. Set your “Under-Cators” to suspend those broken back midges, crystal tiger/zebra midges, gillies, & Assassins around the 12-14 foot depth. The inlet section is historically the most consistent section to fish. This diverse fishery also allows you to move into the short river section that feeds the lake. Looking much like the East Walker, this short; but sweet section has plenty of pocket water and riffles that hold holdover rainbows and browns that move into the heavy brush during periods of lower flows. Dry/dropper rigs using para hi-vis BWO’s, Stimulators, and hi-vis caddis patterns as your upper; with crystal tiger midges, crystal olive caddis larva, & parallel; or standard assassins as a nymph. The transition area that dumps into the lake has slower moving/deeper water that requires the use of an Under-Cator, or longer dropper off your dry. This is perhaps the most fertile area of the lake, & competent roll casters may get huge days here while making extended drifts in the foam lines. The trout will concentrate here to feed on the abundant chironomid, & mayflies that come off throughout the cooler months. Keep this fishery in mind if the weather gets nasty in the higher elevations.


The Powerhouse, & confluence of Lower Gorge into the Owens. You will observe tremendous turbidity, & high flows emanating from the chute when hydro electric power is being generated.

This is the confluence of Pine Creek/Rock Creek into the river section of the Owens just downstream of the powerhouse. Flows can change here quickly from snow melt.

Beautiful trout like this wild brown Jeff Hudson caught hold in the plentiful riffle and pocket water found in the river below the powerhouse at PVR.

This fishery is open year around. We guide it from shore; or float tubes.

 The Gorge 3/23/18

Flows have moved up here making for improved conditions. The fire did not impact this area. The best bite occurs during the BWO hatch mid-day. Use lighter weight rods here with a mayfly adult or go with a dry/dropper combination. Our Parachute hi-vis BWO is an excellent pattern as your dry. FB PT’s, Assassins, & small midge emergers are good calls for the dropper nymph. 

Season open year around

 East Walker River 3/23/18 

BLOWN OUT. Big water (430cfs) coming out of BPR. This series of storms is forecast to add many inches of water into this drainage, hence the precautionary step to lower the lake to prevent flooding. This is a year around fishery with special regulations. We walk and wade guide here.

Crowley Lake

Season closed until April 28, 2018.

Big Ben Kaufmann with a stunning brown he got with Doug Rodricks. Crowley will be in great shape for the 2018 season so reserve your guided trip on one of our fish magnets now.

Bridgeport Reservoir 

The reservoir is now closed until 4/28/18.

Mitch and Madison Kelly fished with Tom Loe during the regular trout season and scored this fat rainbow!

 Jurassic Pond

The “Pond” is now closed for the season and we will start guiding here again next Spring!

Jurassic Pond has no equal in the Eastern Sierra. This private water holds the largest rainbow and brown trout to be found anywhere in the region. Sierra Drifters Guides have exclusive access to these amazing fish. Book your trip for next season and see for yourself how fantastic Jurassic Pond truly is!



Balanced patterns are the new rage for nymphing, & streamer fishing. Parallel Punk Perch has been the hottest fly on Crowley Lake recently.  We have been guide testing these patterns for several years, & I can honestly say they are the most significant improvement in fly design in over a decade. They are truly superior to conventional fly designs. The flies ride “parallel”; or “level” to the bottom giving them a far more realistic profile. The jig style hook becomes more effective as it seldom gets snagged on the bottom, & sets efficiently in the fishes mouth. These flies are intended to fish as your bottom fly in a multi fly; or tandem rig. They are deadly fished solo as a streamer. Add these patterns to your quiver for all fisheries that you still water nymph; or cast streamers.   Click on “fly sales” on the nav bar above, hit “menu” first from a mobile device to access the nav bar.

You can pick up our flies & Under-cators at Reagan’s Sports in Bishop, the Crowley General Store (not at the lake), Ricks Sport Center in Mammoth (limited selection), Bridgeport Reservoir RV Park (currently closed for winter), Stroud’s Tackle in San Diego, & Malibu Fish’N Tackle in Thousand Oaks.

I have added a picture gallery to the website . Click on the “gallery” button and do a search for your name, or scroll through the pages. You can double click on the picture to enlarge it once it is located.

Thank you for visiting our website and checking out our report. Be the Fly…. Doug Rodricks, Sierra Drifters Guide Service.



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