The Upper and Middle Owens Rivers located near Mammoth and Bishop Ca. are fishing fantastic right now. Fly fishers are enjoying some excellent numbers and quality rainbows while being guided to these locations by snow mobiles and drift boats. Ben Kauffman and Ron Peters will vouch for the incredible fly fishing action occurring on the Upper Owens 3/3/14.
Looks like a good chance of rain/snow on Monday with much cooler temps for a couple days. Overall access to the Upper Owens and Hot Creek have improved greatly the last few days due to very warm weather. The snow is pretty much outta here in both locations. When the ground thaws in the afternoon it is a muddy mess in some locations along the river & you can get stuck. Owens Valley has some muddy two track roads but very navigable overall. Fishing remains very good in most of the year around fisheries. Another bout of wind with a chance of rain by Sunday into Monday. West Walker River NOW OPEN with special regulations. It has been heavily planted along the campground sections of HWY.395. Flows have come up significantly on the East Walker and Middle Owens recently. Look for improved conditions in both areas.
The Drifters guide staff would like to thank our clients for their business this winter. We CRUSHED past bookings. We have just had the best December through February in seventeen seasons as the longest standing group of guides in the Mammoth region. Thank you!!! John Morgan, “hands down the most respected guide service in the Sierras! I’m also glad they are getting the much needed moisture!!!! ”
Upper Owens River (3-9-14)
The warmer morning temps and overcast skies moved the fish back into the channels and out of the pools making it more difficult to locate concentrations of migratory jumbo sized rainbows I call Crowley Steelhead. It remains good up here, you just need to cover more water. The upper section of the river called “Long Years” has good numbers of trophy rainbows and way less pressure. We have had some EPIC days recently with clients landing over thirty trophy sized rainbows in a single day. Roads along the river are still soft and muddy in some areas after they thaw, overall access is good. We are seeing good midge and mayfly (BWO #16) activity daily if the wind does not hook up. The school sized fish are active and feeding. Have some mayfly nymphs like flashback PT’s, assassins, hares ear, #14/20. The dark assassin bird’s nest was the hot fly today #14/16. You will also want broken-back articulated or regular crystal tiger and zebra midges, crystal olive zebras and caddis larva patterns #14/18 for tandem nymph rigs fished beneath an Under-cator. On bright sunny days use the yellow or clear 3/4 inch Under-cator. It will not be as obtrusive to the wily trout. Hi-vis para BWO adults are good to use as an indicator on a dry/dropper bead head rig. Parachute midge patterns #20/22 are also hot surface flies for the sipping trout late morning. #18/16 BWO adults are also on the menu, I really believe in the quill wing ones I sell and use, check them out at the least. The hot rig during off hatch periods is a crystal leech, dark assassin, or SJ worm as your upper fly. Use the Otter egg patterns we sell at Reagan’s, and Crowley General store as the lower. This set-up is just flat deadly, and we have perfected how to rig and present it to fool those Crowley Steelhead. Streamer fishing can also be productive using a light or clear sinking tip. This is a good option if the wicked witch of the west blows in. Use Loebergs, punk perch, agent orange, or crystal leeches working the deeper cut banks & pools from an upstream position. Book a trip with us and you will obtain the keys to the castle & learn how to catch these incredible fish. The run lasts through March so get up here before it’s over.
GUIDE TIP: Winter time takes are as soft as a butterflies kiss, so set on anything. If your Under-cator stops, shimmies, hovers, or plunges, SET IT! I tell clients look for reasons to set the hook, not excuses why you didn’t! Swings are free, and you can’t strike out while fly fishing. Try to set the hook moving your rod the direction your indicator is moving. This establishes ANGLE & insures you pull the hook INTO the fish, not out of it’s mouth. Anything 4 feet or deeper may hold a fish or two.
Fun day Harpy, that is a great fish my friend. Crowley Steelhead are still holding on the UO. 3/9/14
Happy birthday Harold! That is a great gift the Upper Owens gave you buddy & you deserve it. Wow!!! 3/9/14
Check out that beauty friends…The fish too guys! Michelle Del Pero with a stunning buck. 3/8/14
An EPIC day for the brother & sister team of Michael and Michelle Del Pero on 3/8/14 These kids did not even take pictures of fish under 18 inches. 3/8/14
Eat your heart out guys. This gal can stick em! 3/8/14
Unbelievable day Mikey, thanks. 3/8/14
I’m still chuckling after this trip. Sister Michelle letting Michael know it’s game on baby! 3/8/14
Now that is a post card shot! Way to go Michelle. 3/8/14
Michelle had an epic day on 3/8/14. “This is like a dream it’s so good here!” I was all smiles friends.
Mikey flat out punished them on crystal leeches and assassins late morning through afternoon, egg patterns in the morning. 3/8/14
That is a beautiful fish Kurt Olson! Great day hunting Crowley Steelhead 3/7/14
Robert Peak had a great day on his guide trip 3/7/14. Pretty fish Rob!
So… I’m taking pictures of the guy who showed me how to take pictures. Pro photographer Mike McIntire with a BEAST! What an awesome fish for Macman on 3/4/14.
An old friend from my commercial swordfish days Lonnie Argabright did well on his first trip nymphing for Crowley Steelhead 3/4/14. Way to “stick um” Lonnie boy.
I gave Lonnie grief for wearing bright red while hunting snow bows-this one did not seem to mind and it made a great picture! 3/4/14
We cherry picked all the hot spots using the snow mobile to navigate easily on the snow and had an incredible day on 3/3/14. Ben Kaufmann with a bulbous head shaped rainbow-one of many I might add. I could have done an entire fish report with the numbers Ben & Ron got on their guide trip. High fives!
Ben & Ron had FOUR, count them-FOUR quality doubles on 3/3/14! This is an amazing thing on a moving water, and punctuates how good it can get at times on this fishery. Truly a pleasure guiding you today boys.
This guy can fish fly fish friends. Ben Kaufmann spanked the big snow bows 3/3/14.
Most improved Sierra Drifters client in 2014? Ron Peters made a great case of it today! 3/3/14
Ben & Ron with another double 3/3/14. Epic day guys, ya done real good! 3/3/14
Thanks to the San Diego Fly Fishers for all their support this past weekend. Jack Duncan got to play with a bunch of snow bows on his trip 3/2/14
Steve Wright had his first lessons in nymphing on the Upper Owens. He passed with honors! Nice snow bow Steve. 3/2/14
The SDFF gang hit the Upper Owens just right. Gary Farrar shown with one of many nice “snow bows” he caught and released on 3/2/14
SDFF member Billy Bacon got this blimp shaped rainbow on a snow bow trip into the Upper Owens on 3/2/14
San Diego Fly Fisher Steve Jonak got his first Upper Owens snow bow on 3/1/14. Nice work Steve!
Yup, I still enjoy angling for fish of this caliber. Snow bows rock! Self portrait taken on 3/1/14
“This is an amazing trip, what a thrill!” These fish are incredible. Steve Jonak with one of his snow bows caught 3/1/14
San Diego Fly Fisher Bill Stock with his first Crowley Steelhead of the day. Thanks to a great effort by Two Bug Doug; Bill was able to fish both the Middle & Upper Owens in a single guide trip. 2/27/14
SDFF member Bobby Blazer did well on his guide trip 2/27/14 fishing both the Middle and Upper Owens in a single day! Nice fish Bob, great effort. 2/27/14
This awesome stag is flagging it’s dorsal! Great fish Laura C!!! 2/24/14
Truly a beautifully colored up male rainbow caught by Gary Ceccarelli on his guide trip 2/24/14.
John DeLoof is a certified Orange County Fly Fisher and caught this bonefide golly whopper on the Upper Owens with Two Bug on 2/20/14 on an egg cluster pattern we use and sell. Great fish JD!
Navy Seals always get their target. Terry Oliver holding his first fish nymphing the Upper Owens. Good times Terry, thanks! 2/17/14
The trophy Crowley Steellhead are getting harder to come by as the water warms and the fish begin moving into spawning positions along the cut banks. David Kim had no problem getting this huge hen to take a picture with him. Happy Valentines Day David! 2/14/14
Lead singer and guitarist extraordinaire Todd Nichols from one of my favorite rock bands “Toad the Wet Sprocket” with a quality UO rainbow. This talented musician picked some nice fish in the wind. 2/13/14
Fritzy boy got a really nice fish to hit the assassin this afternoon in a well pounded pool. Change up your patterns switching from attractors to what is currently hatching if you observe fish feeding. 2/10/14
Allen Zimmerman had a once in a lifetime day on 2/2/14 landing numerous rainbows like this awesome stag. It takes some great fishing to get me jealous-let’s say I was as green as a caddis worm with envy after this guide trip!
Middle Owens River 3/9/14
Flows have finally begun to trend upwards and are currently at 120 cfs. This is near perfect in my opinion and will allow the fish to spread out into the riffle water during the hatch cycles. Be careful navigating some of the dirt roads around the Middle Owens, they are very soggy from all the wonderful rain the OV received. Fishing is as good as it gets in the wild trout section currently. The BWO mayfly hatch is in full swing and the wild fish are moving into the riffle water and tail outs to feed mid-day. The trout are really keying in on this hatch & you may experience a decline in grabs after the emergence some days. The midge hatch is nearly a blanket emergence on the high pressure days. These smaller insects are a mainstay for the Sierra’s trout. Use very small patterns like tiger and zebra midges with crystal tails #20/22 to imitate the shucks they crawl from. # 20/22 gillies, pupa, & crystal emergers work well while nymphing beneath an Under-cator. Midge cluster patterns and parachute adults #20/22 are best for dry fly enthusiasts. The BWO or baetis mayfly hatch is also a hot ticket now. Nymph patterns like assassins birds nest, flashback pheasant tails, and ribbed hares ear patterns work great to represent the larger sub-surface profiles. #14/18 are good calls. The adults have upright wings, twin tails, and ride high in the foam lines. First generation adults are larger-#14/18 will get looks if you keep them high riding in the suds or foam lines. “The foam is home, don’t roam from the foam” during a good mayfly hatch! Streamer fishing using the “dip & strip” (see my guide tips on how to fish this method- top of any page of this site), is also productive & will fool larger trout more often. During low light periods , or “off hatch” cycles use the Spruce-A-Bu. This has been my top producing fly for many years on this river fooling countless larger trout. With the fish feeding now and warmer water temps, patterns like olive and light punk perch #12/16, Loebergs #10, crystal leeches & agent orange #12/16 are good choices. Recent drift trips have the olive punk perch as the top producer. This fly is a “strymph” pattern. Cross between a streamer and a nymph. Use these with a light sinking tip & swing your fly into the foam lines or main current-do not cast on top of where the fish are holding so you don’t put them down or spook them. And did I mention the first little yellow stoneflies are poppping? It be true! Stimulators are great representations for the adults #14/16. Larger PT’s and assassin birds nest are great as nymph clones #14/12.
Flows are currently at 106 cfs and stable. The LADWP real time gauge at the Pleasant Valley outlet is currently functioning (I have a link to it on my resources page of this site) The “Middle Owens” near Bishop was once named the “Lower Owens “and was changed since the LORP project re-watered the section of river down from Tinemaha Reservoir a few years back.
Big Nick hanging on to a large leap’n rainbow. The father son team did well on their drift 3/7/14
William Naworski and super dad Nick doing back stop duty. Fun day guys, thanks! 3/7/14
Bill Hodge shows off a chunky bow caught doing the “dip & strip” on his guide trip 3/6/14 Nice one Bill!
Jon Hee is a San Diego Fly Fisher and veteran Drifter. He got this awesome hook jaw on his drift with Doug R. 3/1/14
The Macman can do the “dip & strip” like a pro. Tight to one on 3/6/14
Long time Drifter and standout SDFF member Larry Sorenson did well on his drift with Two Bug 3/1/14.
SDFF member “Jimbo” Reeg -a brother from another mother. Great day drifting 3/1/14, missed ya buddy.
Happy Birthday Cindee! Her first drift boat fish on the fly with hubby Brian Rae helping out with the net. 2/25/14
Brian Rae hanging on to an acrobatic rainbow. One of many he and his bride Cindee got fishing a Spruce-A-Bu streamer on 2/25/14
Ed Bowen and John Bakken tight to a nice double while doing the “dip & strip” streamer method on 2/23/14
John Bakken tight to a leaping brownie. Fish are very active and crushing streamers in the morning. 2/23/14
This is an awesome fish John Davis caught. Truly one of the nicest bows I have seen in a long while on the Middle Owens. Rest assured this fish was released alive and well despite the sand. Doug R. tied a punk perch pattern on for John & fooled this awesome fish. Congrats guys. 2/21/14
Greg Tucker was locked in mortal combat with this tackle busting rainbow for what seemed like an eternity! (inside joke folks) Fun day Greg & Andrew, thanks 2/22/14
Larger trout like cloud cover during the daylight hours. They are more photosensitive. It was overcast most of the day on 2/18/14 and Ken Lindt hit some very nice fish with his son Ethan on their drift trip. The mayfly hatch continues to be the big event and the fish are focusing on this hatch with slower feeding periods before and after. 2/18/14
One of the first stops of the day and Ethan nails this trophy rainbow using the “dip & strip” method of fishing streamers. Good job Ethan! 2/18/14
Talk about a shot at the buzzer! Ken Harada hit this beautiful rainbow on the last stop of the day using a punk perch pattern. Great day overall with some nice dry fly action at noon. 2/16/14
Rajesh Bhakta with his first fish on the fly. Great way to start my friend, that is a super rainbow! Rubin Gonsallves & Shiv Bhakta helped with net duties and had a great day as well on their drift. 2/16/14
Anybody can catch a trout on the fly in the Middle Owens. It takes real skills & the current president of the Deep Creek Fly Fishers to land a bass! Kudos to Robin Johnson, what a fun day we had fishing a combination of streamers and BWO adults when the hatch came off. 2/15/14
Ike “the strike” Fujiwara got his largest trout ever on a BWO adult #16. The mid-day baetis hatch is going off and the fish are truly keying on this emergence on the Middle Owens. 2/14/14
The last stop really payed off for veteran drifter Don Grondin as he nailed this heavy hen on a #14 olive punk perch 2/9/14
Tommy Dolan (no relation to Two Bug) had a big day on his drift. This pretty hen was one of the better ones. 2/4/14
Big Man, big fish. Man mountain Rick Dove hit a really nice hen on his first with us. Fun day, had a Dove & a Lamb with me! This trophy hit a Spruce-A-Bu dark #8. 2/2/14
Pleasant Valley Reservoir/The Gorge 3/9/14
Conditions are darn near perfect here with the rez level excellent for fly fishing the transition area. Check out the short river section just down from the powerhouse using dry dropper combos like hi-vis para BWO and stimulators as the upper-broken back tiger and zebra midges, assassin birds nest, flashback PT’s, crystal olive zebras, and copper or dark tiger midges as the nymph. Don’t “roam from the foam” as the fish really line up on this section of water to feed on the emergers drifting down in the slower current. Tubing has also been very productive using Loebergs, Punk Perch, Agent Orange, & crystal leeches. Use a full or heavy sinking tip line. Still water nymphing Crowley style can also get you into big numbers along the drop-offs. Use Broken back midges like gillies and tigers, crystal emergers, and pupa patterns are good calls as upper flies on a tandem rig. Stick to tigers and zebras as the lower flies. With the warmer weather no access issues except for the high water near the tree line at the inlet.
The Gorge is fishing well in the deeper pools & pocket water. Late winter & fall are excellent periods to visit this area as the dense foliage and brambles are not so much a factor. You will see huge midge and mayfly emergence’s on the good weather days. Dry/dropper bead head rigs are deadly here. I like flashback PT’s in #18/20, assassins in #16/18, & crystal olive caddis larva in #18/20 as nymphs. Dry fly action is also good for better casters who can turn a leader over in compromising areas. It is wise to fish downstream of your target water here, don’t expect to get across from the wild browns here-they will spook instantly when they get a shadow on them. Tie on a #16/18 BWO adult, or parachute midge #20 for consistent surface takes during the hatch. Midges in the morns-mayflies at noon.
“Freeze Tubing” can be very productive during the cooler months on PV Rez. This is the “elbow” and it is typically a very good location to fish a streamer or use a still water nymph rig (midge’N) Crowley style. Key is to locate 7-12 feet that is weed free. Not easy this winter as the lake has well above normal weed growth everywhere.
Hot Creek (3/9/14)
The warmer weather has melted all the snow and access is very good currently. Additional water from recent storms coupled with warmer weather have spread the fish out and opened some riffle water. Strong midge & mayfly activity occur daily. Dry dropper rigs using para midge or hi-vis para BWO patterns as an upper, while dropping a broken back zebra or tiger midge, assassin bird’s nest, or crystal olive caddis/zebra larva pattern will get you into fish in the slots between the weeds. Lengthen your leaders to ten feet here, 5X is a good tippet size. The deeper pools can be fished with weighted attractors like SJ worms and egg patterns hung beneath an Under-cator. A hot rig is an olive or light Punk Perch as your upper fly with an assassin or PT as a dropper. You may also “swing cast” the Punk across the deeper slots and pools for a shot at one of the bigs that hunker along the weed lines or in the gut of the larger holes. Use the yellow, or clear for short water nymphing. Midge cluster, or para midge adults in the #20-24 range are hot flies for surface action. BWO adults fished high in the suds #16/18 also good calls afternoon when the baetis start to emerge. Access remains good as of 2/26/14 however the forecast calls for some snow to hit on the weekend.
*Tom Loe is under permit from the Inyo National Forest Service to guide Hot Creek.
East Walker River (3/9/14)
After a long duration of very low release rates the EW is finally running again. 65cfs is still very low; however it it infinitely better than 20. March is a great month to fish here and you can expect some consistent BWO hatches. The West Walker has also opened to year around fishing & one may consider doing a Walker combo trip? The EW has had a tough time the last couple of years due to extended low flows from dry winters causing poor overall conditions. Fish counts are not what they were several seasons ago and what remains are concentrated in the deepest pools and runs. Some significant storms in March could improve conditions greatly for Bridgeport Reservoir and the EW. We are keeping our fingers crossed!
I am happy to announce that the we will have a fully stocked fly box and Under-cators in Reagan’s Sporting Goods in Bishop! The Drifters fly box will carry all the guide tested patterns you see on the fish report including patterns for Pyramid Lake, Eagle Lake, Lake Almanor, & other great trout fisheries in the west. This is a great shop with knowledgeable and super friendly people that is open daily 7-5 during the winter. They are located on Main St. with easy access and parking. This store has everything you need for fishing, hunting, camping. They sell licenses too!
Pyramid Lake is well known for gigantic cutthroat trout like this one Chris Linkletter got with me a few seasons back. Still water nymphing and streamers can both get you into huge cutts in the late winter through spring. You can get flies & Under-cators for Pyramid right on the way up from S0-Cal by stopping at Reagan’s in Bishop, or the Crowley General Store.
I have added a picture gallery to the website this year. You can click on it at the top of any page of this website. My apologies to any of our wonderful clients who have been with Sierra Drifters for the last seventeen seasons and do not have a picture posted. I just can’t post the 30,000 pics we have taken! I will make an effort over time to post what I have. 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.
Thanks for reading my report. be the fly….Tom Loe, Sierra Drifters Guide Service