A Sierra Drifters Fish Report for 2/22/18

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.

Fish’N Conditions 2/22/18

This aerial shot shows the Chalk Bluff Road that parallels the Owens River near the Wild Trout section. The fire is contained; but still smoldering as of 2/21/18. Road leading into PVR Campground and Five Bridges remain closed. This devastating fire totally destroyed the Owens River from the Campground to Five Bridges Crossing. It did not impact sections we primarily drift, and so far the water is not showing signs of turbidity from ash, or silt in our traditional runs.


Upper Owens will see some Sub zero air temps forecast throughout this week, & all through next with strong winds, frigid temps, and light snow accumulations. Upper Owens remains slow, with low fish counts. Windy/cooler weather not helping what few Crowley Steelhead are left in the system to get fooled. Flows are still elevated above mean levels; however water conditions are excessively not bad. Looking ahead, I see positive signs of an earlier than normal run of cutthroat this spring. Could see larger fish moving as early as next month.

Sub zero air temps; with highs well below freezing all week. Flows on the East Walker River have dipped to 28cfs. This release reduces fishable water significantly, & concentrates the fish in the deepest depressions only. Drifters guides are letting the EW rest under these conditions as stress on the fish is considerable. Numbers not the game here; but the rainbows are thick bodied and average 16 inches.

Hot Creek conditions have been relatively stable with decreases in flows due to the colder air temps. Hot Creek access remains fine, with a little snow in the shadows. Numbers are fair/good for smaller fish that are eager to hit midge clusters, and first generation blue winged olives after mid-day. Aquatic weeds are a nuisance; but not impacting dry fly presentations.

Water levels at Pleasant Valley Reservoir are on the high side; but trending down. The pocket water below the power house has decent numbers with a few large fish holding in the deeper water. Dry/dropper best here. The slow moving/ deeper water near the lake mouth has some trophy sized fish that will take a parallel Assassin fished on a dead drift.

Gorge water releases are very low. LADWP is doing major maintenance on the hydro electric generation facility. Fish jammed into the deeper pools.


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Middle Owens River (Bishop Area) 2/22/18

I have confirmation that some fish kill occurred in the burn area. Until the CDFW, & anglers are permitted to evaluate the fishery we can only speculate. Roads remain closed as fire crews work on dousing the smoldering areas, & minimizing hazards caused by the blaze.  I am happy to report that the sections we drift; which are well downstream of the burn area, are fishing well. No ash: or turbidity in these sections and the bite is good, with some trout lining up around 2pm to sip BWO’s in the suds line. Streamers like the Spruce-A-Bu, & Punk Perch have been my go to flies. Despite the cooler air temps the bite has been good for drift boat trips.

Scott Linkletter got big fish honors with this amazing rainbow that crushed a Spruce-A-Bu streamer. The sections downstream from Five Bridges Road have not been impacted by the horrible fire that scorched the wild trout section down to Five Bridges Crossing.


Veteran Drifter, & “Top Gun” vet Joe Sarnecky, treated his daughter Jackie to their first float together. Joe punished the fish on a near perfect day of drifting. Thanks buddy, good job.

First time fly fisher Jackie Sarnecky showing off one of her nicer browns she “tip toed” into (inside joke) Fun day Jackie, thanks!

Scott Randall started his day with a few of these beautiful planted rainbows. Stocking efforts are much improved on the MO this year and it is showing in the fish counts. Doug Rodricks was his guide.

Garry Creel (cool name) did well on his first float with me. Hot fly was the #16 Punk Perch.

Rusty Chambers had a tremendous day on his drift trip with Doug Dolan. We have been seeing good numbers of quality rainbows this February.

Al Guerrero is all smiles showing off just one of his prettier rainbows he C & R with Doug Rodricks going the guiding.

Lane and Melissa Kannegieter did fantastic on their float down the MO. This chunky rainbow turned out to be the best of the day. We had a fun time watching Melissa stick some nice fish during the baetis hatch also.


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 2/22/18

Sub-zero air temps will greet you in the mornings, with highs barely reaching the mid-twenties. It is forecast to be cold and windy for another week. Numbers have plunged recently. Water conditions have actually been favorable for a solid run on the UO. After numerous years of planting sterile “triploid” fish, the ramifications of this fisheries management (or lack there of) may finally be taking its toll. Triploids have no instinctual mechanisms to spawn; or migrate upstream. They remain in the lake unlike fertile trout that swim upstream to propagate. Sterile fish have been planted exclusively throughout the Sierra in recent years due to laws implemented in the past decade to protect the genetic integrity of native “west slope steelhead”. Changes in the fisheries management plan this year, mostly specific to this water shed,  are permitting the planting of “diploid” trout once again. Hopefully we will see fish counts improve in the tributaries after a couple years.  There are a few bigs around, covering a lot of water can get you a shot at a few of the elusive ones. Some smaller resident fish are sipping on midge clusters in the pillow water of the larger pools during periods of warmer weather.  Getting your rigs on the bottom with water conditions like this require obscene amounts of weight, lengthy leaders, and aggressive mending tactics to achieve drag free drifts. 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.  There is some nasty mud in the ruts after the ground thaws on some of the two track roads leading down to the river. 

Looking ahead I see a STRONG probability that the spring migration of cutthroat trout will be earlier than usual. Water levels rising in Crowley, elevated water flows, & warmer than normal air temps typically pave the way for these beautiful fish to begin moving in March. Last years run was weak here; but conditions are conducive to a solid show this spring.

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.

Ron Nobles braved some brutal weather to get his dance with a couple Crowley Steelhead. Doug Dolan netted this one.

Tim Benkert displaying a gorgeous rooster with a classic Crowley Steelhead paint job! Nice work Tim, Doug Dolan put him on this beauty.

It has been slim pickings on the UO this February, which makes this beautiful male rainbow even more special for Scott Easterling. Scott nailed a few nice ones with Doug Dolan guiding.


Dustin Jordan did well to get this quality fish on the UO. Doug Dolan to the shot.

Hot Creek 2/22/18

Light snow accumulations, & polar bear cold here for a week. Numbers are decent here as the newbies acclimate to their new home, & spread out along 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. Water conditions can be higher, & slightly off color during extended warmer periods; or if it rains.   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.


Flows are running at winter rates, exposing the thick aquatic weeds which make sub surface presentations difficult.



Pleasant Valley Reservoir 2/22/18

Water levels remain high on the lake; but are currently trending downward. If it drops another couple feet the transition section will be sweet. There are some really good sized browns, and bows holding in this section; however they are tough to fool. Flows are very low entering the lake making the current super slow.  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.

This beautiful brown crunched a Parallel Assassin fished below an Under-Cator in the slow moving transition section.

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 2/22/18

Fishing has been slow here due to very low flows. The fire did not ravage 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 2/22/18 

Too cold here to fish this week. We are currently not guiding the EW due to extremely low release rates. 28cfs. is a trickle, and drives the fish to the deepest depressions. The trout experience severe stress under these conditions, and we have opted to let them be until flows move up over 50cfs. again.



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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