Best Trout Fishing in California
Perhaps the most popular fly fishing area we have in the Eastern Sierra. This small spring-fed creek has the perfect habitat for hosting large numbers of subsidized, and wild rainbow, brown, and cutthroat trout. The Hot Creek Hatchery is located at the headwaters of where the creek emanates. The confluence of Mammoth Creek(a freestone creek), flows into Hot Creek just below the hatchery boundaries providing additional flow with cool oxygenated water that improves habitat.
Lower Owens River
Trout thrive in most of the 40 river miles leading into Tinemaha Reservoir near Big Pine from its source at Pleasant Valley Dam. The heavily brushed lined banks provide habitat and cover for many species of animals and birds as well as rainbow and brown trout. The Cal DFG plants rainbows of various sizes year around in this section and bait fishing/barbed hooks with varied catch limits depending on time of year are allowed.
If you set out to find some of the best trout fishing in California lakes, Crowley Lake would be the result. Crowley is at an ideal altitude: 6,800′. It is a man made reservoir formed by the damming of the Owens River Gorge. It stays cool enough in the summer, yet does not go into a deep freeze during winter months. The lake has an ideal ph, on the alkaline side. This is essential for aquatic insects, (primarily chironomids) the base of the food chain for the fish that inhabit the lake.
Bridgeport Reservoir once held the California state record for a brown trout. Something like 27 pounds! Bridgeport can get lost in the shadows of Crowley Lake, but those that frequent this fishery know that at times this is by far and away the best still water trout fishery in the Eastern Sierra. Bridgeport has an elevation of 5600 feet and is much lower than Crowley. It is a shallow lake and it suffers during the dry seasons.
East Walker River
The East Walker River is home to some of the best trout fishing in California and in the Eastern Sierra. Historically it is arguably the finest moving water trout fishery we have in the Eastern Sierra. The prime section is located below the dam of Bridgeport Reservoir making it a tailwater fishery. The EW has posted ridiculous trout growth rates and has special angling restrictions to allow prolonged growth and keep the population of wild fish in good numbers. It is currently open year round. The EW can be more “technical” than other local waters and most guides do not suggest taking novice fly fishers here.
Pleasant Valley Reservoir
Pleasant Valley Reservoir is located about 8 miles north of Bishop off Hwy 395. It can be accessed on either the north, or south end. It has a paved service road that parallels the lake end to end. You may not drive on this road; but it makes walking with a float tube easier. Bait and barbed hooks are allowed here year. It can get very crowded on holidays, & weekends due to easy access and heavy planting by the CDFW. PVR can be defined as “three fisheries in one location”. The gorge flows into PVR, it’s junction located at the powerhouse.
Lower McGee Creek emanates from a freestone snowmelt source in the Eastern Sierra near Mammoth Lakes California. It flows mostly unobstructed into Crowley Lake and is the second largest tributary into the reservoir. In McGee’s lower sections it is a slower moving, meadow type stream with deep undercut banks and riffle-pool configuration. It has many oxbows, is very open and easy to fish with the exception of a substantial trek to its lower sections near the confluence into Crowley. Convict Creek merges into McGee near the mouth and adds additional water into the channel.
Upper Owens River
The Upper Owens River upstream from the bridge at Benton Crossing is a true spring creek that emanates from groundwater sources near Big Springs. Hot Creek merges into its flow about 2/3’s into its journey into Crowley Lake. The Upper Owens River offers some of the best trout fishing in California, especially during the fall, winter, and spring months. It flows along private property for much of its upper sections until it finally becomes accessible to the public at the upper end of Long Valley, named “Long Years”. Its path meanders along the Glass Mountains which lie to the east. The Upper Owens is a slow moving river flowing through a huge pasture with many oxbows, pools, and deep straights along the way.
“One of the most pristine rivers in the eastern sierra”
San Joaquin River
This freestone creek is nestled in a picturesque pine tree filled valley lying at the base of 13,000 foot mountains. Perhaps the most gorgeous setting you could imagine to fly fish for trout. The Joaquin offers a variety of fishing opportunities for both novice and experienced anglers. Wild trout thrive in sections that require hiking away from the campgrounds. The CDFW plants fish near the INFS campground facilities. The SJ has a reputation of being one of the best dry fly fisheries in the region.
West Walker River
This is a classic freestone small river that runs unchecked and emanates from the upper sections of the Emigrant wilderness and ultimately ends up as a tributary into Walker Lake in Nevada. It is full of riffles, has a lot of large boulders and pools and is very open and accessible in the area I am describing. The lower sections of the West Walker are now open year around adding some good water for early spring angling opportunities.
This is a small tail water emanating from Crowley Lake. This area has been re-watered for numerous years now and is doing quite well. You will not encounter any huge fish here, nor huge crowds. It is an excellent region to fish if you seek solitude and are willing to do some hiking. You should do well on numbers if you approach this small creek correctly. Wild Brown trout from the 6-12” range are the norm.
Grant Lake is a man made reservoir controlled by the Los Angeles DWP. It is best accessed off Hwy 395 on the North June Lake Loop turn-off. It has an earthen dam that blocks the flow from Rush Creek to make a great habitat for stocked rainbow, & wild brown trout. Sacramento Perch also live here, and can provide larger sources of protein for the huge browns that lurk in the depths during the warm summer months. The browns are most vulnerable during the fall spawning season, & early May. Grant was developed to hold water for the city of LA, & water levels fluctuate greatly; especially during drought years.
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