Sierra Drifters: February Fishing Report

Photo Credit: Courtesy of Sierra Drifters

by Doug Rodricks
(760) 935-4250

Greetings anglers! 

We hope you are enjoying the mild winter this year. We are currently experiencing a sustained dry period this month, but are hoping for some more snow before winter’s end. The nights have been cold which is typical for this time of year, but our daytime temperatures have been very pleasant. It is hard to believe we are already in the month of February and at the peak of the run for the Crowley Steelhead.

Large rainbow trout are still entering the river and will continue to do so for the rest of the month. The fishing on the Upper Owens River has been excellent, with big fish in all locations. The lack of snow this year has made access very easy for the most part. The mud starts out as frozen and solid while driving in during the morning, but tends to soften up and get very gooey by the afternoons. You have to be careful driving out as it gets messy out there most days. 

We have had zero need for snowmobiles so far, and the forecast is not showing any major winter storms. Some minor cold fronts with more wind than snow are all that lie ahead for now. Most of our fish are being caught on egg patterns, but we have been getting some on Flashback Pheasant Tails, Leeches, and Assassins too. The water is very cold, in the 38-39 degree range, so getting the flies to the fish is imperative for hooking up. 

It seems to be a pretty even mix of male and female rainbows this year, and the fish are looking very healthy once again. On the weekends we are seeing some pretty solid angling pressure, while the weekdays have been much lighter. The month of February can sometimes bring our harshest winter weather with freezing temperatures well below zero. Those days can make for some unfishable conditions on the Upper Owens, but not this year. With the month just starting, it looks to be a mild weather scenario through the beginning of March. We usually expect to see these fish ranging from 19 – 24" in length, with some pushing the 6lb mark.

Fill out one of our trip request forms here is you would like to get after some trophy rainbow trout this month.

The Lower Owens River is holding steady at its 150 cfs release. The air temperature down here reached 70 degrees this last Saturday. Pretty rare weather for February but really nice for fishing. Water temperatures have been colder down here as well. The Blue Wing Olive hatches have started, and this month we will begin to see some larger hatches along the river. We fish these hatches with light weight rods and cast to the trout feeding on the surface in the afternoons. Prior to the hatch, smaller streamer patterns which imitate the BWO mayfly nymphs emerging can be very effective. The fish tend to move into the slower and clearer water when feeding on these aquatic insects.

At other times of the day, we typically ply the waters with larger streamers fished on sinking lines. This method is great for getting down and deep to the larger fish. Recently they have been holding very close to the river bottom. We have not seen too much pressure down here, so these have been great trips for getting away from the crowds.

Hot Creek is looking very good. Water is extremely clear now and low, which makes spotting fish very easy. Since the fish are used to seeing anglers here, they are not as spooky as in other locations, but it still pays off to sneak up on them and not alert them to your presence. You will find more fish will be willing to take your fly using this approach. It’s a good mix of browns and rainbows right now and there are some real standout fish in the creek. The baetis mayfly hatch is starting to show much better this month, and it is a riot to fish in the afternoons. These are medium size mayflies which make it easier to track your imitation. At other times of the day, you will observe the fish steadily rising to small midges. 

The East Walker River is still flowing at winter rates and we do not see any increase here anytime soon since the snowfall has ceased. Egg patterns are a great choice during these mid-winter months. All of the fish in the river are keying on egg patterns of various colors, so mix them up until you find the best combo. We have very effective colored eggs with the properly matched hook sizes available online here. Some larger fish will be found at the head and at the rear of the pools, so spend some extra time working these areas for some big rewards.

There have been some adjustments to the proposed new fishing regulations by the CDFW. In my opinion these are not in the best interest of the spawning fish that use the Crowley Lake tributaries for reproduction. The main changes would be ending the general trout season by October 31st, thus cutting off the first two weeks in November to fishing in most areas. The new regs would allow a 5 fish limit for all Crowley Lake Tributaries beginning the Saturday preceding Memorial Day and extending through September 30th. As I have stated in my past writings, this is a death sentence for our spawning wild fish since the spring spawners can be found inhabiting the tributaries from April through early June on some years. Nothing will be put into motion until these proposed regulations go before the Fish and Game Commission and are voted on. There is time for public comment, and CDFW is scheduled to submit the final regulatory package to the FGC in June 2020. The FGC will consider the proposed regulations and take public input at its meetings in June, August, and October of 2020. There will be a Wildlife Resources Committee meeting in March 2020. The date, location, and time are TBD.

Here is the link to the new proposed regulations:

You can visit our website for the latest updates and detailed information. Check us out on FacebookInstagram, and YouTube. Shop our fine fly selection here with priority mail shipping direct to your door.

Please visit our friends that carry our flies: The Crowley Lake General Store & Deli ( full selection), Reagan’s Sporting Goods in Bishop (full selection),   Stroud Tackle in San Diego (full selection), Fisherman’s Spot in Van Nuys (seasonal top patterns), Bridgeport Reservoir Marina -(full selection)  Ricks Sport Center in Mammoth Lakes (seasonal- top patterns only). Eagle Lake RV and store. (seasonal- top patterns) and Fly and Field Outfitters in Bend, Oregon (seasonal top patterns).

We are looking forward to a great month of fly fishing ahead and hope you can all find some time to join us on the water. Thanks for reading our news!

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More Reports

Sierra Drifters Reports
for Wednesday, January 29th, 2020

East Walker River (CA): Fishing is Good if You Get in The Right Pools
Owens River - Section 3 - Upper (above Crowley): Nothing But Amazing Fishing Here
Hot Creek: Dry Fly Fishing Has Been Fantastic
Owens River - Lower: Flows Have Remained Stready
: Fish N' Conditions

Sierra Drifters Reports
for Wednesday, January 22nd, 2020

East Walker River (CA): East Walker River Report
Owens River - Section 3 - Upper (above Crowley): Upper Owens Fishing Report
Hot Creek: Hot Creek Report
Owens River - Lower: Lower Owens Report
: Sierra Drifters Fishing/Snow Conditions