February Fish Report and News

Photo Credit: Courtesy of Sierra Drifters

by Doug Rodricks
(760) 935-4250


The first major storm to hit the sierra was the real deal. We are talking feet of snow, highway closures, blizzard conditions, and power outages. Unfortunately, with big winter events like this, we do see human casualties come with it. A couple of deaths were sadly reported from Mammoth Mountain and the Town of Mammoth Lakes. We ask all that come to the area to please be safe and use good judgment when recreating in the mountains in the winter. We all love playing in the snow, and we all would like to be doing it for many more years ahead. Safety is always first! 

It was very nice to get such a big storm which was needed badly. Usually, we would have a solid base of snow by January, so if we don’t get any more snow in the coming weeks you can expect to see it quickly diminish along the banks of the Upper Owens River. In the meantime, we will be running our snowmobiles up and down the river to get to these winter rainbow trout. 

Fishing has been good on the Upper Owens with lots of big ones coming to the nets. The fish seem to enjoy the snow as much as the anglers. With a high-pressure setting in this weekend, more of the buggy patterns will be working in combination with egg patterns. Depending on the day the fish will move from deeper water to shallower water. 

Experimenting with different depths, weight combinations, and indicator settings will keep you on the fish. You will find a lot of smaller trout feeding in the slowest moving water on midges and mayflies throughout the day. Mornings have been sub-zero to single digits, so you have to frequently keep the ice off the guides of your rod and in some cases your fly reel. 

The best way is to submerge your entire rod in the water for a few seconds and then strip some line through the guides which will dislodge the softened ice. Depending on the air temperature, you may have to perform this action after every cast or every few casts. We have had times while hooked up to these large rainbow trout where the reels have frozen and won’t turn. Don’t panic, just keep the rod tip high and dip your reel in the water for a few seconds. You’ll know when it has de-iced when the fish starts peeling line off, ha-ha.

I say the same thing every year when the snow falls along the river. Drive-in at your own risk. Better yet, don’t drive in at all. It’s not worth getting stuck, only to find that a tow truck is very expensive, and they can even get stuck in the process. Sometimes they won’t come and get you if it looks dicey. 

Anyway, enough on that, let’s get to the fishing conditions. Hot Creek is full of snow too, so it is walk-in only now. The Interpretive Site is fun now, with some great BWO hatches happening around noon. Midges are going all day and you will see fish actively feeding on them on the surface. Egg patterns are deadly, now that the real winter has arrived. Snowshoes make it much easier to access this area until the snow begins to firm up. The warmer weather ahead and freezing temps at night should take care of that soon. 

The Lower Owens River has been good most days. Fishing may slow down a little during the storms but bounces back after. The mayfly hatch down here is really starting to get going. I never get tired of catching these wild rainbows and brown trout on a 3 weight rod with a #18 BWO. Smaller streamers like Agent Orange, Crystal Leech, and Punk Perch are doing well on the Lower O when the fish are feeding below the surface.

The Wild Trout section has also been fishing well and the fish are looking very healthy this year. We have been doing some wade trips down here and getting some nice ones. Small nymphs in sizes 18 – 22 have been best with BWO’s in sizes #18 -20 during the afternoon hatches. San Juan Worms and SD Crawlers have also been good down here. 

The East Walker is still low for winter, so we are not currently fishing here. If we get more snow this year, it could be a good spring over here. 

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Sierra Drifters Reports
for Tuesday, January 5th, 2021

: Sierra Drifters Fish N' Conditions
Owens River - Lower: Lower Owens is Remaining Steady With Flows That Have Stabilized
Owens River - Section 3 - Upper (above Crowley): The Upper Owens Continues To Produce Large Trout