CALIFORNIA: Choose to Nymph With or Without the Use of an Under-Cator

Howdy Friends and Sierra Drifters. The guide staff at Sierra Drifters wishes you all a happy and healthy holiday season.

The general trout season has ended in the Eastern High Sierra, but there remain quality moving water fisheries that are open year around. The Upper & Lower Owens Rivers are my favorite places to guide and fish in the winter and fall as they fish very well this time of year. The East Walker River and Hot Creek also remain open year around and have excellent fly fishing opportunities during warm spells. Pleasant Valley Reservoir and the Gorge add additional options for float tubing and fishing smaller water for wild brown trout.

A series of winter storms is forecast to begin sliding through the region and dropping significant snow totals on the mountains and upper valleys for the Thanksgiving holiday period. Bring along tire chains and winter gear if you are planning a trip in the near future.

This is a shot of the re-watered irrigation ditch taken mid-November near the Long Years section of the Upper Owens. The pool directly below this culvert had an estimated 200 trout trapped in it before the re-watering occurred. I counted only three the last time I looked! Once again thanks go to the LADWP and local ranchers for their assistance and understanding in this matter. They bypassed traditional protocol and this should be noted. I have checked the area out several times since the water was flowing again and very pleased to report that most of the trout and small forage fish trapped in this area have re-located and gone back into the river channel proper. We did lose some fish (most were sticklebacks) trapped in another ditch that had to be de-watered to maximize flow in the main irrigation channel, however the bulk of the trout were able to find the river again.

Those of you who wrote letters and offered support should also be happy to hear that I have also had conversation with the local DFG biologist in Bishop and he has committed to assist in the implementation and monitoring of bio screens on these canals next spring. This will be a great conservation project for fly fishing clubs interested in preserving the established wild trout in the Upper Owens. Thanks for the help folks, MERRY FISHMAS!!!

Upper & Lower Owens Rivers
Fall is streamer time on these two awesome rivers and the “dip & strip” technique is an excellent method to get into some big rainbows and browns. Fishing from the deeper main channel side with an upstream position is necessary on the smaller Upper Owens, while seeking the softer edges and transitions will pay off on the larger & deeper Lower Owens.

GUIDE TIP: Scout a section out by quietly walking upstream and locating trout holds before you make any casts. Double back and fish your section downstream after 30 minutes using the “dip & strip” with a light to moderate sinking tip line. Streamers should have some red or orange in them, be in the #6-10 range, & be fished from an upstream position with the fly “swinging” into the sweet spots you have located. DO NOT CAST ON TOP OF THE LAYS.

If you choose to nymph with or without the use of an Under-Cator- I suggest San Juan Worms, egg patterns, bird’s nest, broken back midges and FB pheasant tails #14-18. Reverse the scouting procedure and spot your fish for that “beat” while walking downstream. Wait a spell, and then fish your tandem nymph rigs walking upstream and targeting the holes where you observed fish keeping a low profile and having some patience so the fish get acclimated to your presence. These upstream fish are not accustomed to being in low clear water having emanated from Crowley, and are far spookier than most resident fish in a stream.

On the warmer days I am seeing a fair amount of small mayflies nicknamed Trico’s, #20-24. Both the UO & LO has this hatch presently. The fish move right into the tailouts and under the foam lines during the hatch. “The foam is home-don’t roam from the foam” during any significant emergence.

Drift boating has been very good this fall and is even getting better as the flows trend downward. We can position the boats to keep the streamers in the sweet spots far better than from the bank. The “Kelly Bundy” light Spruce-a-bu has been hot on the LO, while Loebergs are spanking them on the UO. The LO is still high for wading but is getting better and if you see the flows go below 300 before mid-December I would make a point to fish the WT section as pressure has been exceptionally light here this season.

We worked out a deal with Santa and can provide custom gift certificates for friends and loved ones this holiday season. Contact us for details.

I have several USED SAGE Z-AXIS 590-4 rods and GALVAN T-5 reels for sale. These rigs are being sold separately or as a balanced package. They would make a terrific X-mas or birthday gift and come with full manufacturer’s warranties at greatly reduced prices. I have two seasons on these rigs and they are in very good condition. The reels come with a used floating line and backing in good condition. Contact me for pricing and details please.

Pleasant Valley Reservoir:
Power generation is finally slowing down and this means excellent conditions on the inlet river to PV which just happens to be one of the best fly fishing areas in the Sierra and is very much under-rated and not well known.

I like to use a Stimulator #16-12 as the dry or indicator while suspending a bead head midge or mayfly nymph pattern #16-18 tied off the eye of the Stimmie 2-4 feet. This rig is flat out deadly here and you can have a blast if you locate feeding pods of trout.

The reservoir is also a great place to tube using a combination of still water nymphing and streamer tactics. The weather can get nice even in winter and tubing is a great way to get into big numbers. I have affectionately called it “freeze tubing”, but it really is not that bad on the nicer days. Most streamer patterns work well here #8-12 as the bulk of the fish are DFG plants and very opportunistic. I suggest you concentrate your efforts from the launch ramp towards the inlet from the powerhouse this time of year. Work the drop-offs on the west side opposite the access road to avoid bank fisherman and pick up the afternoon shadow emanating from the canyon wall.

Hot Creek:
It has been good for those who like fish fishing the tiny Trico mayfly hatch. Not everyone’s cup o’ tea as these little critters are #20-24 and are difficult to see and keep drag off during a drift. Nymphing with micro mayflies and small midges have also been good in the deeper channels and pools. Attractors like SJ worms and eggs also get their share for the staged up fish. When flows are at winter time rates it can be tough to get extended accurate drifts over and around the protruding weed beds. If we get some warmer weather flows come up some on Mammoth Creek and this makes conditions better. Hot Creek is not well known for its streamer fishing but I assure you it can be excellent in the right piece of water especially this time of year. Don’t show up with a type 5 or heavy sink tip and expect to get anything but the bottom. Have a slime line, or midge tip and you can do pretty good particularly if the water gets off color and comes up some.

The Gorge:
Every time I fish here after an extended absence I always tell myself that I need to come back more often. It requires some effort -the wild browns are not going to bend hooks out or anything; however they are all wild and as pretty as you will ever see. They aggressively take dries all year and you can have multiple hook ups in any pool that has three feet of water or more. Accurate, upstream casts are mandatory with a four weight rod or less. They are not especially choosey-use caddis, mayfly or attractor patterns #14-18, bead head nymphs in the #16-20 range will be fine.

East Walker:
If you have a serious Jones for the EW I suggest you look at the Nevada section until the flows come up over 50cfs. Tributary Sweetwater Creek adds more water to the EW on the old Rosachi Ranch section and I have found NV to fish much better than the Cal section under these conditions. Add to the fact that it is lower in elevation, hence warmer and with far less snow as a rule and you have a better experience during the winter. Bridgeport Reservoir is once again filling, and pretty quickly according to owner Jeffery at Bridgeport Marina (local sheep enthusiast as well) so I expect flows to come up some if we keep getting early snow. This may really bring on some great winter opportunities depending on an extended warm period after the fronts.

The ASSASSIN is now available!

This bird’s nest version has been my go to fly all season. You have seen pictures of the big browns and rainbows caught in many areas including Crowley Lake, Bridgeport Reservoir, Eagle Lake, Pyramid Lake, The Upper Owens and East Walker Rivers the last few years with ever increasing references made to a bird’s nest pattern. Well at long last here it is. Bird’s nest patterns are well documented over the years as a “strymph”. This type of fly can be interpreted as a small baitfish such as a chub, stickleback, or perch fry. It may also represent a larger swimming type nymph like a callibaetis or damsel fly. You can order it online direct from me, or in the near future get it at one of the shops carrying my fly patterns. The pattern is available in #14, 16, & 18 and comes in a light and dark version. This is a must pattern for local trout waters and will get you on fish when others are failing.

Be the fly friends, Tom Loe Sierra Drifters Guide Service

Capt. Tom Loe
Sierra Drifters Guide Service
p: 760-935-4250



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