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New Year's 2012 Fish'N Conditions

Capt. Tom Loe
December 28, 2011
Eastern Sierras - Freshwater Fishing Report

Howdy friends and Sierra Drifters. Best fishes to all in 2012, we wish you a healthy, happy, and prosperous New Year. Special thanks to those of you who have supported us in 2011. We are looking forward to making memorable fishing adventures for you again in the New Year.
2012 promises to be a great fishing year for several reasons. The hatchery issues that hampered planting of some popular areas in 2010/2011 have for now been addressed and several top fisheries are now getting good allotments of DFG trout. Crowley and Bridgeport will fish much better in 2012 due to the increased amounts of sub-catchable trout released last summer and fall. There remain some environmental concerns with hatchery programs that may hinder some privately owned and operated fisheries. We will inform you of the changes as we get them.
We are having a very mild winter thus far in the Eastern Sierra. The huge run-off from last winter's massive snowpack had some negative impacts on many fisheries that lasted well into the fall. Hopefully we will begin to get normal amounts of precipitation soon which will lead to a seasonal pattern of run-off. Long range forecasts are pointing towards a more normal weather cycle to begin next month.
The mild winter to this point has allowed an extended growing season that will enhance the size and health of the trout in many areas, especially the larger lakes and reservoirs. The fall spawn has been fantastic due to higher water levels and ideal conditions in wild trout fisheries like the East Walker, Hot Creek, and Upper Owens. We are really looking forward to 2012 and the potential for one of the best fishing seasons in several years. Hope to see you on the water!
Please give positive thoughts and prayers to our great friend Bill Becher and his wife Jane. Bill survived a very serious climbing accident a short time ago and is seriously injured. Bech has been a tremendous asset to the Eastern Sierra from his writing, photography, and computer networking skills. He has helped many people through his perspective and participation of numerous sports to get an accurate and creative view of the Sierra from someone who writes firsthand about his topics. Keep the good juju coming friends so we can get Bill back to doing his thing!

Upper Owens River:
WOW. I have experienced some great fishing in the Sierra over the past 35 years, but I must say that the winter of 2011-12 will perhaps be one of the most memorable due to the fantastic fishing we have experienced on the UO recently. The weather although very cold most mornings, has been extremely pleasant by noon and when you throw in twenty plus inch rainbows consistently, you have found Nirvana! A big day can have you into double digit hogs and a very sore arm. An average guide day will get you 1-6 opportunities at the bigs; they are not easy to land. These are powerful thick bodied wild fish that pull like a blue water tug boat!
Nymphing with San Juan Worms, Assassins, FB Pt's, broken back midges, and egg patterns heavily weighted are fooling these migratory rainbows coming upstream from Crowley Lake. The thicker the ice gets on Crowley, the more fish move up. I believe we have not peaked yet and if the last couple seasons hold true January/February will get even better weather permitting. On the warmer days you will see a solid hatch of small midges and the fish are sipping them in the softer pools. #22 parachutes work well. The baetis hatch is also getting attention with the adults emerging about 1:30. BWO patterns #18. You need to be dressed for EXTREME cold some mornings for the next couple months. Layered hooded clothing and rubber soled wading boots are a must.

The Lower O is fishing very well for numbers and the weather has been absolutely fantastic. The bigs have been camera shy recently; however we are hooking a couple most drifts. Flows are excellent and have been holding at 125cfs at PV for a while. Streamers like Spruce-A-Bu's, Loebergs, Punk Perch #8-12 have been best for us with a moderate sinking tip line and the "dip and strip" method. Focus on the deeper pools, the riffle water has not been productive lately even during the hatches of midges and mayflies. The wild trout section is also fishing well and there is some surface action around 1 pm each day. Nymphing in this section with or without an Under-Cator using FB PT's, crystal midges, crystal caddis larva, birds nest (Assassins), and broken back patterns work well. Keep them heavily weighted and near the bottom as the fish are not moving a lot out of the deeper pools.

PV has been really good in the small creek section just below the powerhouse using dry/dropper bead head combos. A Para BWO or Stimulator as the upper and a FB PT or crystal tiger midge or crystal caddis larva as the dropper. The reservoir is still at high levels and access to the transition water near the inlet is difficult right now with limited areas to fish from the bank. Ideal level is 4383' and under. A float tube in this section is a must for consistent results. The warm weather is nice for tubing and far from the "freeze tubing" experience that is typical for winter here. The level has been coming down slowly and it will not be long if this trend continues before the transition area will be the hot place to fly fish in the Sierra. Check out my Facebook link periodically for updates here.
The Gorge is also fun and fishing like mid- fall instead of winter. Hit the period of the day between 10-2 and you should see some decent surface action on midges and #18 BWO patterns. The deeper pools will also hold more fish and can be fished with bead head nymphs below a dry. If you do not mind hiking you will escape the holiday crowds in the more popular year around waters. Try Lower Gorge up from the powerhouse. Walk twenty minutes from the furthest parking area. It is very consistent for small wild browns upstream from here with lots of nice pools and runs.
Hot Creek:
The flows are well above their historical average for this time of year. We are seeing some run-off due to the warm temps above the inversion layer making Mammoth creek higher than usual. Been pretty good overall down in the canyon with a decent midge and mayfly emergence on the warmer days. You will still find more consistent action in the deeper pools while nymphing near the bottom. SJ worms and a small midge, PT, birds nest, or broken back will get you looks.
East Walker River:
We have not fished it for over a month, just been too darn good on the Owens. Flows are not bad for winter, 25 cfs and with the warmer days nymphing the deepest holes can be productive right below the dam. The Bridgeport area can get wicked cold this time of year with the temperature inversion being amplified by cold and clear windless mornings. Sub-zero temps are common currently so if you want to fish it I suggest look at the Nevada section which is much warmer and lower in elevation. Otherwise the 11-4 period is best.
Thanks for reading our report, hope to fish with you soon. Please click on www.sierradrifters.com/fish.htm

Be the Fly…
Tom Loe, Sierra Drifters Guide Service
Cell 760-937-2015
Email [email protected]

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