fishing the owens as snow melts

Trophy trout love to run up under the banks to avoid the danger they perceive from being hooked.

Perfect weather for anglers on the Upper Owens  

Late winter in the Eastern Sierra is warm to hot days sprinkled with the occasional winter storm. This has been a warm week with a storm due to hit the Eastern Sierra as the weekend begins. The increase in daylight with the higher day time temperatures is increasing the insect activity in the streams. Midges, blue wing olive mayflies, and caddis are hatching and the trout are feeding on them. 

Lower Owens River Wild Trout Section: Blue wing olive mayflies have been hatching middle of the day and the trout are feeding on the nymphs and the emergers. Before the hatch size 18 bead head flash back pheasant tail nymphs and size 16 olive quilldigons have been fooling the wild brown trout. First thing in the morning the midges have been swarming on the surface and the trout have been feeding on them sporadically. Fishing midge nymphs like tiger midges and zebra midges and using midge pupae patterns in size 18 to 22 is producing trout. The approaching storm will slow the insect activity down for a day or two.

Hot Creek, Canyon Section: The snow has not melted enough to allow vehicle access to the parking lots that access the canyon of Hot Creek. The canyon has the least fly fishing pressure and nymphing is producing the bulk of the trout. Nymphing with bead head flash back pheasant tail nymphs, olive quilldigons, tiger midges, zebra midges, Manhattan midges, and secret midges in the runs and pools are fooling the wild rainbow trout and brown trout.

Hot Creek, Interpretive Site: The ground is starting to show through the bed of snow that has covered the banks of Hot Creek at the interpretive site. The warmer weather has blue wing olive mayflies and midges hatching. Midges have been the predominant insect that the trout are feeding on. Biot midge emergers and parachute midges are fooling the surface feeding trout. On the right days the blue wing olive hatch is strong enough to fish blue wing olive parachutes to the surface feeding trout.

Upper Owens River, Above Benton Crossing Bridge: The snow is receding and anglers can walk in with their waders and boots to access the upper Owens River above Benton Crossing Bridge. It’s a 30 to 50 minute walk in to the inlets of the Hot Creek forks. In the morning the snow is frozen and easy to walk on. Walking out in the late afternoon is tough as the snow is soft any you are no longer walking on top of the snow. The trophy trout are in the river and feeding on stoner nymphs, green/gold wire Prince nymphs, hot spot pheasant tail nymphs, Frenchie’s, and egg patterns. The trophy trout are concentrated in the deep holes, deep runs, and under the cutbanks.

(Fred Rowe owns Sierra Bright Dot Fly Fishing Specialty. He teaches fly fishing and fly tying, is one of the original fly fishing guides in the Eastern Sierra. When he’s not out fishing the waters of the Eastern Sierra from Bishop to Bridgeport, he is an avid hunter who loves to hunt birds, especially waterfowl. Tuesday mornings from 9 to 10 a.m., Fred will be eating his burrito and talking to fly fishers about fly fishing in the Eastern Sierra. Everyone is invited to join him for Tuesday Talks with Fred at Mahogany Smoked Meats. Fred can be reached at 760-920-8325 or at His webpage is at

Recommended for you