There are many lakes, rivers, and streams to fish in the Eastern Sierra's, but one of our favorites is Lake Crowley. Located 25 miles north of Bishop, Lake Crowley is a man made reservoir thats used to supply water and power to the city of Los Angles. Crowley may not have the beauty of some of the high mountain lakes in the area, but what it does have is fat, hard fighting trout. With a huge population of chironimids (midges), the trout done freely on these aquatic insects and grow to healthy proportions. Even 12 inch fish look like over inflated footballs. The lake is also home to the Sacramento perch, which just happens to be a favorite food source of these trout. The perch spawn in late spring and early summer, and their fry begin to hatch in late summer and continue to do so until early fall. This is a good time to strip a perch fry imitation or a leech pattern for some arm straightening action. The fish at Crowley will hit the streamer so hard, that if your not holding on tightly to your rod, they will take it right out of your hand. While stripping streamers is a great way to fish Crowley, midge fishing is certainly the most popular and most productive method. Using a floating line, along with an indicator, two midges, and a leader anywhere from 12 to 25 feet depending on the water depth, will consistently get you into fish. If you happen to hook a Crowley rainbow, these fish love to jump and get some air. Nothing like a fat, 20 inch plus 'bow catching some air, then sounding like a 2x4 slapping the water when it falls out of the sky! Popular midges include a red blood midge, zebra and tiger midges. If your looking for a change of pace and want a few fish for the dinner table, try fishing for a few perch. The perch will hit midges and streamers so no need to change your set-up, just concentrate your efforts along the shallow weedy areas. The Perch can get pretty big in Crowley, (six to ten inches) and a couple of deep fried perch fillets along with some cold IPA's from Mammoth Brewing Company, is a great way to end the day!
If you look west from the city of Bishop towards the east slope of the Sierras, you'll see a huge fan shaped glacial moraine that descends from the alpine canyons, down to the valley floor, and almost to the city limits. A thin ribbon of green marks the course of Bishop Creek. This creek is fed by several lakes and runs consistently all year round. When it reaches the valley, it meanders through the sagebrush flats and finally dumps into the lower Owens River. The creek is mostly freestone with a couple of sections of spring creek like flat water. There are a couple of small impoundments that create deep ponds that hold some very large fish. Much of this creek can be accessed from Hwy 168 that parallels it to its headwaters. At times, the highway vertically veers away from the creek, so if you don’t mind taking a little hike you can get to some water that gets very little pressure. Near the many campgrounds, Bishop Creek does however get planted with hatchery trout quite regularly. All of the generic attractor flies work well on Bishop Creek. Princes, Pheasant Tails, Rock Worms (Caddis larva) Bird’s Nests etc. sizes #14 -#18 are good choices. Also try little #14 & #16 Stonefly patterns in Yellow and Brown. Last but not least, hopper, ant and beetle patterns do very well on the Creek.
Just north of Bishop, Hwy 395 turns into a steep grade (Sherwin Grade) that rises to over 4000 ft. and then levels out when it reaches Long Valley near Mammoth Lakes. One of Long Valley’s claim to fame is that among geologists, it is considered one of the most likely locations in the lower 48 to have a volcanic eruption. Several creeks flow into the valley beginning with Rock Creek at the southern end, then Mc Gee Creek, Convict Creek, Sherwin Creek and Mammoth Creek/Hot Creek. Each of these creeks hold primarily Brown trout but in the spring, with the exception of Hot Creek, they are also home to Rainbows and Cutthroats that come up out of Lake Crowley to spawn. Small attractor patterns fished with three and four weight rods on a floating line, are generally all you need on these creeks. Size #18 Elk Hair Caddis, EC Caddis, Parachute Adams, and the Royal Wulff, are always good choices for dries. Flashback Pheasant Tails, Bird’s Nests, and Zebra Midges in red and black will cover most situations if you are going to nymph.
Out of all these creeks, Hot Creek definitely deserves recognition as the jewel of the Mammoth Lakes area, if not the whole east side. It is reached by turning east of Hwy 395 on Hot Creek Hatchery Rd., which borders the north end of the runway at Mammoth Lakes Airport. It begins as Mammoth Creek flowing out of the alpine lakes that give Mammoth Lakes its name. Once it reaches the valley, it merges with warmer geothermal spring water and becomes Hot Creek. When it leaves the valley, it flows through a picturesque gorge and enters a very active hot spring section who’s temperature heats the water beyond a temperature level that is tolerable to trout. Mammoth Creek is stocked regularly and can have some great fishing on the right day of the week. Once it becomes Hot Creek in the valley, it becomes very spring creek like and the fishing is highly technical. Fine tippets and small #18 to #24 midge, caddis and mayfly patterns are needed to take fish that sometimes can reach twenty inches. These fish can get very selective so one needs to be prepared with a variety of patterns that cover adult, cripple and transitional life stages of aquatic bugs. Though Hot Creek is most famous as a dry fly water, hopper dropper rigs can sometimes be very productive.
Traveling north about 10 miles from the Mammoth Area, you'll come to Owens River Road. If you turn east, the road winds through arid sagebrush high desert and eventually comes to a campground and the headwaters of the Owens River. The headwaters of the Owens is unique in that it literally flows out of several lava tubes that line the canyon. The Owens has two personalities here in that upstream from the campground pattern selection and techniques are straight forward in that basic attractor patterns are all you need to catch fish. Below the campground, the river tumbles through a crystal clear pocket water section that is somewhat lined with willows and other vegetation, and once it levels out, the fishing can get technical.
The Owens headwater is the perfect place to break out your two, three or four weight fly rod. An eight foot rod isn’t a bad idea either as there is a fair amount of overhanging vegetation. The water is shallow, so a floating line will serve both your dry fly and nymphing needs. Because of the shallow water, a hopper dropper rig is the best selection if you are going to fish nymphs. Small (size #16 and smaller) high riding attractor dries such as Sparkle Duns, Elk Hair Caddis, Adams Parachutes and Royal Wulffs will catch fish here. Attractor nymphs like flash back Pheasant Tails and Zebra Midge’s will do in the section above the campground and in the pocket water below. In the flatter water, small parachutes colored to match the hatching bugs or a plain old Adams Parachute will do the trick. You may have to go to cripple patterns like Cutter’s EC Caddis, or Quigley Cripples for example, when casting at fish that are being finicky.
About five miles north of the junction of Owens River Road and Hwy 395, Rush Creek passes under the highway. Rush Creek flows between Silver and Grant Lakes, and then out of Grant Lake where it ends at Mono Lake. The sections of the creek between the lakes, are generally freestone with dense riparian strips consisting of willows and conifers. When the creek leaves Grant Lake it flows between the low sagebrush carpeted hills on its way to Mono Lake. This lower section is a designated special regulation wild trout catch and release section. Access to the Special Regulation section of Rush Creek is a dirt road that intersects Hwy 395 just south of the bridge. You need to keep your eyes peeled after crossing the bridge (must be traveling south) so you don’t miss it. Follow the road to the bridge, where there is a parking area. If you want to fish the section between the highway and the lake, you can cross under the bridge (flows permitting) and follow the creek downstream. As with other eastside creeks, small mayfly and midge patterns both dry and nymph work well. This is caddis water, so small rock worm and pupa patterns are always a good call. A two fly nymph rig, with a heavily weighted rock worm or pupa pattern, and a size #18 or #20 Zebra style midge as the dropper, is a good rig to begin with. For dries, the tried and true Elk Hair Caddis or Parachute Adams in hook sizes #16 or #18 work most of the time. Make sure you have black ants and hopper patterns to fish with later in the summer. The special regulation section of Rush Creek is all freestone with little, if any, flat water. Patterns that can stay afloat in rough water are good to have in your fly box so keep a few palmered style patterns available when fishing here.
A few miles north of where Rush Creek crosses under Hwy 395 you come to Hwy 120 which travels west over Tioga Pass into Yosemite NP and then down slope into California’s Central Valley. Along the highway flows a cool little gem called Lee Vining Creek. Lee Vining Creek starts practically at the top of Tioga Pass in Yosemite, and begins by tumbling down a steep canyon for most of its length, eventually flattening out and winding through some lush meadows. Along the way, it is impounded by some small water diversions and passes under Hwy 395 near the town of Lee Vining. It continues through sagebrush hills and flats to eventually dump into Mono Lake. There are several campgrounds along this creek and it gets regular plants of Rainbow trout during the summer months. It also has a good population of wild Brown trout. Fishing the meadow sections can be as challenging as any spring creek. The sections above and below the impoundments have deep pools that often hold lots of fish, but you may have to do battle with the power bait guys. You have to get off of Hwy 120 to access the campgrounds which are along Power Plant Rd. Power Plant Rd. is accessed off of Hwy 120 approximately five miles west of Hwy 395. Here the highway begins a steep grade, though Power Plant Rd. continues to run right along the creek. Generic attractor patterns are all you need here. Royal Wulffs, Adams Parachutes, and Elk Hair Caddis should all be in your box. Like Rush Creek, patterns that are designed to float high will do better in the rougher water. For the meadow sections, fine tippets and spring creek style dries that mimic the various life stages of mayflies, are going to be what’s needed. Have some size #18 cripples, #18 olive parachutes for early and late season Blue Wing Olives and #16 & #18 tan parachutes for fish looking for summer Pale Morning Duns. Keep a few spinner patterns (rusty or olive) on hand too. For nymphing the deep pools bead head Pheasant Tail Nymphs, Prince Nymphs, and Bird’s Nest Nymphs in sizes #14, #16 & #18 are good here. Olive, Black and Rusty Wooly Buggers work well on the stocked fish.
Bridgeport, California is best known for the fabulous East Walker river and being situated in one of the most beautiful alpine valleys in the Sierras. The emerald green Bridgeport Valley is the headwaters of the East Walker and it is fed by several creeks such as Virginia Creek, Green Creek, that offer good fishing. Among them, Robinson Creek is one of the most consistent. Robinson gets heavily stocked throughout most of the season, but it can also hold some native fish that make their way up either from Bridgeport Reservoir or down from Lower Twin Lakes. In 2008 a twelve pound Brown was caught here. There's plenty of public access on the upper section of the creek and plenty of camping as well. Nymphs like Princes, Pheasant Tails, and Hares Ears work early in the season, then for most of the summer, terrestrials (beetles, ants and hoppers) and attractor dries (Humpy's, Wulffs, etc.) will catch fish all day long. Four or five weight rods are recommended for the higher water early in the season, but if you go there in late summer or fall, it’s a good creek to test your two or three weight.