3 Tips for Fishing Eastern Sierra Lakes This Spring

Written By: Luke Kinney, Golden Trout Guiding Co.

Releasing a nice trout on an even nicer day.
All photos by Golden Trout Guiding Co.

The Eastern Sierras have received more than double their average annual snowpack this year, with more than 800 inches of accumulation in some places. As these record-breaking snows begin to melt, our creeks and rivers will surely be running high and mighty well into July, and could be downright dangerous in many places. That’s bad news for stream anglers, but on the upside, the Eastern Sierras are also home to some of the most beautiful–and most productive–stillwater fisheries in the state. 

Our most famous still water, which holds some of California’s biggest and healthiest trout, is Crowley Lake. Its rich eutrophic waters support dense populations of aquatic invertebrates and forage fish, which, in turn, support dense populations of rainbow, cutthroat, and brown trout. Despite its abundance of food, however, Crowley Lake can be a tricky place to catch fish consistently, so here are three tips to boost your chances for success.

When fishing from shore, try to find areas with steep drop-offs and large submerged rocks.

1. Get There Early

Crowley Lake can feel more like a small ocean when the Eastern Sierra winds pick up, which can happen fast this time of year. You can lessen the chances of getting blown off the water by checking the forecast ahead of time, and by arriving as early as possible in the morning, so that you’re ready to wrap up by around lunch, before the afternoon heat has a chance to intensify the wind.

2. Focus on Shallow Weed Beds

During spring, trout are more likely to spend time in the shallows, before the heat of summer drives them back into deeper water. Look for fish hovering around weed beds located at the inlets of feeder creeks or near deep drop-offs. A floating line with an all-fluorocarbon leader should be enough to get your flies down. While midges in sizes 16-20 are always popular (a wide variety will work, but it’s hard to go wrong with classics such as the Zebra Midge or 3D Glass Chironomid), we also like to fish small, perch-colored streamers–often with a midge trailing behind–over weed beds, since the trout like to feed on juvenile perch in these areas. Try a Game Changer in Fire Tiger color, or the more classic Orange Blossom Special.

This hefty brown was fooled with a perch-colored streamer while patrolling a shallow weed bed.

3. Use an Analog Depth Finder

Using a modern depth finder can be a real game-changer on a lake the size of Crowley, but you don’t need advanced technology to know how deep the water is. A good trick to determining the exact distance to the bottom is to clip your forceps to your fly, and then drop your line down until it goes slack. Next, mark the spot where your leader meets the surface, then place your indicator about 12- to 18-inches below that spot, so that your flies will remain suspended that far off the bottom.

Luke Kinney is owner and operator of Golden Trout Guiding Company in Bishop, CA.

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