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 the 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. Where
the creek flows close to the highway, you can be sure that someone has
fished that stretch before you. 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 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 Crowley Lake to spawn. In the fall brown trout also spawn. I have fond memories of crawling up to the edge of the
four foot wide Sherwin Creek where it flows through the sagebrush flats,
and dapping a dry fly over little eight inch Brown trout.
Small attractor patterns fished with three and four weight rods,
are generally all you need on these creeks.
Size #18 Elk Hair Caddis, EC Caddis, King River Caddis, Parachute
Adams, and the Royal Wulff are always good choices for dries, and
Flashback Pheasant Tails, “Depth Charge” ® Bird’s Nests, and Zebra Midges in red and black will
cover most situations if you are going to nymph.
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, and 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 tippits 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.
It’s good to check with the local shops (see side bar) for
pattern recommendations for fishing this very technical water.
Traveling north from the Mammoth Area
about (?) miles you 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.
I know that this article is about creeks and not rivers, but the
Owens here is only a river by name and for all practical purposes
flows like a creek. The
headwater 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.
I remember some years ago fishing this area with my old friend
Bob Henley when we sat on the edge of an undercut bank and took turns
casting into a run, catching one fish after another.
I was even rewarded with a nice fifteen inch Rainbow.
Bob commented that the only things that that could have made the
experience better would have been if a sexy waitress came upon the scene
and took a drink order. 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.
I’ve had some frustrating afternoons sight fishing for Brown
trout holding in the seams while sipping tiny bugs that I was unable to
match. Like Hot
Creek, a downstream presentation is necessary to fool these wary fish.
The Owens headwater is the perfect
place to break out your two, three or four weight rod.
An eight foot rod isn’t a bad idea either as there is a fair
amount of overhanging vegetation. 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 (which work both as
adult mayfly and ant imitations. 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 presenting to fish that ignore the
About five miles north of the junction
of Owens River Road and Hwy 395 Rush Creek passes under the highway. Rush Creek is historically important in the efforts by
California fishermen to restore water to creeks and rivers that were
diverted by the LA Department of Water & Power to be sent to be sent
three hundred miles south for consumption by Los Angeles residents.
The successful efforts to return natural flows to Rush Creek were
the seed that sprouted several other successful efforts to restore water
to the Owens River drainage. Rush
Creek flows between Silver and Grant Lakes and then out of Grant Lake to
terminate in 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
section (see side bar) with a zero fish limit.
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 (try a
double tungsten “Depth Charge”® pattern) or pupa pattern with a size #18 or #20
“Zebra” style midge (red or black) as the dropper is a good rig to
begin with. For dries, the
venerable 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 later in the
summer. The special
regulation section of Rush Creek is all freestone with little if any
flat water so pick your dry fly pattern styles accordingly.
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
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 Lee Vining Creek.
Lee Vining Creek starts practically at the top of the 9,943 ft.
Tioga Pass in Yosemite NP and begins by tumbling down a steep canyon for
most of its length to eventually flatten out and wind 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 the creek and it
gets regular plants of Rainbow trout during the summer months though it
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.
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 need
to fool these trout, so 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 planters.
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 is planted weekly throughout most of the season
and it also can hold some native fish that make their way either
up from Bridgeport Reservoir or down from Lower Twin Lakes. In
2008 it produced a twelve pound Brown. There's plenty of public access
on the upper section of the creek and plenty of camping as well.” says
Jim Reid, the owner of Ken’s Sporting Goods in Bridgeport.
He also recommends that for flies,
“I usually recommend attractor nymphs (Princes,
Pheasant Tails and the like) early in the season, then for the bulk of
the summer I'd go with terrestrials (beetles, ants and hoppers) and
attractor dries (Humpy's, Wulffs, etc.) as well as small bugger type patterns.” 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.
Thirty five miles to the north of Bridgeport, California State Highway 89 intersects with Hwy 395 and if you travel west for about twenty miles you will come to Markleeville, California. Markleeville is famous for only two things; first and most important is the Wolf Creek Restaurant & Bar (formerly the Cutthroat Saloon, which it is still called by the locals) as it once was notorious for a large collection of bras and panties that hung from the ceiling of the bar, but the new owners removed them so they could attract a better clientele. I’m not sure whether or not they succeeded, as my friends and I still make it a point to stop there for a burger whenever we’re in town. The second best thing about Markleeville is that it is near some of the best fishing on the east side. A couple of miles to the east lies the legendary East Carson, to the north is the West Carson and to the west is Pleasant that is unique in that it is one of the few “pay to play” creeks on the east side of the Sierras. Though it is a small creek with flows of under 50 cfs it is home to some huge Rainbows. On a recent outing the smallest fish caught among the three fishermen in our group was sixteen inches with the largest going around twenty-one. Local guide Don Weirauch (owner of the Angler’s Edge fly shop in nearby Gardnerville, NV) says that rigs and patterns are very straight forward at Pleasant Valley Creek and recommends short leaders of 3X fluorocarbon attached to a size #8 bead head Wooly Bugger in black, olive or rusty brown. There is some good dry fly fishing in the slower water and in the pond area. Don’s clients do real well with size #14 tent winged caddis patterns (ie. tied with a turkey quill wing), #14 Yellow Humpy, Parachute Adams #16 & #18 and Madam-X size #14 (works for both stoneflies and hoppers). Of course ant and beetle patterns are a must for all east side streams. The pond section has huge hatches of Callibaetis so it will be good to have some gray colored cripple patterns in your fly box. A five or six weight rod is recommended so you will have a little extra backbone to handle these big fish. Stealthy ness, and line handling ability is the key as the water is crystal clear and you are usually casting to fish that you can see.