Winter Fly Fishing Options

Winter Fly Fishing Tips: Central Valley Rivers

Why wait until opening day to catch fish, then put the rod away in November? We have plenty of opportunities as we guide on 3 Central Valley tailwaters. The Tuolumne and Merced rivers reopen on Jan. 1st after being closed for Nov.-Dec. Salmon runs. They both hold decent populations of Rainbow Trout alongside the occasional Steelhead. There is no planting of Trout in either river, so the fish here are all wild and healthy. It’s mainly Nymphing, but we do see some BWO Mayfly hatches that can get some surface activity going. (Even the coldest trout streams have insect hatches, especially on warmer days.) The Lower Kings River is a planted put-and-take river. There are some large Trout that go into the water starting in December and the fishing can be very good there. Expect other anglers to be on the water. Weekends can be very busy on the lower Kings.

Central Valley Rivers Trout

Winter Fishing for Steelhead

Steelhead season in California's Central Valley begins January 1st. We'll be fishing on the Merced and Tuolumne rivers. The Merced has fished very well the last couple of years, while the Tuolumne has suffered from low flows, and therefore receives smaller runs of fish. I secured private property access last year and now have another 4 miles of river to fish. We fish this private property section from our one-man pontoon boats. The public access section upstream is both walk-in and drift fishing. I like to use the "high-stick" technique when fishing these rivers. We'll use very short casts with a 2-fly combination rig. I like to use enough weight to get the flies down deep to the bottom of the riffles and pools. (No long casts necessary here.)

Winter Steelhead Trout Fishing

Winter Trout in Eastern Sierra

The Owens river, Hot Creek, and the East Walker River. Most Anglers have heard of these famous Eastern Sierra waters but many may not be aware that they are open to year-round angling. The Upper Owens river upstream from the Benton Crossing bridge hosts a strong run of Crowley lake Rainbow Trout during the winter months. Most of these fish are in the 22-26 inch range.

The middle section of the Owens is located in the Owens gorge. This section of the river is home to a healthy population of wild Brown Trout. The majority of these fish are in the 6-10 inch range with the occasional 14-inch "Lunker". These Trout can be caught on dry flies all winter long.

The Lower Owens near the town of Bishop is a beautiful tailwater stream that winds its way out through the high desert of the Owens valley. Dependable Mayfly hatches all winter long make this a go to stream for fly fishers in the know.

The section of Hot Creek (one of the best spring creeks in California) open to the public is bordered by the private Hot Creek Ranch upstream and natural hot springs downstream. The high water temps of the springs inhibit Trout movement downstream. Although Hot Creek's winter hatches are not as prolific as those in the summer there is still enough activity to arouse the Trout all winter long.

The East Walked River was once one of the finest Trout streams in the west. Periods of drought along with agricultural demands have contributed to the decline of this once blue-ribbon trout stream. Somehow the stream and its Trout have persevered giving the patient and diligent angler glimpses of its historic past. Conditions will improve with more winters like this one of 2017.

Join Sierra Fly Fisher and Orvis in the Eastern Sierra for some great winter fishing.

Interested in Yosemite fly fishing? Read our guide here!

Eastern Sierra Trout Fishing
Eastern Sierra Trout

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