We began our trek to Bridgeport, California with high hopes of large browns, rainbows, and plentiful brook trout. We didn’t have much time (a total day and a half of fishing), but that took nothing away from our brash confidence that we would find the fish in a new setting.
We arrived Wednesday afternoon on the shores of the Bridgeport Reservoir, a gorgeous setting at around 6,500 feet in elevation. The area has a bit of everything: floodplains, meadows and meandering streams beneath the towering East Sierra range as a backdrop to the south, and rolling desert hills across the lake to the West. The locals couldn’t have been more welcoming, and all noted the excellent fishing being had in the infamous Lower East Walker River, as well as Bridgeport Reservoir itself. We wouldn’t be focusing on stillwater, as our bread and butter is the moving water domain (or at least that’s what we thought at the time).
We made a quick stop in to Ken’s Sporting Good shop in Bridgeport, stocked up on small nymphs and midges, and booked it out of there with the day getting long.
We began Wednesday evening on the Lower East Walker River (EW). Gorgeous water at a gentle gradient, with good clarity of about 4 feet. Nothing hatching, but we were confident our small nymph rigs would yield fish. Turns out the famous browns of the EW were a little more wily than we anticipated. In two hours, only one small fish was hooked, and it did not come to hand. Ran into a local angler who had managed a few fish over 5 days, using size 22 midge patterns. Size 22?! We didn’t have a single fly in the arsenal at that size.
We fished until dark and had no further action. A tad frustrated, we had high hopes for the next day, as we had the full day and we would be targeting the higher elevation tributaries, where the fish were far less educated and more numerous.
So as it turns out, the Eastern Sierra range had a substantial snowpack, and as we approached the first target tributary on a sunny Thursday morning, we could see that the effects of the perfectly (horribly) timed heatwave was in full swing. High, murky water, that looked almost unfishable. Undaunted, we decided to continue on, as a nearby system was lake buffered, and I remained hopeful that would we find the water we were looking for.
We found the second tributary before noon, and were immediately encouraged by the water clarity. A little on the high side, but visibility was good, even dry fly good. We hiked aways to find some some remote water and began tossing nymphs and casting dries where we could manage decent drifts. Nada, not a touch. Tough to find pools, and when we did, the best we could manage were a couple of missed takes. At this point, we were looking for faster fishing and if possible lower water, so we didn’t linger. On to the next.
The third tributary took us significantly higher, and we soon found ourselves in the 7000+ elevation range, going as high as 8000 feet. The third tributary was the clearest of the three, and had a much lower gradient, not unlike the EW in some sections. The terrain was quite barren, with the exception of the riverside trees and vegetation. We came across a gorgeous beaver pond, and fished around the inflow. Nothing. Then the outflow. Still nothing. We moved to a new section of the stream and began to hike in earnest. I found a long run, and got a good cast out. At the very end of a long drift, I finally hooked up and landed the first fish of the trip, a small but gorgeous wild brown trout. Finally. With the pressure of a potential skunking alleviated, I figured the floodgates would open. I figured wrong.
We proceeded upstream through some of the most beautiful, featured water I’ve ever laid eyes on. The creek wound its way through meadows and grassland, with sparse trees scattered here and there. The beaver had been busy, with little dams and side channels adding to the complexity. The water looked incredibly fishy, but we would not have any more hookups.
With only a couple of hours remaining, we decided to head back to creek #2, where you can find a beautiful hotspring that was a target destination for the group (as there were two non-anglers with us for the trip). We all welcomed the reprieve, and I knew I would get one last crack at the fishing while the rest of the crew got in a soak and a brew. I hiked down the hill, and found a long run with the sun beginning to set behind me. It was here that I finally ‘dialed’ in for 10 minutes. I found some fish holding tight to the river bottom, and managed to land 3 rainbows on a small, heavily weighted stonefly nymph, including a nice 14 incher. Good fighters, and beautiful colours. Tough for pictures, as unfortunately Mikky was in full brew mode soaking up in the hot springs above. Tough to argue with the setting though.
So to the Eastern Sierras, I promise we will be back for round 2. We’ll get you next time, with better water conditions and apparently equipped with size 22 chironomids. Stunning scenery and seemingly endless creeks and mountain lakes make the location one I’d recommend in a heartbeat.
Big thanks to those that provided the information leading up to our trip, it was a huge help.