The East Walker River is famous for two things: for being one of the best brown trout fly fishing streams in California and for its resiliency. After several years of draught in the High Sierra, this 90-mile river is bouncing back to life, making it a great fishing destination this year.
Fishing in the East Walker
The East Walker is beloved for its rugged population of feisty and challenging brown trout. One of the region’s finest tail water fisheries, the East Walker is home to plenty of good pocket water and chubby trout that reward an angler’s skill and patience.
There are numerous roadside access points along Highway 182 (Sweetwater Road), as it follows the river from the Bridgeport Reservoir dam to the Nevada border. In the angler’s vernacular, the East Walker is broken down into several popular stretches that are known for holding healthy trout.
Where to Fish
The “Miracle Mile,” is the most legendary stretch, although there are some special access ranches on the Nevada side of the river that are the stuff of legend, too. The Miracle Mile is the slower, shallower water just below the dam known for consistently being home to big browns, including many in the 20-inch range. It’s also known for hosting lots of fishers as it cuts its way through the East Walker River Wildlife Area.
There are about seven miles of river in California before it crosses from the Golden State into the Silver State. Besides the solid stretches in California, there are also some good options for the first eight or so miles after the East Walker crosses the border. A Nevada fishing license and special trespass fees are required to fish popular stretches like the Rosachi section and the Sceirine Ranch. The licenses and passes are available at Ken’s Sporting Goods in Bridgeport.
“A skilled angler should be able to hook into 10-15 fish, with several in the 20-inch range and even one or two over 24-inches, during a day on the stretch like the Sceirine Ranch,” says Jim Reid, owner of Ken’s Sporting Goods. “There are some springs that feed the river there and provide consistent temperatures and good holding water. The fish just seem to really like it down there.”
Of course, as Jim reminded, just because you can hook into some hogs, doesn’t always mean you can land them. Trout don’t get big from being stupid. The reason the browns of the East Walker are so big, but are also so famously selective about what they eat is because when it comes to food sources, they’ve got a lot to choose from.
Varieties of Fish
There are a dozen varieties of fish found in the East Walker, including rainbows, tui chubs, mountain whitefish and Sacramento perch. There are also all kinds of aquatic and terrestrial insects with the mighty brown trout (often called “God’s Fish” in the Eastern Sierra) at the top of a very healthy food chain.
With plenty of big and wily fish, and a remarkable ability to bounce back after low water years, there’s little doubt as to why the East Walker is considered one of the best places in all of the West to chase after brown trout with a fly rod.
The East Walker is one of only a few year-round fisheries in Mono County. First opened to winter fishing in December 2006, the river is popular with diehard fly fishers. Although fishing on the East Walker River is permitted year-round on public lands, it is catch-and-release with barbless artificial flies and lures only and a zero harvest limit from November 15 until the General Fishing Season opener on the last Saturday in April. During the general season, anglers are allowed to catch-and-keep a limit of one fish over 18-inches per person, per day.
Resiliency is, of course, the river’s most important trait. One that is again on display as the East Walker bounces back to life after several years of drought. “It just rebounds like crazy,” says Jim. He has been fishing the river, and the region, for nearly 45 years. He has seen the East Walker struggle and thrive. And he’s very hopeful about both the current state and the future of the fishery.
“The East Walker has had some challenges over the years and those issues have really been about low water.” The river’s upper section has run dry twice since the `70s. “The key is to have a couple of good winters. They don’t even have to be stellar winters—just good—and the river comes right back.”
With the large Twin Lakes above Bridgeport filled and Bridgeport Reservoir, which directly feeds the river, in promising shape, it looks like it should be another good year ahead for the East Walker.
“I’m always expecting a good winter and a good spring and more good fishing on the East Walker,” Jim says. It’s a confidence the river will sooner or later reward, for nothing can hold the remarkable East Walker River down for long.
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