Spring Fishing Tips for Hooking Eastside Trout

For many a local angler, spring is the best season of them all. After the joyful kick-off to another trout season and the chaos and crowds of “Fishmas” (aka opening day of trout season) dissipate, the region returns to its quiet, slack-season ways.

The weather—which may throw a bit of all four seasons at you on any given day—is usually nice enough for casting, and the people are as sparse along the streams and lake shores as they are at the local hotels and restaurants. The summer has yet to bring its visitors. The winter scene has mellowed out, mostly leaving those who like to ski, golf, fish and bike all in the course of a single weekend.

So it’s easy to feel like you’ve got the whole world to yourself during most spring days in the Eastern Sierra.

Much like the weather during the time of year when the desert peach, daffodils, and backyard lilacs like to bloom, the fishing can be fickle at times. It can turn from hot to cold—or vice versa—in a moment’s notice. So it’s best to have a good game plan for casting around Mono County in the spring.

Rick Flamson has been advising anglers since he first opened Ricks Sports Center in Mammoth over 30 years ago. As Rick’s large and loyal following can attest, Rick has a boatload of personality, as well as knowledge about trout fishing in the High Sierra. He passed along some tips for finding success during the season when rainbow, golden and cutthroat trout spawn.

Dress Appropriately and Use Sunscreen

Rick is regularly hollering at his young staff, locally born and bred guides like Reid Linnastruth, to wear sunscreen! Just because it isn’t mid-summer doesn’t mean that the sun isn’t extremely strong in Mammoth’s lofty elevations. It’s also wise to dress in layers and to be prepared for rain, snow, wind and strong Sierra sunshine.

Check Your Line

Rick said it’s very important to make sure your gear is in good working order before you hit the water for the first time this season. Rick also highly recommends any old line be replaced on spinning reels, and that even fly line that was lucky enough to get some good use during the winter should be cleaned. Dirty floating fly lines will sink and big fish will snap off or see the beat up old line.

Keep It Light

Light leaders are also very important in the spring when the fish are just coming out of their long winter’s rest and tend to be a little slower and more meticulous about their dining selections. Rick recommends anyone fishing with bait or lures should have a few feet of light line leading to their hooks while fly fishers should put on a fresh tapered leader.

Keep It Moving

“Unlike in the middle of the summer when you can throw your bait set out there and then set up in your chair with a good book and wait for the action, you have to keep moving in the spring,” Rick said. He recommends staying active, moving to a new spot—or even a new fishery—if you don’t have any success hooking up rather quickly. “If you’re not successful after a rather short period of time, say 30 or 45 minutes, move. Be flexible. You can’t stay anchored in one spot during this time of year,” he said.

Smell of Success

“Scent is the key, especially this time of year, when the water is still cold up at 9,000-feet, at places like Lake George, so the fish can be a bit lethargic. You’ve got to attract them, motivate them to eat,” Rick said. Inflated night crawlers and a wide variety of PowerBait—regularly re-applied—to anything from gold-colored treble hooks to the business end of lures like Thomas Buoyant and Tasmanian Devils are always good, stinky options.

Best Spots for Spring

Larger lakes at lower elevations are usually the best options in the spring. They are the first to be free of ice or snow most years while many creeks and rivers run swift and muddy during the spring. Crowley Lake, especially early in the season, Convict Lake, the Mammoth Lakes Basin (Mary and George in particular) and the June Lake Loop are the best bets.

Mike McKenna

Award-winning author and journalist Mike McKenna is the writer behind the new book Casting Around the Eastern Sierra, which was recently awarded runner-up in the Outdoor Writers Association of California's Best Outdoor Guidebook category. The book focuses on fishing in Mammoth Lakes and the surrounding area, with tips and tricks from local experts.

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