6 Tips for Learning to Fish in Mammoth Lakes

Jul 12, 2022

Fishing is one of the most popular summer activities in the Eastern Sierra. The sport can seem daunting to a beginner, but anyone can learn to fish. Here are six tips first time anglers or anyone looking to up their fishing game in Mammoth Lakes.

1. Use Local Resources

With fishing, getting started is often the hardest part. Thankfully there are plenty of resources, including maps, books, guides and a wealth of local knowledge, to help you get acquainted with the sport.

Guide Services

Hiring a fishing guide will expedite the learning process and make everything easier. A number of guide services offer introductory rates for first-time anglers. Whether you have experience spin fishing but want to hook a trout on a fly rod for the first time or have never held a rod, the beginner packages give you personalized instruction at a discounted rate.

Mammoth Lakes Fishing Shops

Each of the local fishing shops post daily fish reports with flows, conditions, and recommended bugs and bait; and each shop has employees who are eager to talk about all things fishing and share their invaluable knowledge.

Books and Resources

Do some research and reading before you cast a line and hook a trout. Here are some of my favorite fishing resources:
  • Sierra Trout Guide by Ralph Cutter – Published in 1991, this book is a timeless guide to trout fishing in the Eastern Sierra. The book describes trout species, habitat, and area waters, and is an informative resource for anyone interested in learning about fishing in the Sierra Nevada.
  • Fly Fishing Eastern Sierra Streams by Michael Brown – In this colorful book, anglers learn what they need, where to go fishing in the Eastern Sierra and how to get there. It’s a great resource for beginner anglers and anyone new to the region.
  • Crowley University by Kent Rianda – This DVD is a video tutorial of fishing Crowley Lake by Troutfitter owner and longtime Crowley Lake Guide, Kent Rianda.

2. Get the Right Fishing Gear

You’ll need a lot of the same personal gear for a day fishing that you use for any outdoor activity including hat, sunglasses, sunscreen, lip balm, snacks and plenty of water. Lightweight long sleeve shirt and pants are best to protect your skin from the sun and pesky biting bugs. In addition, you’ll need a basic fishing set-up. Rick’s sells conventional fishing set-ups including pole, reel and line starting at $27.99. At Kittredge Sports you can purchase an introductory fly fishing rod, reel, and line starting at $150. In addition you’ll need lures or flies, nippers, and a few other tools. Ask a shop employee to help you set up your kit. All guided fishing trips in the area include the gear you’ll need for the day, so if you don’t want to invest in poles, etc. right away, you can go out with a guide first to see how you like fly fishing before making a purchase.

3. Know the Regulations

Following the regulations set by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife is an important part of being and Eastern Sierra fisherman. All of the fishing shops in town sell fishing licenses. Bring your driver’s license with you to purchase a fishing license. Each water has different regulations, which can change seasonally. You are responsible for knowing the regulations and limits for the water you are fishing. Visit the California Department of Fish and Game website and educate yourself before you go. If you are new to fishing and not sure if you are ready to invest in a license, there are two free fishing days annually in Mono County. Fishermen are not required to purchase a license on those days. Bag and size limits, gear restrictions, report card requirements, fishing hours and stream closures remain in effect on license-free fishing days.

4. Learn Where to Go

The Eastern Sierra is full of streams and lakes, and in Mammoth Lakes, you don’t have to go far to cast a line and hook a trout. Pick up the Eastern Sierra fishing map at the Mammoth Lakes Welcome Center for a visual guide to the best spots to cast a line. “The best place to learn is on open water, where there are fewer things to get tangled up on,” says Matt Ray, an employee at Kittredge Sports. Beginners will want to look for spots to fish that are clear of obstacles or natural things to get hooked up on like trees and shrubs. Ray recommends stream fishermen go to the Owens River. With its bends and riffles, there are plenty of fishy spots on the river and the grassy meadow is mostly clear of land obstacles. Fishing from a boat can be a great way to get on to open water and away from tree branches that like to break your line. Crowley, Convict, June and Mary all have marinas with fishing boat rentals and are favorite lakes for trolling and spin fishing.

5. Take Advice from the Pros

“Have patience,” says Rick’s employee Alex Fillmore. “It’s called fishing not catching. If you are getting frustrated, look around and enjoy the scenery.” Fish can hear you and smell you. Avoid wearing anything that is heavily scented, unless of course, you wear garlic perfume. Use lemon on your hands to get rid of any scents. Beware of sunscreens and bug sprays getting on your fishing equipment. The oily creams and sprays glisten on fishing line and will scare fish away. But don’t forgo the protection. Getting sunburned or bitten by pesky mosquitos and no-see-ums is a good way to have no fun at all.

6. Leave No Trace

Losing a lure or a line to a nearby tree branch or shrub happens, but it is your responsibility to pack out all of your trash. Anything that falls into moving water will get whisked downstream and end up in an eddy somewhere, so keep a close eye on your personal belongings as well as trash. Be conscious of the wear and tear you have on nature while you’re fishing, too. When walking along the water, use existing trails and footpaths; please don’t trample foliage. Catch and release fishing isn’t just about setting the fish you catch free. The way you treat the fish is important to ensure its health and survival. Wet your hands before touching the fish, and try to handle it as little as possible. If you take a photo, be quick, only keeping the fish out of the water for a few seconds. Then, before you release the fish, allow it to recover by gently holding it in the water facing upstream.

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