Copyright 2017 James Marsh
Fly Fishing the Upper Owens River
The Owens River begins at Big Springs and meanders
down Long Valley some into Crowley Lake. It provides
twenty miles of excellent trout fishing. This is a picture-
perfect meadow stream with deep, undercut grass lined
banks. Picture perfect as it is, it isn't a pushover to fish.
It takes good presentations, simi-realistic flies and
staying hidden from the trout if your are going to have
a very successful day of fly fishing.
Some very large trout migrate out of Crowley Lake up
into the river to spawn making it a big fish small stream
fishery at times. The water is clear and smooth, the
banks provide few trees and the wind blows often. The
trout probably average about 12 inches but as just
mentioned, they are not easy to catch.
One problem with many anglers is that the river has
quite a bit of private property. There are two miles of
private waters on the Alpers' Owens River Ranch in the
upper end of Long Valley. It has a fish hatchery on the
ranch that produces trout for stocking at other
locations. This section is catch and release only,
barbless flies only.
It also has a man-constructed two mile creek that flows
through the ranch that is stocked with large rainbow
trout for children and meals for the guest.
Another five miles of the river that flows through the
Arcularius Ranch and is for guest only. There are two
other privately owned sections of the upper river.
The public has access to about ten miles of the lower
section of the Upper Owens River off Owens River
Road. There's a small parking area where anglers can
park and fish up or downstream.
The Big Springs Camp provides access to a mile of
public access water. It is located on Owens River Road
about 2 miles from state highway #395.
There are several tributary streams that enter the
Upper Owens River. Hilton Creek is a small mountain
stream that flows down into the valley into Convict
Near state highway #395, Convict Creek is a good little
meadow stream to fish. It flows into McGee Creek just
above Crowley Lake, which is yet another meadow
stream with trout.
The river has lots of aquatic and terrestrial insects to
feed the trout, as well as lots of crustaceans. Your best
bet is to match what is hatching or better, what is about
to hatch with specific imitations of the insects.
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Upper Owens River California
Photo Courtesy Steven Lamb
Recommended Tackle & Gear
4, 5 or 6 weight
Dry fly: 9 &12 ft., 5 or 6X, Nymphing: 71/2
ft., 3 or 4X, Streamers 0X
Dry fly: 5 or 6X, Nymphing: 3 or 4X,
Best Fly Rod:
Perfect Fly Supreme Four, Superb Five or
For 4/5/6 fly line
Fly Floatants and Misc Items:
Loon Floatants, KISS Strike Indicators
Tools & Accessories:
Nippers, forceps, retractors, etc.
Upper Owens River Hatches and
Our information on aquatic insects is based
on our stream samples of larvae and nymphs,
not guess work. We base fly suggestions on
imitating the most plentiful and most available
insects and other foods at the particular time
you are fishing. Unlike the generic fly shop
trout flies, we have specific imitations of all
the insects in the Owens River and in all
stages of life that are applicable to fishing. If
you want to fish better, more realistic trout
flies, have a much higher degree of success,
give us a call. We not only will help you with
selections, you will learn why, after trying
Perfect Flies, 92% of the thousands of our
customers will use nothing else.
The most consistent mayfly that hatches on
the Upper Owens River is the Blue-winged
Olive. Of course, the little olives represent
several different species of different genera.
Most of the larger ones are Baetis species in
a hook size 18. They start hatching in March
and hatch off and on throughout the Spring,
Summer and early Fall. Other hatches can
occur during the winter months depending on
the particular species. You should always
have some imitations along with you. On
cloudy, overcast days they likely to show up.
Pale Evening Duns can hatch from June into
the first of July. Both the duns and spinners of
this mayfly can be important.
Pale Morning Duns hatch from May through
June. These hatches can be good ones in
certain areas of the river.
Little Black Caddisflies, Brachcentrus genus
species, hatch from about the first of March
on into the middle of May depending on the
section of river and weather.
Spotted Sedge caddisfly hatches occur from
May through the middle of October. They
represent the majority of the caddisflies and
consist of several different species. Most of
the heavy hatches occur during the Summer
There are also plenty of Green Sedges.
The different species hatch from the first
of March until the middle of May.
Imitations of their larvae, called Green
Rock Worms, are effective all year.
Golden Stoneflies hatch from the middle
of March until the middle of May
depending on the section of water you
are fishing. Little Yellow Stoneflies are the
most plentiful stonefly species. They
hatch from April through June. Most
anglers call these Yellow Sallies. You
should have imitations of both the larva
and the adults.
October Caddis are very plentiful and are
a fish producing hatch. It occurs
according to its name, during October on
the Lower Sacramento River.
Terrestrial season on the river starts in
warm months of the year. Beetles can
become important anytime from the first of
May until through the first of September.
Grasshopper usually become large
enough to become important in June and
last through July and August.
Although few anglers fish them, imitations
of midge larvae and pupae will catch
rainbows on this river throughout the
year. They are most important when few
other insects are hatching. Many anglers
think the tiny flies are too little to catch the
big rainbows on the Lower Sac but they
are wrong. They can be very effective
Scuds are plentiful and represent a large
part of the trout's diet. Imitations of them
will catch trout year-round. Damsel fly and
Dragon fly nymphs are also effective.
Streamers are very important. Imitations
of sculpin, minnows and baitfish will catch
trout all year. They are very important
during low light situations or when the
water is slightly off color.
Year-round but area restrictions
Fishing is okay except during Spring runoff
which last almost a month. Rainbows move
upstream from the lake to spawn.
Summertime is by far the best time to fish the
Upper Owens River.
Early Fall is great and the time large brown
trout move out of Crowley Lake into the
Upper Owens River to spawn.
It is possible to catch trout on the warmer
days of winter but fishing is usually pretty
|Options For Selecting Flies:
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with the dates you will be fishing this
stream and we will send you a list of our
fly suggestions. Please allow up to 24
hours for a response.
2. Call us 800-594-4726 and we will help
you decide which flies you need.
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with a budget for flies and we will select
them to match the budget and get them to
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The conditions are much better
but the water still cold and dirty.
Cutthroats are moving out of the
lake upstream to spawn. We
didn't receive any reports this
past week from anyone fishing.
The roads are getting into much
better shape, so access is much
better. Streamers like the Brown
Sculpin, Olive and black Matuka
sculpin and Yellow Malabou
sculpin should work.