LOWER OWENS RIVER
Lower Owens River
Updated - 3/30/20
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Current River Conditions: Flows are at 148 CFS and clear
(scroll down for real time flows)
Fishing is good: Otis at the Troutfitter in Mammoth reports that fishing remains good with a bonus that the fish are larger this year. Quite a few are in the 12 to 14 inch range. He says that the best fishing seems to be in the slower deeper holes. Mayfly hatches are increasing with BWOs being the most predominent. Mornings have a decent midge hatch. Caddis should start soon. Don't be afraid to throw a big Stonefly pattern such as a Stimulater if your match the hatch patterns don't work. Fish are holding in deeper holes so keep moving until you find them. Mornings after 9am are best.
For detailed regulations click here: https://www.wildlife.ca.gov/Regulations
We have guides who fish the Lower Owens year round and the best way is from a drift boat, so if you would like to stick one of its legendary trophy fish, give us a call at the shop and we will hook you up with a local guide.
Generally Recommended Patterns
Click here to go to our Fly Catalog
Griffith's Gnat #20, Extended Body BWO #20, Parachute Adams #18-20, Elk Hair Caddis #16-20, Parachute Caddis #16-18, Yellow and tan Stimulators #14-16
Zebra Midge #18-20, Baetis B/H $18-20, Tungsten Caddis #14-18, Vinci's Depth Charge Birds Nest Olive or Natural #12-18, Stonefly nymphs #14-16
About the Lower Owens River
The most upstream section of the lower Owens is reached by turning onto Pleasant Valley Dam Rd off of Hwy 395 which is located about 6.8 mi north of Bishop. Go north east for about 1.3 mi to the campground located on the banks of the river. After you cross the bridge you can turn right or left on Chalk Bluffs Rd that runs alongside the river for several miles.
Below Pleasant Valley Dam, the river runs through a short freestone section and then meanders through the sagebrush and rabbit brush flats, very much like a spring creek. There are several dirt roads that intersect with Chalk Bluffs Rd that will allow you to drive right up to the river. Those access roads can get mucky after a rain so be aware that what looks like a shallow puddle can be a quagmire. Once you reach the area known as Five Points (see map) floating the river in a watercraft is the best strategy as the stream side vegetation is too thick to access the water from the bank. Since there is no actual boat launch, it would be advised to hire a guide to provide watercraft transportation. Guide information can be contacted through fly shops in Bishop or Mammoth Lakes. Information about guides is available by clicking the Guide link on this page.
The banks of the upper section are very steep which make wading difficult except during the lowest flows that occur in the winter. Be aware that regulations vary depending upon which section of the river you are fishing. The section between the dam and the footbridge at the lower end of Pleasant Valley Campground has different regulations than the three mile section from the footbridge down to the redwood sport fishing regulations sign. See the Stream Facts section at the end of this chapter for specifics.
Fishing the lower Owens has similarities to fishing any spring creek, except the fish in most cases are not quite as finicky. Another difference is that the flows can change day to day and season to season due to power generation needs at dam. When flows change the fish will re distribute themselves which will require some sleuthing on the fisherman’s part. Flow change can cause the fish to go off bite too. The lowest flows are in the winter which is fortunate as the river is open to fishing year round. The fact that the river is located at a relatively low elevation, the water stays relatively warm and rarely freezes.
Upstream from Five Points most of the fish are Browns that vary in length from ten to fifteen inches, and there are a lot of them. Some big bruisers hang out in the undercut banks. The river downstream from Five Points gets regular plants of Rainbows.