Located below Pleasant Valley Reservoir and just north of Bishop, the Lower Owens River parallels Highway 395, making it easily accessible and a perfect spot for winter fly fishing. The river makes its way through a valley surrounded by the striking peaks of the High Sierra, so the views aren’t that bad, either.
What Makes It Great
The picturesque setting and good trout fishing in this area make it a popular spot among locals and visitors alike. Fly fishermen wade the Lower Owens River with nymphs and dry fly combinations, taking advantage of lower flows in the colder months. The ideal flow for wading is 250 CFS (cubic feet per second) and the flow here rarely exceeds 500 CFS in the cooler months.
The fish love hiding in all the little features that provide cover for them, such as undercut banks and aquatic vegetation. The most common catch from the Owens River is rainbow or brown trout, typically around 10 to 12 inches, though you might find some up to 18 inches.The Bishop Chamber of Commerce and CA Department of Fish and Wildlife stock rainbows in Pleasant Valley Reservoir and the river year-round.
The 3.3-mile stretch of the river below Pleasant Valley Reservoir is a designated Wild Trout Area and is catch and release. Farther downstream, the water is a little warmer and hosts other fish species including bass, bluegill and carp. Just east of downtown Bishop, the Buckley Pond area offers easy access, where wading, float tubing, and drift boating are all popular options.
Who is Going to Love It
The banks of the Lower Owens are nutrient rich, attracting a large population of aquatic insects and ensuring reliable dry fly fishing. It’s a great place to learn to fish given that there is a really dense trout population, or improve your skills if you have been fly fishing for a while. There are plenty of guides in the area that can assist with outfitting and lessons for new fly fishers.
Directions, Parking, & Regulations
To access the Wild Trout area on Lower Owens River, take Highway 395 North to Pleasant Valley Rd (about 6.5 miles north of Bishop). Follow Pleasant Valley Rd. northeast for about 1.8 miles. Cross the river and make a right onto Chalk Bluffs Rd, where you will see several access sites.
If you want to reach the river below the Wild Trout area, turn off Highway 395 north of Bishop from Highway 6 at Five Bridges Road or at Laws Railroad Museum. Access the Owens River East of Bishop from Line Street, Warm Springs or Collins Road.
Featured image provided by Patitucci Photo