California’s Eastern Sierra

Owens River

Owens River

Owens River

While the Owens River may be most famous for the fight over its water, it has also become well known as a fishery, especially the Upper Owens stretch that runs through Mono County.

From its headwaters at Big Springs just beyond Mammoth Mountain, until it flows into Crowley Lake, the Upper Owens is a beloved fishery and home to some of the best fly fishing in the region. One of just a few year-round fisheries, the Upper Owens River is beloved for hosting big brown and rainbow trout that are fairly easy for angers to access.

Casting from the bank and wet wading are the best ways to fish the Upper Owens as it makes its way through the open expanse of the Long Valley Caldera. A lack of vegetation surrounding the river makes casting much easier than it is at other moving bodies of water in the region.

The Upper Owens is also scattered with natural hot springs and primitive campsites, making it popular for more than just fishing.

Directions: Access to the dirt roads, including Owens River Road, that follow the Upper Owens River can be reached from Highway 120 within six miles of the junction of Highway 395.

Owens River

Camping on the Owens River

Brown’s Owens River Campground provides RV and tent sites right along the river as well as a small general store. For more information or to book a site, please check out brownscampgrounds.com or call 760-920-0975. The Big Springs Campground near the headwaters offers over 25 campsites and does not take reservations. There are also numerous primitive campsites along the Owens River Road and plenty of camping and lodging options in nearby Mammoth Lakes.

Directions: Access to the dirt roads, including Owens River Road, that follow the Upper Owens River can be reached from Highway 120 within six miles of the junction of Highway 395

Owens River Rainbow

Fishing the Owens River

The Owens River in Mono County is one of the most popular fisheries in the region, especially for fly fishers, and the reasons are rather simple. Besides offering easy access and plenty of room to cast, the “Upper O,” as most folks call it, also hosts some of the extremely large trout that come up from Crowley Lake to spawn each season. They even call the big rainbows that migrate into the river “Crowley steelhead,” in honor of the large sea run trout of the Pacific Coast they resemble.

While steelhead are known as the “fish of a thousand casts,” the Upper Owens is known for rewarding anglers for far fewer casts. The river hosts extremely healthy populations of rainbow and a variety of brown trout, and can be especially productive during the spring and fall spawning runs.

Regulations on the Upper Owens do change with the seasons—winters allows only single-barbless, catch-and-release fishing—so please be sure to use the proper gear and techniques for each season.

Directions: Access to the dirt roads, including Owens River Road, that follow the Upper Owens River can be reached from Highway 120 within six miles of the junction of Highway 395.

Owens River Rainbow