The Upper Owens River can be reached from Hwy 395 by way of
Benton Crossing Road or from the Owens River Road, 7 miles north of Mammoth Lakes. The Upper Owens River
consists of 15 miles of "Spring Creek" type of water flowing from it's headwaters at Big Springs
and emptying into Lake Crowley. There are three ranches with private waters that start about a mile below
Big Springs and extend about 4 miles to Long Ears. Access to Long Ears is about 5 miles downstream from
Big Springs, turning left on a dirt road past the cattle guard. The Benton Crossing access has numerous
dirt roads covering about 10 miles of the lower reaches to the river mouth. Hot Creek can be reached by
taking Hot Creek Road directly off Hwy 395 next to the Mammoth Airport.Access at upper parking lot as
well as the
parking lot above the hot springs.
The Upper Owens is one of the finest Spring-fed streams in the Sierras. It is best in the
Spring when Rainbows come upriver
from Crowley to spawn and in the Fall when the Browns make their migration. There is a one mile section
below Big Springs campground which presents itself like a freestone stream with plenty of deep pools,
eddies, and runs. The river then reaches a meadowland environment within Alper's and Arcularius Ranch. If not
guests of those ranches, you can pick up the stream again at Long Ear's and have about 18 miles of meadow stream
to the mouth of Crowley Lake.
During the early season in May casting Olive Caddis with a drag-free drift is preferred. Later in the
month while the fish are returning to Crowley, using streamers and Beadhead nymphs will find the fish in
deep undercuts and holes. By early July, most of the big fish have returned to Crowley but there are
still plenty of smaller fish that will take dries. In October, the Browns make their way upriver. Use
Streamers and weighted nymphs working the undercuts and holes. Most anglers prefer to use small nymphs
like Copper Johns, Caddis pupa, midges, Prince Nymphs, Black caddis, and Flashbacks in sizes #16-20. The
trick is to keep your nymphs small and on the bottom with lots of weight and sinking line. Also,
stripping streamers like Olive Matukas, silver streamers, and Olive or Brown Wooly Buggers will take fish
during the afternoons.
Hot Creek is a small stretch of Spring Creek water open to the public below the Hot Creek Ranch. There is about 1 mile
of stream available until the thermal springs occur. This water is strictly C&R with barbless flies.
Some surveys indicate that there are more fish(11,000) per that mile than any stream in the Sierras. Most of these
fish are browns in the 8-12 inch class. Hot Creek can be heavily fished and the fish will be very wary of the presentation. The
best time of the year to fish Hot Creek is the early summer when there is plenty of runoff and the hatches
are active. Caddis is your best bet with #16-20 dries, #18-20 emergers, and #18-20 green larvae patterns.
Weeds tend to choke off Hot Creek in the later part of summer in August and September for nymphs, this is
a good time to try Trico's and Caddis patterns. The Dry Fly season picks up in October with the onset of
the Fall Baetis Hatch.
Guide Tom Loe of Sierra Drifters had a remarkable Brown caught by his client, Dr. Cary Kutzke, during the Opener weekend of May '06. It was a 27 inch, ten pound brown. Large browns cannot migrate up to Hot Creek from the Owens River due to the thermal springs in the lower reaches of Hot Creek. Therefore, this big boy was a wild, home-grown. Read his commentary on his website.
Above Benton Crossing Bridge, the Upper Owens is open year-round using only artificial lures and barbless hooks. There is a two fish limit with a 16" maximum from the last Saturday of April to Nov 15th. From Nov. 16th to the day preceeding the last Saturday of April, it is strictly catch and release.
The Upper Owens from the Benton Crossing Bridge to the Fishing Monument about 1/4 miles upstream for the Crowley mouth is closed to all fishing until the Saturday before Memorial Day and is opened until Sept 30th. These restrictions were requested by a number of guides and fishery-conscious individuals due to the spawning requirements of the Browns and Rainbows in the Spring and Fall. The section between the Benton Crossing Bridge and the Fishing Monument is open to both bait and artificial lure fishermen. It has a 5/day limit and 10 in possession.
Below the Fishing Monument, the Upper Owens is under the same regulations as Crowley Lake. The season opens on the last Saturday of April and extends to Nov. 15th. Both Bait and Artificial lures are allowed until July 31st. with a limit of 5/day or 10 in possession. On August 1st this stretch of water and Crowley Lake switches to a 2/day limit and 18" minimum using artificial lures only with barbless hooks.