Tag Archives: Fly Fishing Lower Owens River

Like I really need another annual fly fishing trip…

Like I really need another annual fly fishing trip…  To my wife it seems like i have one every month.  But, I just couldn’t resist when a buddy of mine asked me months ago.  This buddy is Ken Foersch, president of my high School, Crespi Carmelite, an all-boys catholic high school in Encino, CA.  Ken told me this father-son all guys fishing trip in Bishop started with his dad like 30 years ago.  And they have been fishing the lower Owens river every year since.  I told him I’d be happy to teach some of the younger boys how to fly fish.  Little did I know that would be the most fun part of the trip.


Check out the white tips on this typical 12″ brown in the lower owens river

Firstly, I knew that some of my friends in “the club” would be able to help.  I serve in the San Diego Fly Fisher’s club and there was a club trip to bishop just a couple weekends prior.  I got a ton of guidance from my buddies in the club on what to expect.  But, what I didn’t expect to hear is that a few really good fly fishermen from the club did not do well at all.

I did well.  Arguably really well.  I fished it Thursday, Friday and Saturday… I got out of there just in time in the morning yesterday before the huge storm hit.  The wind on the way home was crazy…and mammoth took 4 feet of snow!


So I did the dawn patrol Thursday morning leaving at 4am so I could be on the water in time for the hatch.  The rest of the gang (which I had yet to meet) was not due to show up until that night and I wanted to figure out the river before they got there.

I was also pretty excited to fish a new rod.  I broke my go to 3 Wt. last year and got a ton of guidance from Mark Boname of North Platte River Fly Shop on its replacement.  I ended up buying a Temple Fork Outfitters BVK from the North Platte River Fly Shop.  What an awesome rod!  It casts the dries so well now I want to fish it everywhere.  It weighs only 2.4 Oz!  which makes it perfectly balanced with my super lightweight Lamson reel.  The BVK is a light, fast action rod, but has a soft sensitive tips.  So, it’s easy to cast like a fast action rod, but the feel is more like that really slow load on a medium action rod.  So fun to cast!  And what a great rod for the price!  It’s the only TFO rod I own and now I’m a big TFO fan.  Honestly I cannot wait to buy another TFO rod.


“Huck-Truck” parked on the banks of the Lower Owens River with the Sierras in the background

I decided on the way to bishop, that I would go to the head of the fly fishing only section (below the footbridge at the south end of the campground) of the Lower Owens River just to see how crowded it was.  I have never been able to fish there because there are always a ton of fly fisherman there; usually shoulder to shoulder.  Last year, two buddies of mine from the club just killed there.  To my surprise no one was there.  And the midge hatch was on.  I saw some rises in the bait section so I threw a midge adult floater just feet from my truck and boom!  2nd cast and I had landed a nice wild brown.  “Hmmm… this could be a good day.”  And I was.  I fished a midge dry trailed by a midge emerger and did really well.  And then the BWO hatch went off…. so I switched to a light green bodied size 18 BWO and man, was that fun.  Once the hatches ended, pretty much so did the good fishing.  But, I had hooked 25 or so and landed half of them by 1pm.  The weird thing was that every fish was a wild brown in the 10” to 12” range.  I was not catching big fish, nor was I catching tiny fish.

I met all the guys that night….great group.  Totally fun.  some of them had fished the stocked section in bishop in the afternoon and they did pretty well on bass and stocked trout on traditional tackle.


Austin casting dries to rising fish on the upper C&R section of the Lower Owens River

Well, the next day (Friday) I headed right back out to the head of the Wild fly fishing only section and parked exactly where I did the day prior.  No one there.  “No way!” I said to myself.  “Where in the world is everyone?  Do I not know something they know?”  The reality was the opposite.  There was no one on the 3-mile section of the lower Owens river and the fishing was great.  And no one knew it but me.  I did even better this day.  I probably had > 30 takes on the dries and landed more than half of them.  But, the same cookie cutter 12” browns.  All of them.  That is weird.  When the hatch died off and the fishing came to a halt around 1:30 PM I switch to streamers and did the 2+ mile walk downriver hunting for troutzilla.  And I caught a few….but the same cookie cutter 12” browns.  Troutzilla may have stuck me.  I got hit so hard on the swing it almost knocked the rod out of my hand.  But, he didn’t stick.  I’ll never know.

The next day, Saturday was one of the most fun fly fishing days I have had in a long time.  It was the best part of the trip and I didn’t even fish; I guided.  And not only did I get to guide, but I got to guide a newbie 15 year old high school sophomore named Austin.  Great kid!


My buddy Ken Battling on a custom rod made for me by Tom Young

And no one was on the river again!  A Saturday!  I couldn’t believe it.  When we started I told Austin and his uncle Ken (who asked me to teach him): “You are not going to catch a fish today.  But, a great goal is to make you a proficient cast and see if we can fool a couple fish to rise to your drift.  You won’t land them, but I’d love to see you hook one.”   I taught him how to cast….and he was doing ok…and he got better… and he missed about 5 takes.  Which was awesome.  I was happy at that.  then he started hooking fish….and missing them….  And then it happened…. Just like god looked down on us and took pity … he made a perfect cast in between two swift seams…right into soft water.  He mended and his drift was perfect.  Whack!  A 12” brown hit him hard and he set perfectly…. Before I could even coach him he had the fish on the reel.  At this point I was pretty much doing cartwheels in joy and screaming the f word “f’ing awesome!  woo!  Play him!  Don’t reel him in… f’ing awesome!”  he swung the fish to my net…. “Woo!!!! “ I screamed that so loud the whole owens valley heard it….   And then I apologized to him for getting so excited and saying the F word.  He laughed.


Austin with his first fish landed on a fly rod!

Fly Fishing Report -Lower Owens River – March 19-22, 2014

Fly Fishing Report -Lower Owens River

March 19-22, 2104

Wednesday March 19, 2014

Because of work I got a late start from Las Vegas.  It was an easy drive, but I forgot there is no fast food stops for like 275 miles.  once you leave las vegas you don’t see anything until bishop…except for the whore houses; and I did see a wild burro.  It’s an awesome drive over the mountain.  And a one lane road through the canyon.


I got to the river around 3:30PM.  Plenty of time.  I parked on the west side of the river where sloffy scoped the spot last time.  it’s a scramble down the hill and a tough hike up.  2 fish landed, one nice one, 5 misses and snapped off on a huge fish.   There weren’t a lot of bugs but I did try to fish on top for 1.5 hours and had some success before I switched to the “bobber”


Thursday March 19, 2014

I parked at the power plant at the pleasant valley river dam.  I did really well in this stretch the last time I fished it.  It’s difficult fishing; not for beginners because of the trees and overgrowth and current.  But, there is a ton of pocket water and good runs.

I fished downstream all the way to the lake….i have never done that…it’s a long way…and just killed…  tons of action all day.  Nothing huge, but a lot of wild fish.  Totally fun.   Even called sloff during it to tell him how good it was.

No bugs, no risers, though.  I Fished the bobber all day and killed on huck-birds-nests as the trailer fly.  A few on the zebra midge above.  I probably landed 30+. And because of the difficult fishing I missed a bunch.  The best fish was one I stalked at the confluence of rock creek…exactly where I caught a fish the last time I went there.


I moved in slowly but a big fish still saw me from 30 feet away and spooked…. So I paused and waited and he moved back in to place.  I casted up from him and “whack!”.  But, wait, no, not him.  a much smaller fish…. Darn.  I pulled him quickly out of that run so I could have a shot at the big one.   not expecting him to be there, let alone not spooked, I casted and “whack!”  much heavier… it’s him!  great battle, netted, pictured (above and below the water) and released.


As I worked my way down river I forgot how beautiful that upper wild stretch is.  The entire stretch must have been awesome before the power plant and the dam.


Overall, I believe the majority of the fish I caught were those wild brown holdovers from last years spawn.  8” to 12” fish the jump like crazy and fight like hell.


Friday March 19, 2014

This time I tried an adventure….and I wont’ do it again.  I went on the dirt road on the west side of the river again, but went another 1.5 miles south looking for fly fishing trails down the mountain.  I found a place to park, but it was the cattle road and the trails down were for the cows.  I saw lots of cows to the south.  Really loud cows.  So I walked down the mountain and to what I thought was the quickest route to the river…mistake… totally overgrown and blocked…. Barely 2-3 places to fish in the first mile of hiking up river.  So I essentially started right before where I parked the first day.  Lesson learned.  Tons of calories huffing and puffing in the hot sun; which is not that bad either.

I caught two little wild browns on the bobber downriver early and then it just shut down….  no bugs; no action.  Non one else was catching fish either and there were a lot of guys on the river.  I talked to a lot of them.  I went a good 1.5 – 2 hours with nothing…beautiful stretch of river.


Frustrated, I said to myself, “Screw this, I’m going to the streamer.”  That was around 230.  And it’s exactly when Brocky txt’d me begging to take him fishing.  He was my good luck charm.  For the next 3.5 hours I constantly battled huge wild fish.  One after another…. 4-5 from the same holes!  I worked back downstream.  Constant strikes on an olive, bead headed rabbit strip streamer I did not tie.  Some of the strikes were so violent I cut open my finger on the fly line ripping out line and cutting through my hands.  And for that entire 3 hours brock was txting me to take him fishing.  J

The highlight was an 18-19” fat hen that jumped numerous times.  I had to finish it up through the rapids.  It was a long huge battle and the fish still was hot after beaching her and taking her picture.


I probably landed 20+ fish over 14” on that little streamer.  Awesome.  Interestingly enough there were a lot of fishermen on the river and no one was doing well.  They were all on the bobber.  I fished until around 630pm and even though I had some daylight and was doing well I fished all the way down, beyond my car and into the cows.  And was a bit worried about how to navigate back to my truck… which was well founded worry because I did run into some dead-ends and had to hike backwards.

Saturday March 22, 2014

Well, after 2.5 great days of fishing I was set to drive home early so I could work the weekend and do chores before mark and Kelly got back from Orlando.  But, how can you turn down a 14 year old that begs you to take him fly fishing?  You can’t.  When a 14 year old begs to you to take him fishing, you take him fishing.  So, my man Brock and I tackled the C&R section of the Lower Owens for ~4 hours.  In general terms it was not slow…we saw action all day.  But, for some reason we couldn’t land a fish to save our lives.  Of course when you guide a 14 year old you are not fishing a lot… you are tying rigs and pulling flies out of trees and tying on new flies and undoing tangles and teaching about reading the water and doubling back to get his forgotten backpack riverside and teaching about the hatches.  All totally worth it.  I love that kid and I love that he loves to fly fish.


I did sneak in some fishing on top with dries when the hatch went off and did pretty darn well.  It took me forever to find the right caddis.  Once I did, I saw a ton of strikes.  Mostly small fish, but I did have a nice 14” brown take me on top and I battled him for 45 seconds or so before he went ballistic and shook my barbless hook.  That was worth the day.  Well, that and fishing with brock.  Fishing with my man Brock was a highlight of the trip.