trout pic

Fishing the Owens. 

The 15th of September to the 15th of October is my favorite time of the year to be fly fishing in the Eastern Sierra. The fish seem to know that summer is coming to a close and go on a feeding frenzy. This is a great time to chase trophy trout in the lakes and the tributaries to those lakes.

Lower Owens River Wild Trout Section: Flushing flows in the Owens River Gorge are completed and as of Thursday September 16 flows in the lower Owens River are at winter flows of 100 CFS. Flow rates for the Owens River and the East Walker River can be found on my webpage at These flows are almost too low and allows fly fishers uninhibited access to the river and congregates the fish in the deeper holes. Look for trico and black fly hatches in the mornings. Nymphing will be the most productive method of fly fishing. Caddis continue to offer evening fly fishing opportunities for fly fishers looking for a spot to finish out their day of fly fishing. Fly fish with elk hair caddis, X-caddis, California mosquitos, gold ribbed hare’s ears, pheasant tail nymphs, and burlap caddis.

Lower Owens River Gorge Section:Los Angeles Department of Water and Power in conjunction with California Department of Fish and Wildlife completed flushing flows in the Owens River Gorge. I don’t start fishing the Owens River Gorge until October. This will give this area a couple of weeks to stabilize after the flushing flows. With temperatures back in the 80’s this will become a spot to explore with the fly rod all day long.

Hot Creek, Canyon Section: The water in the canyon section of Hot Creek is steeper with quicker moving water causing the trout to react to the fly as it passes by them. This makes it easier for the fly fisher to fool the trout. Unlike the slower sections of Hot Creek where the trout can discern the littlest of mistakes in the cast or the fly pattern. Fly fishing in the late morning to early afternoon is tough as few insects are rising. Fishing a size 20 blue wing olive parachute fooled a few wild browns and rainbows. The morning caddis hatch was weak at best.

Hot Creek, Interpretive Site: First day Hot Creek opened up after the Inyo National Forest closure and trico spinners provided lots of opportunities for fly fishers fishing with size 24 trico spinners. The blue wing olive hatch was sparse and only provided a few fish. There were half a dozen fly fishers working the creek from 8:30 A.M. to noon. Caddis were sparse on the river and did not provide much opportunity for fly fishers. Tippets down to 6X and drag free drifts were needed to fool the wary trout of the interpretive site.

Upper Owens River, Above Benton Crossing Bridge: Euro nymphing with bigger nymphs is producing a few trophy trout for fly fishers willing to work hard for their fish. Covering lots of deep holes and deep runs will produce a few trophy trout willing to take size 12 gold ribbed hare’s ears, stoner nymphs, and green/gold wire Prince nymphs. Trico hatch in the morning is offering good dry fly action for wild rainbow and brown trout to 12 inches. Caddis activity has been sparse in the mornings, but better in the evenings. The next 30 days is my favorite time to be fishing on the upper Owens River.

San Joaquin River: Opened to the public on Thursday September 16. No fish report yet as I haven’t fly fished the San Joaquin River since it opened.

Bishop Creek Canal Behind the Ford Dealer: Trico mayflies in the morning continue to offer fly fishers great dry fly fishing opportunities. A drag free drift is necessary to fool the wild and stocked trout. The fish are keying in on the spinner fall and a size 24 hackle tip spinner with a drag free drift is fooling the trout. After the trico hatch is a good time to fish a size 16 bead head flash back gold ribbed hare’s ear three feet under a size 16 parachute Adams. There are a few grass hoppers lurking around the banks offering an opportunity to throw hopper patterns in the afternoon.

(Fred Rowe owns Sierra Bright Dot Fly Fishing Specialty. He teaches fly fishing and fly tying, is one of the original fly fishing guides in the Eastern Sierra. When he’s not out fishing the waters of the Eastern Sierra from Bishop to Bridgeport, he is an avid hunter who loves to hunt birds, especially waterfowl. Fred can be reached at (760) 920-8325 or at His webpage is at


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