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photo by Greg Vinci

 flats to Crowley Lake.  The headwater section is the first of two sections that comprises the the Upper Owens.   It is accessed by turning east on Owens River Rd. where it intersects Hwy 395 about fifteen miles north of Mammoth Lakes.  At its headwaters, it begins as a meadow creek and then drops into a canyon where it is fed by several lava tubes that gush water from the canyon’s sides.  It passes through the campground and drops down a staircase of pocket water to the valley below.  A well-trodden trail follows the river down into the canyon.  Don’t be put off by the easy access to this section as the creek is loaded with fish.  The pocket water lends itself to nymphing and the shoreline vegetation is sparce enough in places, so that you can usually get the angle you want on a cast. 

Once the Owens reaches the valley, it meanders through sagebrush desert flats and varies from some small riffles to long winding slow runs with undercut banks and deep pools.  There is a lot of water here to explore but keep in mind that the northern end of the valley is mostly private water.  South from where Hot Creek intersects with the Owens, to where it empties into Crowley Lake, has public access.  To get to the middle section, take Hwy 395 south from Mammoth Lakes to Benton Crossing Rd. (about eight miles) and turn east until you come to the bridge over the Owens River.  Here the Owens snakes through sagebrush flats to where it dumps into Crowley Lake a short distance to the south.  Be sure to approach the river quietly or you will spook the fish holding in the undercuts right below your feet.  This water is stocked regularly with Rainbows though in the spring and fall spawning runs of Rainbows and Browns out of Crowley Lake can provide some big fish.  The Owens is open year round to fishing with the exception of the stretch between Benton Bridge road crossing downstream to Upper Owens River fishing monument who’s season is Saturday preceding Memorial Day through Sept. 30. Possession limits vary due to the time of the year.  Log on to www.dfg.ca.gov to see the complete regulations.