California Fly Fishing 3 min read

DIY Guide to Fly Fishing Crowley Lake in California

Ken Sperry

Posted by Ken Sperry

June 28, 2020

Crowley Lake in Calfornia

Crowley Lake’s value as a trout fishery is no secret, and it shows. Between 6,000 to 10,000 anglers make their way to the reservoir every year for opening day.

The largest brown trout ever caught on this lake weighed 26 pounds, and intrepid anglers from all over the world flock to Crowley Lake yearly, hoping to break that record.

Even though the Lake is one of the most frequented fisheries in the state, there are still plenty of trout to go around.

The California Department of Game and Fish stocks the Lake with over 200,000 brown and rainbow trout in the late summer and fall, which helps guarantee a productive fishing experience for every skilled angler who visits. 

About Crowley Lake

Fly Fishing in Crowley Lake

Crowley Lake is a reservoir located on the upper Owens River in southern Mono County, California. It is about 15 miles south of Mammoth Lakes. It is named after Father John J. Crowley, a well-known figure in local history.

After the city of Los Angeles’s use of the water supply made agriculture in the Owens Valley impossible, Father Crowley rallied many of the residents who had lost hope into believing that their home could be a popular tourist attraction.

Father Crowley died in a car accident in 1940, but his vision was ultimately realized: Lake Crowley is a premiere fishing destination that attracts fishermen from the entire country.

The Crowley Lake is a man made reservoir formed from the damming of the Owens River Gorge. At Crowley Lake, you’ll see many species of rainbow trout and brown trout, along with some large cutthroats. Because of its ideal pH level, the Lake has a thriving aquatic ecosystem.

Crowley Lake is fed by numerous creeks, including the Upper Owens River, McGee Creek, Convict Creek, Hilton Creek, and Crooked Creek. 

The fishery is only accessible from Crowley Lake Fish Camp, which is run with the cooperation of the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power. At the Fish Camp, visitors can rent boats and buy supplies for angling.

Crowley Lake Map and Fishing Access Sites

map of fishing access spots on Crowley Lake in California

Get Directions to the Fishing Access Points shown above with the DIY Fly Fishing Map

Best Places to Fish Crowley Lake

Crowley Lake can be accessed from Highway 395, about 25 miles north of Bishop. If you take the Crowley Lake ramp, you will reach the Crowley Lake Fish Camp. There is a fee to park there, and you can obtain a map of Crowley Lake at the tackle store. You can also rent boats here and buy equipment.

Many anglers use float tubes to fish, but this can be dangerous if there are strong winds. It’s recommended that you wear a personal flotation device at all times if you are tubing on this Lake. The mudflats around the banks can also be treacherous, so be sure to use caution when traversing this area.

Best Time to Fish Crowley Lake

The season for fishing Crowley Lake is standard California trout season. From August 1 to November 15, it is restricted gear season. You are only permitted to fish with inorganic baits, with a limit of two fish per day over 18 inches. Only barbless artificial lures are allowed.

The trout in Crowley Lake owe their large size to the rich aquatic insect population. The Lake has an excellent chironomid population, and many of the larger trout also feed on the Sacramento perch in the fall months.

Fly Box – What You’ll Need

Here is list of general fly pattern recommendations for Crowley Lake:

  • Pale Morning Dun
  • Blue Winged Olive
  • Zebra Midge, Black
  • Disco Midge
  • Gillie Broken Back
  • Callibaetis
  • Hornberg Special
  • Matuka, Olive
  • Loeberg
  • Denny’s Seal Bugger

Gear Recommendations

A 9-foot 6-wt fly rod with floating line is perfect for fishing dry flies and small nymphs on Crowley Lake. A tapered 9-foot leader, with tippet size 3X to 5X to match the flies you are throwing, is pretty standard.

Crowley Lake Fishing Report

Area fly shops, guides and websites that can provide a Crowley Lake fly fishing report are listed below:

Fishing Regulations

The state of California requires that all people who are 16 years of age and older have a valid fishing license. There are resident and non-resident sport fishing licenses available. You can purchase a one-year, 10-day, two-day, or one-day license. Some areas also require a permit. You can purchase the license and learn about the most current regulations through the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Trip Planning Tips

The nearest airport to Crowley Lake is Mammoth Yosemite Airport, and the nearest major airport is Reno Tahoe International Airport, which is located about 166 miles from Mammoth Lakes, California. 

Crowley Lake Campground is a well-maintained, family friendly site on Crowley Lake. You can enjoy fantastic views at an affordable price while staying close to the fishery.

Convict Lake Campground, despite its name, is another good option. It is situated in the beautiful landscape of the Sierra Nevadas and offers close proximity to Mammoth Lakes.

Crowley Lake has everything you need in a good trout fishery, and should be on every serious angler’s bucket list. 

Looking for more places to fish? Check out our DIY Guide to Fly Fishing California

Feature image by Clinton Steeds