Conejo Valley Fly Fishers

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Bill's 6 lb fattie

The Taming of Troutzilla

Jimmy Toy and I were floating down the Lower Owens (below the Wild Trout Area) with Sierra Drifters guide Tom Loe. I had heard about the great winter streamer fishing here and had decided to give it a shot, though I had to twist Jimmy’s arm a bit to get him to come along. Good thing he did…

We had driven up to Bishop and decided to spend the afternoon fishing the section of the Owens between the power plant and Pleasant Valley Reservoir. Fishing a zebra midge pupa produced eight spunky browns on the first ten casts for me. Jimmy did well on hare’s ear and PT nymphs. The fish were well-colored and good fighters, with sizes running 10-14". Jimmy managed to land several fish on the Jimmy Special CDC midge, though rises were sporadic. I landed 40+ fish on midge pupaes and emergers. It was fun to have some "no brainer" fishing after some fairly technical fishing the last couple of trips. When we had arrived on a Sunday the river was fairly crowded, as Alpers had been stocked there recently. We spoke to one fisherman who had caught a five-pounder.

We camped below the reservoir and met up with Tom in Bishop the next day. He had the boat and tackle ready to go. Tom has ten different runs mapped along this section of the Owens which oxbows so that a full day of fishing might only take a mile or two. This allows him to "rest" sections between trips. Flows were about 125, low for the Owens but making for great fishing.

Part of the plan for me was to learn more about streamer fishing. While nymphing produces results here, according to Tom, streamers are the way to go for big fish. We were fishing 200-grain sink tips on 5-6 wt rods. We used one fly all day, the Loe designed Spruce – A- Bou (see Fly of the Month). Tom’s boat is set up like a Rogue River boat with two forward side by side seats for anglers, which worked surprisingly well, as long as we communicated when casting. We were able to fish simultaneously, working opposite sides of the feeding lanes.

Quickly we were into lots of rainbows – most planted by DFG and Alpers – that were about 12"+, though they were strong fish. Takes ranged from arm jarring hits to "spongy" soft. A strip set, but not an over quick strip jerk, was the way to hook fish. Tom pointed out trout holding areas and gave a quick lesson on reading the water. I managed to hook and land a nice 6-pound rainbow that bore a DFG tag.

After a lunch break, we continued to fish the bends. At one point Jimmy got into a meat hole and was getting bumped on every cast. We managed to boat 63 fish for the day between us.

Later in the afternoon we came to a hole that Tom said harbored a very large hen rainbow that he had named "Troutzilla". Tom had hooked the fish once, as had a customer, but the fish had not been landed. Jimmy and I looked at each other, ‘guide hype’, I was thinking… I had had my big fish, so it was Jimmy’s turn to hunt Troutzilla while I watched. Tom had Jimmy fishing the holding water.. what he calls the "neutral zone" between foam lines. After about a dozen casts with less activity than we had had elsewhere, Tom said, "This is great, the lack of smaller fish means she’s still here – she chased away the other fish." ‘More guide hype’, I thought. Jimmy made a beautiful long cast up river and was stripping in (we varied strips from 3-7 with a pause, faster in slower water, slower in faster water). His rod trip vibrated, then plunged downward. "That’s her," said Tom, reaching back to release the anchor to slip downstream in the hole to give Jimmy a better spot to fight the fish. Jimmy wasn’t convinced until he got a look at the fish. IT WAS HUGE. Tom coached Jimmy on fighting the monster, not palming the reel but guiding the fish out of the faster water. After a ten-minute fight, Jimmy had the fish next to the boat. Tom slipped his big long handled boat net under the fish and lifted. Half of the fish was hanging outside the net! It was a DFG tagged female in good condition, at least 25" long and very fat. It was Jimmy’s biggest trout ever.

That is a very big net (opening is 21") the fish won't fit in!

I took the photos, Tom revived and released the fish, and we decided that that was the day. Tom rowed us down river to his takeout spot as we relived the Taming of Troutzilla.

Tom's going to need a bigger net...

If you go:

Tom Loe is available for Lower Owens trips. Contact him at (760) 935-4250 or visit his website at

Experienced pontoon boaters could float the river at low flow rates (150 cfs or so) , but beware of the thorns and sharp branches that line the narrow waterway. We saw the remains of an inflatable Avon raft that had punctured. Check with Brocks Fly Fishing Specialists in Bishop (760) 872-3581 for current flow rates. You can visit for reports.


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