Merced River Rainbow Trout
Copyright 2019 James Marsh
Fly Fishing The Merced River California
The Merced River is one of the most overlooked trout
streams in the state of California. One reason is, it's
located in Yosemite National Park where visitors go for
the scenery, not fly fishing for trout. Even so, one of the
most scenic things in the park is the Merced River. Fly
fishing the Merced River is a wonderful experience. It
flows through one of the most beautiful places on earth.

The 145 mile long river flows from the base of the Sierra
Nevada into the Central Valley. It flows through Yosemite
Valley in a fast and wild way, through Merced Canyon
and into the lowland where it changes its appearance

The Merced River originates in the Southeastern corner
of Yosemite National Park. Its headwaters begin at 7900
feet at the Clarke Range. It flows over Nevada and
Vernal Falls, picks up the water from Illilouette Creek and
flows through the main Yosemite Valley. It picks up water
from Tenaya, Yosemite, Bridalveil, and Pigeon Creeks
near the end of the valley. It then  picks up the water
from Cascade Creek and then flows through the Merced
River Canyon and then outside the park. Its South and
North Forks join it a few miles outside the park.

Inside Yosemite National Park rainbow trout are
catch-and-release only. The brown trout limit is five per
day or ten in possession. Only artificial lures or flies with
barbless hooks may be used. The fish in the park are all
wild. Keep in mind, you can mass down the barbs on
hooks. The do not have to be barbless hooks as such.

Just below the main valley, the river changes from its
long, slow pools to pocket water. It has some deep, fast
runs and plunges before entering the Merced River
Canyon. The canyon is about eight miles long. Highway
#140 runs along the river through the gorge and
provides some turnouts for parking. This area is difficult
to access due to steep rock walls. Where you can reach
the river it's deep and has large boulders. This stream
best fished just after the runoff ends in June or early

The Merced River has a large variety of aquatic insects
for the trout to eat. During the season, the most
important ones are the Little Yellow Stoneflies but there
are some Golden stoneflies as well.

Blue-winged Olives, Pale Morning Duns, Pale Evening
Duns, Dark Red Quills, Yellow Quills, and Tricos are
some of the major species of mayflies.

Little short horned sedges, Little Black Caddis, Spotted
Sedges, Green Sedges and October Caddis are the
most plentiful caddifly species. The river is full of sculpin
which is a major source of food for the trout.  

Terrestrial insects can be important during the summer
and early fall. Imitations of ants, beetles and grass
hoppers usually work well at that time of the season.

The general trout season is from the last Saturday in
April through November 15.
Springtime is usually tough fishing conditions. There's
some fishing opportunity prior to the runoff.
Summertime is the best time for fly fishing the Merced
River. Just after runoff ends through the Summer is the
best period of time.
Fly fishing the Merced River during the early Fall can
also be productive.

Fly Fishing Guide - Gear, Tackle and Flies
Type of Stream

Rainbow Trout {Wild)
Brown Trout (Wild)


Yosemite National Park

Nearest Towns

Last Sat. in April through Nov. 15th

Special Regulations:
Catch and Release section that
requires barbless artificial only -
Some area outside the park are
open year-round.


Non-Resident License
State of California

National Weather Service Link

Fly Fishing Guide - Gear, Tackle
and Flies
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Photo Courtesy of Stephen Lamb
Options For Selecting Flies:
1. Email us (
with the dates you will be fishing this
stream and we will send you a list of our
fly suggestions. Please allow up to 24
hours for a response.

2. Call us 800-594-4726 and we will help
you decide which flies you need.

3. Email us (
with a budget for flies and we will select
them to match the budget and get them to
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