Copyright 2019 James Marsh
Fly Fishing The Tuolumne River
The Tuolumne River flows for about 150 miles from the
Central Sierra Nevada, into the Joaquin River near
Modesto, California. It's a very diverse river that has
both freestone and tailwater sections with good
populations of wild trout. The Tuolumne River system
also consist of the South Fork of the Tuolumne River, a
fine fly fishing destination itself, and the Middle Fork and
North Forks of the Tuolumne River, which also have both
wild and stocked trout. Both the main stem of the river
and its three forks have numerous tributary streams that
also have good populations of trout. Fly fishing the
Tuolumne River can range from easy to very difficult,
depending on which section of the huge river system you
choose to fish. Tuolumne is pronounced To All O Me
with silent N.
The Tuolumne River is formed by the confluence of the
Dana Fork, which flows from the 13,000 foot Mount
Dana, and Lyell Fork, which flows from the 13,000 foot
Mount Lyell, in the Tuolumne Meadows (elevation 8600
feet) in Yosemite National Park. The high elevation of
the meadows, which offers excellent fly fishing
opportunities and the two forks limit the season to a very
Dana Fork is accessible from Highway #120, which runs
nearby from its head waters at Tioga Pass all the way to
the streams confluence with the Lyell Fork. Brown trout
represent the majority but rainbows and brook trout are
also present the entire length of the stream.
Lyell Fork flows approximately teh miles through Lyell
Canyon to its confluence with Dana Fork. It can only be
accessed from the John Muir Trail that follows along the
stream. It has a good population of brown, brook and
rainbow trout and offers excellent dry fly fishing.
Cold Canyon and Conness Creeks join in on the flow
below the meadows and the river flows through beautiful
Glen Aulin Valley. From there the river flows into the
rugged Tuolumne Canyon for a distance of about 25
miles and drops 4000 feet in elevation. The fish are
rainbows, browns and brook trout. This area can be
reached by trail only. From White Wolf Campground, its
a seven mile hike. Below the canyon, the river flows into
Hetch Hetchy Reservoir. Return, Paiute, Rancheria, and
Falls Creeks are more tributary streams.
Below the O’Shaughnessy Dam, the Tuolumne River
also is an excellent fishery for trout. The discharges vary
greatly and the fishing methods depend on the flows.
The Tuolumne River meanders through Poopenaut
Valley before leaving Yosemite National Park and
entering the Stanislaus National Forest. The Tuolumne
River between Kirkwood Powerhouse and Don Pedro
Reservoir is know as one of California's premier
The South Fork of the Tuolumne River has both stocked
and wild trout, with most of the wild fish off the direct
road access areas. The river starts in the high country of
Yosemite National Park and flows to where Highway
#120 meets it. It flows through a deep canyon beyond
this point most of which is inaccessible. You can fish the
river at a number of locations including Rainbow Pool
Day Use Area, Berkeley Tuolumne Camp and Carlon
Day Use area. There is also access at the confluence
with the main stem.
The Middle Fork of the Tuolumne River starts at about
8000 feet and flows into the South Fork outside
Yosemite National Park. Cherry Creek and Eleanor
Creek both provide additional trout fishing opportunities.
Cherry Creek is a fast water stream that flows out of the
Emigrant Wilderness. Its headwaters are only accessible
by hiking. It is damed to form Cherry Lake and the
tailwater section flows into the Middle Fork. It's mostly
white water rafting stream but has plenty of rainbow trout.
The tailwater section below Hetch Hetchy Reservoir flows
into Lake Don Pedro. Below Lake Don Pedro, you'll find
even more fly fishing opportunities.
The North Fork of the Tuolumne River starts near Dodge
Ridge and is followed closely by Highway #108. It flows
through Stanislaus National Forest and as well as more
private and public land before joining the main stem of
the Tuolumne above Don Pedro Reservoir.
The general trout season is from the last Saturday in
April through November 15.
Springtime is usually tough fishing conditions but it
depends on the discharges of the associated tailwaters
Summertime is the best time to fish the high Sierras. Just
after runoff ends through the Summer is the best period
Fly fishing the Tuolumne River during the early Fall can
also be productive, especially for the brown trout.
Fly Fishing Gear, Tackle and Flies
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Photo Courtesy of Stephen Lamb
Recommended Tackle & Gear
4, 5 or 6 weight
Dry fly: 9 &12 ft., 5 or 6X, Nymphing:
71/2 ft., 3 or 4X, Streamers 0-2X
Dry fly: 5 or 6X, Nymphing: 3 or 4X,
Best Fly Rods:
Perfect Fly Supreme Four, Superb Five
or Ultimate Six
For 4/5/6 fly line
Fly Floatants and Misc Items:
Floatants, KISS Strike Indicators
Tools & Accessories:
Nippers, forceps, retractors, etc.
|Options For Selecting Flies:
1. Email us (firstname.lastname@example.org)
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 (email@example.com)
with a budget for flies and we will select
them to match the budget and get them to
you in time for your fly fishing trip.
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