Kings River Fly Fishing Guide

Set out on an unforgettable fly fishing journey along the Kings River with Sierra Fly Fisher. We were the first guide service to be granted a special use permit by the National Parks Service in 2011, allowing us to guide the waters of Sequoia and Kings Canyon waters, including the Kaweah River. Join us on a trip to experience the river's prime fishing spots firsthand!

In this helpful guide below, we'll share our knowledge on the best times to visit, the right gear to use, and some of the regulations to follow on your Kings River fishing adventure. Keep reading to learn more!

Key Takeaways

  • Kings River offers diverse fishing where you can catch many varieties of trout, set against the breathtaking scenery of Kings Canyon National Park and the Sequoia and Sierra National Forests.
  • Sierra Fly Fisher provides guided fishing trips where anglers can learn and hone their fly fishing skills. It doesn’t matter if you’re a beginner or a seasoned fly fisher!
  • Anglers need to be aware of Kings River fishing regulations, like having a valid fishing license, using barbless hooks in certain areas, and other rules that contribute to the conservation of the river’s ecosystem.

Exploring Paradise at Kings River

The Kings River is a diverse and dynamic angling destination with different elevations and three different areas:

  1. The lower Kings River (flows out of Pine Flat Reservoir).
  2. The upper Kings River (an 18-mile section between Pine Flat Reservoir and the confluence of the Middle and South Forks)
  3. The higher drainage areas like the Cedar Grove section on the upper south fork in Kings Canyon National Park, as well as other forks and tributaries.

This river is not only a haven for anglers but also a vital natural resource, recognized for its ecological and scenic value. Its designation as a Wild & Scenic River in 1987 underscores the commitment to preserving its unspoiled beauty and diverse habitats. These conservation efforts ensure the Kings River remains a pristine environment with a unique blend of recreational fishing experiences and natural wilderness for future generations.

Man Fly Fishing In Kings River
Kings River flowing through the green hills.

Angling on the Lower Kings River

Fishing in the lower Kings River (especially below Pine Flat Dam) is accessible and filled with diverse fishing opportunities. That makes it appealing to both fly and spin fishing enthusiasts. The river offers year-round fishing, with the cooler months typically providing the best conditions. It can be challenging to fish in the summer. In this part of the river, anglers can find wild and stocked trout; mostly rainbows, but brown trout too.

A man and his fly fishing guide fly fishing on the San Joaquin River.

Tackling the Upper Kings River

Fishing in the Upper Kings River (the 18-mile section between Pine Flat Reservoir and the confluence of the South and Middle Forks), particularly in the sections managed as Wild Trout Fisheries, presents an enriching experience for anglers. This area is a habitat for wild rainbow and brown trout. And that's why catch-and-release fishing with barbless hooks and artificial lures is mandatory. Accessing the best fishing spots here often involves some hiking, adding to the sense of adventure and seclusion.

The best times for fishing in the Upper Kings River are typically during the spring and fall, when water conditions are prime. The combination of sustainable fishing practices, diverse trout populations, and natural beauty makes the Upper Kings River a must-visit destination for any fly fishing enthusiast!

A man fly fishing on the San Joaquin River.

Exploring the Higher Forks & Tributaries

The higher forks and tributaries of the Kings River, including the Middle Fork and South Fork offer a more secluded and wild fishing experience.

The South Fork of the Kings River is one of the great trout fisheries in the Sierra Nevada. The trout here are plentiful, and you’re most likely to hook into brown trout and rainbow trout. Do keep the regulations in mind if you don’t have a guide to help you. (In certain areas there’s a limit of two trout, for example, that you can only target with barbless flies or lures, catch and release.)

Hiking to the Middle Fork adds the allure of brookies to the mix, further enriching any fishing adventure.

A man and his fly fishing guides fly fishing on the San Joaquin River.

Choosing the Best Time of Year

As winter gives way to spring, anglers eagerly gear up for the opportunity to reel in the prized trout that call these waters home. The fishing season kicks off in mid to late February, with the arrival of some hefty BWO hatches and Golden Stoneflies. March often brings the year's largest Mayfly, aptly named March Brown. The "Salmonfly" (the largest Stonefly of the year) shows up in April along with Caddis flies.

Summer and Fall can be great times to be on the Upper Kings as well (Fall especially). The water levels return to their normal state and the river becomes a stage for numerous small Mayfly hatches and vibrant Caddis activity. Summer can be very hot on this section of the river. Wet-wading the pocket water areas early and taking the hot afternoons off to wait for the evening hatches is a good approach.

Can't wait for Spring fly fishing? Explore our winter Steelhead and Trout options here.

Yosemite Merced River Inside Park

Navigating the Regulations of Kings River Fishing

Most of the Kings River has special regulations to protect it, so be sure to brush up on them before heading out. In certain areas, anglers have a limit of two trout per day, and four in possession. There is an area designated as a Wild Trout zone where catch-and-release fishing with barbless hooks is required. This area is particularly special as all the trout found here are wild!

A valid fishing license is mandatory if you’re 16 or older. Licenses can be purchased from either nearby stores or online. And the good news is that you can purchase a 1-year permit, a 10-day permit, a 2-day permit, or even just a 1-day permit. Great options for non-residents!

To fully experience all of the trout fishing, challenge, and excitement Kings River has to offer, please be sure to respect its rules. Maintaining the natural beauty of the Kings River and everything in it is crucial, both for us and for future generations.

Yellowstone River Signs and a fly fishing guide standing next to one of them in the middle.

Sierra Fly Fisher: Pioneers of Kings River
Guided Trips

For the ultimate Kings River fishing experience, book a guided trip with us. Sierra Fly Fisher was the first guide service in California to receive permission from the National Parks Service for this purpose back in 2011. Our customized trips are popular with both beginners and experienced anglers. Sierra Fly Fisher’s guided tours will immerse you in the most vital aspects of fly fishing. From mastering casting techniques to reading the water, selecting flies, and more, we cover the best fly fishing has to offer.

The Kings River offers one of the best fishing experiences an angler can ask for, with thrilling trout battles in a stunning environment. With Sierra Fly Fisher as your guide, you’ll enjoy an unparalleled fishing experience. Our guides (who practically live in the waters here) will provide you with the knowledge and skills needed to navigate the river's diverse ecosystem and hook the river's prized trout. Get ready to immerse yourself in the natural beauty of the river while embarking on an unforgettable fishing journey.

Frequently Asked Questions


What kind of fish are in the Kings River?

Kings River is a true paradise for trout enthusiasts. It boasts a thriving population of wild trout and stocked trout including primarily rainbow trout, and brown trout. These trout species are the main draw for anglers, but it’s also home to bass and other exciting gamefish (especially taking Pine Flat Lake into account). The river's ecosystem is primarily dominated by these trout species, making it a prime location for trout fishing. So, if you're a trout lover, the Kings River promises an enriching fishing experience.

Does Kings River offer year-round fishing opportunities?

Yes. Kings River from Pine Flat Reservoir to the Garnet Dike Campground is open year-round. To get the latest information on the subject, talk with your guide or refer to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW). Also, water levels can be low during certain months. Fishing in other areas of the river generally begins in mid to late February. But even still, access can be limited in higher altitude areas, especially if there’s snowfall. That’s why it’s always best to check local conditions before setting out.

What is the trout limit in Kings River and are there catch-and-release areas?

Fishing on the Kings River, from Pine Flat Reservoir to the Garnet Dike Campground, is subject to a daily trout limit of 2 fish. However, there are specific areas where catch-and-release is mandatory. It's important to always check the specific rules for the area you plan to fish in, as regulations may vary.

Where is the best place to fish on the Kings River?

The ideal spot for fishing along the Kings River varies depending on what type of fish you are aiming to catch. If your goal is to reel in some robust wild trout, you can venture out into the upper section of the river. This area is filled with a strong wild trout population and offers a spectacular backdrop of serene landscapes.

Where can I get a fishing license for the Kings River?

You can obtain a fishing license for the Kings River either through the California Department of Fish and Wildlife website or at nearby retail locations. Make sure to have your license before heading out on your river excursion.

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