The Tuolumne River has it's beginning in Tuolumne Meadow. At an elevation of approximately 8600 ft., it is the largest sub-alpine meadow in the Sierra Nevada. The Tuolumne River is hidden within the tall grasses of Tuolumne Meadows. Rainbows, Brookies, and Brown Trout inhabit this section of the river. With the Brown Trout going up to approximately 14 inches. Dry Fly Fishing is the best technique and most fun method in the meadow section. If the fish are not spooked they'll readily except most standard dry flies. (size 16" - 22") Matching the hatch is not necessary here, but at times the fish will become selective when there is a good hatch in progress. In the evenings, starting in June and running through early October, the fish will key on the pale morning dun hatch. Small yellow stoneflies (yellow salley's) also show themselves at this time of year. Several different species of caddisflies also inhabit this section of the river and can generate alot of activity in the evenings.
The Dana and Lyell Forks converge to form the main Tuolumne river. Dana Fork waters originate from 13,100' Mount Dana. The Dana Fork is very accesible as Highway 120 runs right along side its entire course from its head waters at Tioga Pass to its confluence with the Lyell Fork. Rainbow, Brook and Brown Trout are present throughout the entire course, with the Browns being the most numerous, sometimes reaching a foot in length.
The Lyell Fork originates near 13,115' Mount Lyell, and flows 10 miles downstream through Lyell Canyon and there meets the Dana Fork, to form the Tuolumne River. There is no road access here, except at the lower end, but the river is accessible via the PCT (John Muir Trail) which runs its entire length. Although the trail is highly travelled very few are there to fish. The Lyell Fork has a healthy population of Wild Trout with the Brown's being more numerous in the lower section and more Brook Trout found towards the head waters. The Rainbow's are spread out and usually located in the faster moving sections. The Lyell Fork offers fantastic dry fly action, with a good presentation the fish will rise to most of your attractor patterns (14" - 20") such as humpies, elkhair caddis, adams and royal wulffs. Again, stealth is key here as opposed to matching the hatch.
Merced River - Inside Park
The Merced River is the most well known river in Yosemite, as this is the river that flows through Yosemite Valley. Yosemite Valley is one of the most picturesque places on earth and has much to offer any Fly Fisherman. The vast majority of my experience has been downstream from Yosemite Valley, where the river changes from long slow moving pools to pocket water and deep runs for a mile or so before heading down the Merced gorge. The gorge is roughly 8 miles long and though Hwy. 140 runs parallel with the river, there are very few turnouts. Where there is access the canyon walls are very steep and rocky. Upon reaching the water the going is anything but easy. Huge boulders and log jams litter the river bottom. I like to wet wade this section starting in late June or early July, after the runoff waters recede. I have fished this area numerous times and have very rarely ever seen another fly fisherman. The catch here will usually run 3 to 1 Rainbows to Browns. Hatches will include small BWO's (fly shown above) during warm days in late January and February. And the first Golden Stone Flies will appear in February also. With the days of February growing longer the water will start to warm and we will start getting our first decent action of the year.
South Fork - Merced River
The South Fork of the Merced is the first water encountered upon entering the park from the southern entrance. The South Forks originates in the "Chain Lakes" area and then flows 30 miles East to West, to its confluence with the main Fork. The most accessible area is located in Wawona with Highway 41 following the river downstream for a couple miles and access roads on both sides of the river heading upstream for a few miles. The road on the South side of the river will lead you to the "Swinging Bridge" area. Here there is a trail heading up a mile or so before disappearing into the South Fork canyon. There is a large trout population in the South Fork. However, they only average around 6 inches. In the Wawona area the trout are all Rainbows and Browns, which give way to Brook trout in the higher reaches. The South Fork is not a very fertile stream but there are some early season Stone Flies (size 14 - 16) (fly shown above), and different Mayfly hatches after the spring runoff recedes. The fish are not very selective, but will get spooky when the water gets very low in the fall. This is a great place for the beginning fly fisherman in the late spring and early summer.
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