Fly Fishing High Sierra Nevada Lakes

The beginning season for fishing the Sierra Nevada typically starts when the lakes start to ice out and the fishing near the lake shore can be excellent.

Planning to fish the High Sierra requires some knowledge about snowpack and terrain. Keep in mind that year's with either big or late snow will likely delay the ice-out of high elevation lakes as well as the opening of the trails. This year (2013), the thin snowpack allowed most of the high elevation lakes to be fishable in late May and early June. Above an angler wades the rocky shoreline of lower Conness Lake at an elevation of 10,500 ft.

Several high elevation lakes on east side of the Sierras can hold California golden trout.

Although not native to the Twenty Lakes Basin in Inyo National Forest, several of the lakes hold California Golden Trout. Compared to a species like brook trout, I have found the goldens way more challenging to catch on the fly. Fly selection is part of that challenge, but locating them without spooking them can be half the battle.

An angler fishes off a rock ledge on the East Slope of the Sierra Nevada.

Without the help of a float tube or pontoon boat, it's tough to get flies to where the fish are holding. Look for deep drops near the shore or find rock ledges. After ice-out, the fish can move in and out of the deeper parts of the lake and will cruise along the transition areas (e.g., rock ledges).

Fishing the outlets of High Sierra Lakes can be productive given that trout will hold where the water is moving.

Another productive zone of high elevation lakes can be the in-flows and out-flows to and from the lake. Fishing these zones will depend on whether the lake level and snowpack are big enough to create the flow.

The Upper Elevations of California's Sierra Nevada have glaciers where the run-off produces the green jade color of the water you see here.

Several of the lakes in Twenty Lakes Basin have this amazing green / jade color. I believe its a result of the run-off from the Conness Glacier. The glacier is situated at about 11,548 feet and can be seen from Saddlebag Lake to the east. Conness Glacier is the largest glacier in the Sierra Nevada north of Tioga Pass.

The High Sierra's network of lake basins also contain small streams to fly fish.

I think Jared Smith summed up the experience best in his book Fishin' Trails "Imagine a place where there is literally zero chance of a car alarm going off within ear-shot. Sounds great right? Now add to that the fact that this place is absolutely loaded with some of the feistest and most beautifully-colored trout on earth. Now you have a mere glimpse of what backcountry fishing is all about."