Fly Fishing the Kern River

Note - This section of the Kern River is remote and reached only by hiking or horseback.

Southwest Fly Fishing Magazine Cover Look for my feature article on the Kern River in the July/August 2007 issue of Southwest Fly Fishing


Directions From Kernville

From Kernville, on Sierra Way go north 19 miles to Johnsondale Bridge. Continue over the bridge and 2 miles past Johnsondale to Lloyd Meadow Rd. (USFS Rd. 22S82). Turn right, go 10 miles to Forks of the Kern trailhead; day hike or backpack. Alternate access: Upper drainage can be reached from Mineral King over Franklin Pass, and from the east through Horseshoe Meadow over Cottonwood Pass.

Base Camps for Overnight Stays

  • Hole in the Ground
  • Grasshopper Flat
  • Little Kern Lake
  • Big Kern Lake
Wilderness Permits

Permits are required for all overnight trips into the Golden Trout Wilderness. For more information about entering the Golden Trout Wilderness through Sequoia National Forest go here. Otherwise, if you plan to enter through the Inyo National Forest visit the Inyo National Forest site. Note: A quota is in effect for the Cottonwood Pass Trail which originates out of Inyo. This quota applies to all overnight visitors and remains in effect from the last Friday in June through September 15.

Bears & Your Food

The Inyo National Forest has a forest order which is effective within the Golden Trout Wilderness. It prohibits storing any food or refuse unless stored in a bear-proof container or in another manner designed to keep bears from gaining access to the food or refuse. The National Forests recommend bear-resistant canisters and panniers as the best methods of food storage in the Golden Trout Wilderness.


Fly Fishing Kern River for Native Trout

A little word association: what comes to mind when you hear the word "roadless"? Do you think of Wilderness? How about Native trout? Or even better how about good, healthy populations of native trout?

Kern River Rainbow trout caught fly fishing in Golden Trout Wilderness

If any of those words or phases came to mind, then you understand the relationship between roads, or more precisely the lack of, and healthy, wild fisheries. (If you thought Kern River rainbow or Little Kern River golden your word-association-powers are above average.) In 1978, some good folks had the foresight to set aside a 300,000 acre section of the Kern Plateau in the Southern Sierra Nevada. With the backing of the U.S. Department of Forestry the Golden Trout Wilderness was formally created.

Fly Fishing the Kern River for wild rainbows

The Kern River from Tyndall Creek in Sequoia National Park, flowing 70 miles downstream to the Johnsondale Bridge, is the longest stretch of river in the Wild Trout Program. The Kern Canyon in Sequoia National Park is part of the river designated as a Heritage Trout stream in 1999. The Heritage Trout stream, located from the confluence of the Little Kern River upstream to Tyndall Creek, is entirely within the Golden Trout Wilderness and Sequoia National Park boundaries and is home to subspecies of golden trout.

Kern River Rainbow trout caught fly fishing in Golden Trout Wilderness

Native Fish of the Golden Trout Wilderness

California's Golden Trout Wilderness is home to three unique forms of native trout, and you'll find descriptions for each of these trout in my Ebook - Native Fish of the Golden Trout Wilderness.

Information found in Fly Fishing the Golden Trout Wilderness will help

For thousands of years, a population of rainbow trout adapted and evolved in the drainages of the Golden Trout Wilderness. Since then, three unique subspecies of rainbow trout, collectively referred to as golden trout, emerged within the upper Kern River basin. These golden trout are: California golden trout, Kern River rainbow trout, and Little Kern golden trout.

Whether your goal is completing the California Heritage Trout Challenge, or just finding some of the Southern Sierra Nevada's most scenic stretches of water to wet a line, Native Fish of the Golden Trout Wilderness will help you reach your goal.

An Adobe PDF document will be made available at the end of the purchase check-out. Select Return to the Ecological Angler to view your copy of Native Fish of the Golden Trout Wilderness.

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Fly Fishing the Kern River for native rainbows in Golden Trout Wilderness

Wild & Scenic Kern River

The river received federal designation as a Wild and Scenic River in 1987. The Little Kern golden trout , a threatened species, is found in the Little Kern River , a large tributary system protected by its location in the Golden Trout Wilderness. The upper Kern River flows mostly through a deep canyon in a wild part of the southern Sierra and provides outstanding fishing for native Kern River rainbow trout.

Fishing on the Upper Kern River is remote and accessed only by hiking

Kern River Fishing Regulations

Please consult California Fishing Regs: Note - Special fishing regulations apply in the Golden Trout Wilderness. It is the responsibility of the angler to be aware of all fishing regulations which apply to these waters.