Copyright 2016 James Marsh
Fly Fishing the San Joaquin River
The San Joaquin River is a huge river system. It consist
of three separate drainages - the North Fork, Middle
Fork and South Fork. Each of these are completely
different from the others. The San Joaquin River is
overall 330 miles long and has several large
tributaries. Stanislaus River, Tuolumne River, Merced
River, Calaveras River and the Mokelumne River are the
major ones. The upper San Joaquin system is usually
gin clear with deep pools and fast riffles and runs. Much
of the freestone areas would be well described as heavy
The North Fork of the San Joaquin River runs through
remote wilderness. It is a great section to fish provided
you go to the trouble to get to the water. It doesn't have
any access from a road. It has brook trout in its
headwaters and wild rainbow trout in its middle and lower
sections. Golden trout exist in its lakes. It begins at
almost 13,000 feet and has a very steep gradient. It's
spring runoff last a long time. Its best fly fishing is in the
lower elevations. It has all four species of trout.
The South Fork of the San Joaquin is larger than the
others but it a system of tailwaters. It provides good trout
fishing above and below Edison and Florence Lakes.
There are eleven miles of good water above Florence
Lakes that can be accessed from a trail that follows
along the river. The trail is popular for hikers but few
anglers fish the river. Below Florence Lakes, the river
declines to almost 5,000 feet and merges with the North
Fork of the San Joaquin River just above Mammoth Pool
Reservoir. The upper San Joaquin River segment
includes the main stem of the river above Mammoth Pool
Reservoir downstream to the confluence of the Middle
and North Forks. The eight mile tailwater section below
Mammoth Pool is in a very deep canyon with very little
access; however, it's a great location to catch large trout.
The Middle Fork is the most popular fork for fly fishing. It
flows from the southern Yosemite area to Kings Canyon
National Park. It begins at Thousand Island Lakes at
about 10,000 feet elevation. The Ansel Adams
Wilderness provides good opportunities with brook,
rainbow, brown, golden trout and hybrid golden trout. It
can be accessed from the Eastern Sierra area of
Mammoth Lakes. The campgrounds in its headwaters
provide easy access to about two miles of the Middle
Fork but you will have plenty of competition in those
The Middle Fork area can be accessed from the
Mammoth Ski Area via a bus shuttle to the River Trail.
The road to the Devil’s Postpile National Monument also
accesses the Middle Fork. The upper area of the Middle
Fork ranges from Agnew Meadows to the Upper Soda
Springs Campground. From the upper Soda Springs to
Minaret Falls, or the middle section, you will find larger
sections of water with larger trout but more competition
from other anglers. From Minaret Falls to Rainbow Falls,
or the lower section, you find mostly brown trout..
Last Saturday of April - Sept. 15
There is little fishing during the Spring other than below
some tailwaters in the system.
Sumertime is by far the best time to fish the San Joaquin
Only the early Fall season provides good fishing in the
upper sections of the river. Fishing can be okay in the
lower elevation tailwaters.
|Type of Stream
Rainbow Trout (wild)
Brown Trout (wild)
Brook Trout (wild)
Golden Trout (hybrids and native)
Small to Large depending on the
Eastern Sierra California
Last Sat. April through Nov. 15
Good to Fair, depending on the Fork
State of California
National Weather Service Link
Fly Fishing Gear, Tackle and Flies
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Photo Courtesy of Stephen Lamb
San Joaquin River
Photo Courtesy Steven 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 0X
Dry fly: 5 or 6X, Nymphing: 3 or 4X,
Best Fly Rod:
Perfect Fly Supreme Four, Superb Five or
For 4/5/6 fly line
Fly Floatants and Misc Items:
Loon Floatants, KISS Strike Indicators
Tools & Accessories:
Nippers, forceps, retractors, etc.
San Joaquin River Fishing Report:
05/01/14 The fishing season is now open. We
suggest fishing small, BWO nymphs, midges
and Sculpin imitations. Let us hear your reports.
Fishing Report Updated 10/13/16
(Bottom Of Page)
|Options For Selecting Flies:
1. Email us (email@example.com)
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 (firstname.lastname@example.org)
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.
All orders are shipped free in the
U. S. Orders over $50 are shipped via
05/08/14 A customer ordered some flies
planning on a trip. No reports from
05/22/14 Road opening tomorrow.
06/05/14 The water is finally warming us
some (high 40's) and a few trout are being
caught according to one of our customers
06/12/14 More hatches are taking place and
anglers are catching a few trout. The river is
in much better shape. Two customers
reporting catching some nice size trout.
06/19/14 Low water is hampering the
fishing some, but a few are being caught.
06/26/14 One angler ordering more flies
reported the fishing is good but the fish
are a bit spooky. He is catching a few
each day. Let us hear from you.
07/03/14 Much warmer weather has
slowed the "catching" down some but
trout are still being caught. Several
aquatic insect hatches are taking place
with PMDs leading the way.
07/17/14 Several good reports on the
upper freestone section for the past two
weeks. The water is a little low but dry fly
action has been great.
07/24/14 Two customers reporting good
fishing conditions. They are using PMDs,
terrestrials and caddis and doing well.
08/01/14 Stream flows are very low (25cfs),
so staying hidden is important. Hiking away
from other anglers will also help.
08/14/14 Flows are still very low with no
chance of rain for the next week.
08/21/14 Low water still exist, of course,
but a few trout are being caught by those
who are using stealth and fishing early and
late in the day.
08/28/14 Tricos are the main hatch but
there are still some Spotted Sedge caddis
imitations catching trout.
09/11/14 Low water and warm water is still
hurting but a few trout are being taken
early and late in the day.
09/25/14 Recent rain has helped some but
the water is still low and slow. Hopefully, this
will be improved very soon.
10/09/14 The flows are still very low and the
water very slow moving. Midges seem to be
the best bet, but early and late, we suggest
using a sculpin streamer.
10/16/14 Not much change. The flows are
still very low.
10/23/14 Very low flows continue
10/30/14 A little rain helped but the levels are
still very low. More is forecast for this weekend.
12/25/14 Season is closed until April 25, 2015
04/23/15 Just a note to say we will resume
these reports just prior to the season.
05/07/15 The season is open but we
haven't received any reports as of yet. The
road opens May 19th. The stream is very
low but trout can be caught.
05/21/15 Still no reports. Flows are low,
averaging in the 80 cfs.
05/28/15 Flows are up to 193 cfs. One
report from angler catching a few trout but
says it is a slow go. Mostly tiny BWOs.
06/11/15 Anglers are catching trout in good
numbers. Some hatches of stoneflies, a few
mayflies and some caddis. Water temp is in
the low forties.
06/18/15 Although it is officially still runoff
time, it is very possible to fish and obviousl
the trout don't care.
07/02/15 Trout are being caught early and
late. Terrestrials, PMDs, and caddis mostly.
07/09/15 A chance of rain and much cooler
weather will help the fishing.
07/16/15 Cooler weather and a little rain
helped some and one good report but all
things considered - slow.
07.23/15 The Middle Fork has been fishing
rather good, with color weather and good levels.
07/30/15 Terrestrials beginning to work good
according to our customers. Ants, beetles,
08/06/15 One good report came in from the
past week. Water temps are marginal.
08/13/15 Low water levels and a little smioke
makes it a little tougher to catch the wild trout
but you can do it provided you use a great deal
of stealth, longer and lighter leaders/tippet.
08/20/15 Fish still eat in the low water. You
can't let the see you and catch them. Stay low
and fish the shady areas of the banks.
08/27/15 The water is still very low but cooler
air temperatures this coming week will help
09/03/15 The stream levels is not any better
but the cooler weather is going to help big
time. Look for better hatches. You will have to
stay hidden from the trout to catch them.
09/10/15 Still very low with warm weather
returning. Fish very early and late.
09/17/15 The recent rain helped but not
enough. It is still low and tough to fish. The
cooler weather is some help.
09/24/15 The water is back very low again,
making it tough. The trout still eat in low
water. It's just that you have to stay hidden
from them and make good presentations.
10/08/15 The stream is tough to fish due to
low water, but for those who wish to learn how
to improve their skills, it is a good teacher.
10/15/15 The river is very low and not doing
well right now but that is going to change with
rain in the forecast. It should be in good
shape in short time.
11/05/15 The road is closed.
11/15/15 The season is closed until last
Saturday of next April.
01/12/16 This is just a reminder to say that it
isn't too early to start planning an 2016 fishing
trip to the San Joaquin River. We have taken
samples of the aquatic insects using
professional entomology equipment and know
what is in the river that's most plentiful and
available at any time of the season. We are
the only company in the World with specific
imitations of all the aquatic insects in all
stages of life applicable to fly fishing.
02/25/16 The season will open the last
Saturday in April of 2016. It is never too early
to start planning that next fly fishing trip.
03/17/16 Just a reminder that you can send
us an email and we will help you plan your
next fly fishing trip to the San Joaguin.
04/28/16 The season opens in three more
days and it should get off to a great start.
Blue-winged olives, 18s, March Browns, 12's,
Skwala stoneflies, Little Black caddis and
oher hatches are underway.
05/12/16 The season didn't get off with a
bang but conditions are much better and we
expect some good reports this week.
05/19/16 Still no reports from anglers fishing.
Let us hear from you.
06/30/16 The runoff is over and the stream is
getting into good shape. We recommend
hiking in a ways for the best opportunity.
07/14/16 The stream levels are down to 63
cfs, which is a good level. The water is clear
and lots of hatches are taking place. It is a
good time to fish the river.
07/28/16 Stream levels went up good but back
down fast. The water temperature is marginal.
Fish very early and very late.
08/04/16 Great conditions exist. This is a good
time to fish the river. Some PMD, little Yellow
stones, caddis and some Tricos.
08/11/16 Lots of Tricos, some PMDs, little Yellow
stoneflies, and lots of caddisflies. Good
conditions continue to exist. Our customers are
sending in some good reports.
10/13/16 Low flows continue to prevail. They
are about 6 cfs and that's super low.