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billygoat 03-09-2013 04:40 PM

Fishing the John Muir Trail in the High Sierra
I'm planning an extended through-hike of the John Muir Trail from late July through Mid August of this summer. I will be hiking from Yosemite to Lone Pine and will be covering about 211 miles of lakes and rivers, most of which will be between 8,000 feet and 11,000 feet (Lyell Creek, Marie Lake, Rae Lakes, Lake 10315, just to name a few). I've never fly fished in the Sierra before, and I've been doing some research on what works best up there. My main questions are these:

What is a good rod/reel combo? A guy at a local shop recommended the Scott A4 753-4 with an Aspen Reel RE-1035M, but that setup would put me back over $500, which is a lot more than I'd like to spend. I will be fishing lots of small rivers and streams as well as several big lakes. Most of the fish will be around 7-10", but they have some big 16"+ in the lakes, and honestly I will be fishing the lakes at least as much as the streams. Whatever I get, it needs to be a 4-piece and not weigh very much.

What flies should I bring? So far I have read that people use: Elk Hair Caddis, Royal Wulffs, Black Ants, Ralph Cutter EC Caddis, #18 Red Ant, #20 black midge, and Light Cahill. Would any of these be more likely to perform than the others? Any other suggestions?

Any other suggestions? I also might bring a spincasting setup depending on how heavy my pack is, but right now I'm doing everything I can to reduce the weight. One rod for the entire trip would be ideal. Thanks in advance for the help.

dhayden 03-09-2013 05:45 PM

Re: Fishing the John Muir Trail in the High Sierra
That's a great hike. Never done anything like your talking, but I've hiked from Tuolumne Meadows south a few times, and a few other sections.

I only fish streams, and most (all?) of those in that area are so small, it may be heresy, but I don't think it matters that much. Whatever #4 I had, I took, and never had any problems or wished for a different rod.

2 things.. the black bears can be very thick from TW until the climb over Donahue pass, and the worst mosquitoes I've ever encountered around Thousand Island Lake. They know they have a very short life span, and make the most of it. And the lake had a number of bears too.

Mosquitoes, Adams, elk hair caddis, maybe some small pheasant tail nymphs, small red copper johns and you're probably set. Ants and the Royals are probably good too - just never had them up there. And I don't thiunk real small matters, in the streams at least, never found them that picky.

mikel 03-09-2013 06:37 PM

Re: Fishing the John Muir Trail in the High Sierra
if I were buying a rod for that trip, it would be a BVK 8' 3wt with the 10' conversion it at 8' in the creeks and 10' on the lakes. On some of those lakes you have to cast a fair distance to get past the drop offs. Any appropriate sized reel would do as you won't be worried about fish pulling much drag.

Any and all of the flies you and dhayden mentioned will work. I'd consider tossing in some beetles and maybe a few small buggers, just in case...I fish small stimulators with a pt dropper quite a bit up there too. oops, and Griffiths Gnats

Dhayden is also right about bears and bugs. They're both thick. Great walk. I've done a bit of it and am jealous...-Mike

k9mark 03-09-2013 10:21 PM

Re: Fishing the John Muir Trail in the High Sierra
I know you'll be fishing streams but I would tell you to get a 5wt due to the wind you will encounter at the lakes. Your gonna need that backbone and it will work just fine on those streams. As far as flies, I tell you to take birds nest, ants, mosquito's, gnats, and whatever favs you have. I strongly recommend you read Ralph Cutter's Sierra Trout Guide for the lake and stream info in the back. Go test cast a bunch of rods at a respected fly shop to see what feels right for you and set you up with a nice balance rig

pilgrimdg 03-10-2013 12:30 AM

Re: Fishing the John Muir Trail in the High Sierra
I agree on the 5 wt. for wind. It can really blow steady at the higher elevations. In my experience backcountry fish will hit just about anything, even bare hooks. Mid size GRHE's are my favorite nymph in less pressured lakes because they are noticeable from far away. Any visible parachute dry with a WD40/quill midge dropper can work wonders too. This sounds like a blast. Be safe.

planettrout 03-10-2013 08:13 AM

Re: Fishing the John Muir Trail in the High Sierra

Check out this site. EVERYTHING you will need to know about fly patterns for that trek, along with a bunch of other useful information, may be found here:

StevenOjai's Homepage

As for a rod and reel, one gets what they pay for. I look at a rod and reel purchase as a long term investment and proceed... accordingly

PT/TB ;)

billygoat 03-10-2013 02:01 PM

Re: Fishing the John Muir Trail in the High Sierra
Thanks everyone for the advice. Lots of great info here, especially on that link planettrout. It makes sense that I really should go to a fly shop and test cast different rods, but I am a sucker for the Cabela's RLS+ rod/reel combo that's on sale for $150 too good to be true? It seems like for the normal price of the reel you get a free rod. I've read a few recommendations for 3-5wt setups for the High Sierra, almost all with 7 1/2' rods, although I have noticed that the wind can be pretty constant up there like k9mark and pilgrimdg said. If the RLS+ rod doesn't work out it looks like I would end up with a decent reel for the price and could just replace the rod with something better/more appropriate.

At least I know what flies to bring now!

k9mark 03-10-2013 05:08 PM

Re: Fishing the John Muir Trail in the High Sierra
I would go with an 8 1/2 foot rod. A happy medium between streams and lakes. It'll do fine on streams and you'll be happy to have the extra length for the lakes. As far as the RLS reel, if not mistaken it is a Lamson reel branded with Cabela's logo. Lamsons are nice reels. But I still tell you to go test cast rods. A local fly shop wants your business and they'll want to make you a good deal. Nothing against Cabela's, but you need to feel the rods before you buy. I can't stress that enough for you. Correction, its the WLx that's made for Cabela's by Lamson.

Liphookedau 03-10-2013 05:59 PM

Re: Fishing the John Muir Trail in the High Sierra
You are going on a Mammoth Trek,I've read about Fishing "The John Muir Trail",I'd suggest you take a Spare Rod or even a Spare Tip just in case.

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