I’ve known Bernard online since before I started writing for About.com thanks to his participation on my old Central California Angler blog, so it was nice to hear from one of the best guides in the Sierra Nevada recently.
Says Bernard: “Guides in the Sierra Nevada tend to focus on certain regions. I feel strongly about people selecting the ones who are truly familiar with the region you wish to visit. “
I couldn’t agree more. Next time I’m up in the Sierra, I know who I’m calling.
Here’s our Q&A with Bernard:
The Merced, at least in the park, doesn't have any stockers, which can make for some tricky conditions for out of towners who aren't familiar with wild fish. What are some tips and tricks you'd suggest for anglers pursuing wild trout on the Merced and other wild fisheries in the High Sierra?
The Merced within the park boundaries is wonderful because it is both beautiful and convenient. In essence, much of it is roadside. This allows for people to fish a little as well as get their sightseeing fix. For the experienced angler, this also means that much of the stream sees a lot of humans. From kids skipping stones to pools rife with bathers in the summer. This makes finding fish a challenge. Furthermore, the Merced in Yosemite Valley is actually pretty low elevation and can get surprisingly warm as the season wears on.
All of that said, some simple tips will help you avoid the skunk. For starters, try and avoid fishing where there are lots of people. Look in boulder jams and riffles where bathing swimmers and picnickers aren't likely to be found. Also drizzly day on an easy-to-access spot just might give a resident fish the courage to come out and feed. It is not unheard of to find a good fish now and then in some surprising spots.
Trout on the Merced within the park are not too different from trout elsewhere. They like to eat and will rise for a bug at dusk. Study what bugs are coming off the water and fish flies that approximate them.
Sub-surface methods are effective as well. The further you go from humans or easily-accessed spots will yield more fish. The emphasis should be on stealthy approaches and persistence. Enjoy the beauty of the location and don't expect Montana-like results and you will succeed. Finally, know the regs. The Merced, especially, has unique regulations. Catch and release is always a safe bet.
As for the rest of the Sierra, it would be crazy to suggest that a few paragraphs could do this great range justice.
The Sierra Nevada is a massive mountain range. It has seduced many anglers and I know many who are devoted to it. It is rugged and dramatic with countless nooks and crannies where fish never see an angler. I wish I could say that I had 10 lifetimes to explore it properly.
Put a little work into it and you, as an angler, stand a very good chance of falling in love with it. One of my favorite games to play is simple:
Find a spot that no one talks about; a spot with no magazine articles nor reports on the internet. Go take a look. You will strike out sometimes but other times you may hit paydirt.It's almost like being a prospector back in the gold rush days. Take that spirit with you!
You've been lucky enough to fly fish some of the best waters this country has to offer. At the same time, Central California and the Sierra Nevada hold their own in terms of trout fishing ... some have even gone as far as to call one stretch of the Merced River "Montana in our own back yard." For those who haven't been lucky enough to fly fish the Sierra Nevada, how does it compare to other blue ribbon destinations across the country and how does it separate itself from other traditional trout waters?
It is my belief that many of the legendary Montana rivers are richer in food and thus boast a greater number of larger fish. Targeting large trout in the Merced or within Yosemite's boundaries requires more effort. You may need to hike or roll the dice on an unusual and hard-to-reach stream or lake. I personally love the "hunt" and know some places within the park that truly are a joy to fish; as much as anywhere else and can cough up some surprising fish. These came my way more as a result of thinking like a fish than anything else.
Any winter fly fishing tips for fishing high, muddy water?
"Off Season" angling on the Merced is legal west of the park boundary. Although low elevation, it is still vulnerable to what happens higher up such as snow melt or high Sierra storms. I have seen the Merced murky and high on a warm and clear day because there were storms in the high country.
Sometimes, this can be good. Fish are less skittish and may very well still be feeding. I once had a client call and cancel last minute for fear of "weather". There was little I could do to persuade him otherwise. I was already on location and sensed that the heavier storms were at much higher elevations. I fished under drizzly skies and had one of my best days ever. What may be more important than color and level is the temperature and the season. For example, just before runoff, there's a window that sometimes proves very productive. In closing, I am a huge fan of ugly water. If the river isn't too much of a torrent and not too chocolaty, give it a shot anyway. This may be a better time for sub-surface methods. Fish can sense "food" in turbid water and I find that browns are more common under such conditions.
On that note, always wade and fish with caution. Slippery boulders, hidden bottom contours and swift currents on any river are true hazards; especially under such conditions.
For more, you can read Yin’s personal blog at TheTroutHugger.com.