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Hot Creek Ranch: Fly Fishing California's Hot Creek


It’s called Hot Creek for a reason.

The fly fishing on California’s Hot Creek is “hot” year round thanks to one of the highest densities of trout you’ll find in the Golden State.

On top of the great trout numbers, the Hot Creek Ranch portion of the river has been a catch-and-release, dry-fly-only destination for more than four decades (wading is also avoided when possible), which is why brown and rainbow trout in excess of 20 inches aren’t uncommon on this spring creek. 

The stretch at Hot Creek Ranch is also only open to fishing during the standard trout season (beginning the last Saturday in April), although the game commission voted to open the rest of the creek to year-round fishing a few years ago.

Surveys by the California Department of Fish and Game have shown more than 10,000 trout per mile on numerous sections of Hot Creek, with an average density of more than 8,000 fish per mile.

The meandering Hot Creek originates just south of Mammoth Mountain and is comprised primarily of runoff from the Twin Lakes region. While water temperatures are often cold (one more reason to avoid wading), thermal springs near Hot Creek State Fish Hatchery are what give the creek its name. Much of the creek rarely surpasses 50 degrees, but the springs help bring those particular sections into the mid-60s.

Stay away from the “hot” sections of the creek, which are often too hot to support solid populations of trout.

In terms of flies, Hot Creek is known for its caddis fly and stonefly hatches. The ranch typically carries flies in sizes 16-26, with popular flies including blue-winged olives, CDC Caddis and ‘hoppers.

If you’re tempted to nymph here, breadhead pheasant tails are an option. The best time to fish the small spring creek is from the opener on the last Saturday in April through early July before weed growth becomes an issue. 

To get to the creek, take the US 395 south out of Lee Vining for about 30 miles to the Hot Creek Hatchery and nearby creek.

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