Carson River East Fork Fly Fishing In California

How many rivers can you fly fish from Mountains to desert in one day? Deep in the Carson/Iceberg Wilderness a natural spring fathers this splendid river that tumbles down spectacular rocky twisting scenery all the way down to high desert. What a sensational ride this rare water enjoys! Fly fishers with an adventurous heart can begin searching deep pools with ice cold near perfect steep walls multi colored and alive with songbirds. Then drive a little try another prime spot and so on until finally arriving in the lower area a wild trout zone between Hangman’s Bridge and the Nevada State line high desert Rattlesnake Country. The river is divided into upper, middle and lower winding through forty miles of breathtaking sights, smells, and visual sensory overload!

Back in the day’s dinosaurs owned this area ancient Lake Lahontan created an inland sea shimmering across a good portion of what now is Nevada. The Carson was a feeder tributary and home to Lahontan Cutthroat that still exist in limited numbers in the east Sierra section. A rare species called Paiute Cutthroats (Oncorhynchus Clarki Seleniris) has been listed under the endangered species list. Nature lovers, bird watchers and fly fishers can experience the changing climate zones and wildlife all in one day!

If ever a fishery called for serious stealth sneak, crawl, and throw from a distance, this is it. Though portions of the river can be accessed by park and walk methods, one can mount horses or backpack in to more remote water. As is the case in all waters near roads, the more accessible, the more super stealth is required. Be prepared to set up nine foot leaders, four to six foot tippets and #14-16 size wets and dries and a strong assortment of terrestrials such as hoppers, ants, beetles, bees, etc. In the upper section a small creek rod 7 to 9 feet 2/4 weight will provide the thrills.

Up high, stuff your vest with usual dry patterns Humpy’s, Elk Hair Caddis, Mosquito’s. Make sure they are quite small in the #14 or smaller range. Bring along new glasses or your five year old to help find and tie these invisible bugs!

This river changes faces and attitudes depending on seasonal snow pack melt faster then Madonna changes boyfriends! Unless your used to slipping and sliding along river edges, bring along a wading staff as this zone can get quite dangerous to wade depending on draught conditions. Access to the upper river stretch can be difficult in big snow pack years. Carson Falls acts as a barrier keeping remaining Paiute strain from mixing with other species. The water above Carson Falls is closed to all fishing (checking special regulations here is most important)

Below Carson Falls and the area upstream from Wolf Creek is most difficult to reach and least fished. Hatchery trucks never leave tire marks in this area and the native rainbows and browns live free of genetic intervention. Buying a good recent topo map or hiring a savvy guide is the way to fly here.

If you’re an equestrian fly fisher head for Antelope Pack Station by taking Mill Road by going west off Highway 395 between towns of Walker and Coleville, it’s a very steep grade with many trail heads depending on time of year. The headwaters can be reached by taking trail marked “Dumont Meadows”. If the lower section is your cup of tea. then take the trail marked “Silver King”. It’s a wonderful ride through breath taking scenery. The middle section Silver Creek to Wolf Creek is more accessible if time is an issue. This area where highway 4 hits the Centerville Bridge is usually well fished and you can expect lots of company. Take the extra time and scout out the secret pools that exist here or pay that guide guy and get the lowdown.

Take along your dry flies for the middle section early fall evenings and mornings. Remember world famous lake and gambling resort Lake Tahoe is only about 45 minutes away as well as Carson City Nevada down in the desert at the bottom of the mountains. The middle section is made for your muddlers, Wolly Bugger type patterns and of course the usual suspects in the terrestrial family.

Access is easy in lower section wild trout area Hangmans Bridge to Nevada State line. Highway 89 about two miles from Markleeville is easy to find and most fly fishers start working from this area and wade on down when water and weather permit. Look for turn off to Indian Creek and the airport, you will find many pullouts all over this area. A stroll down a dirt road will get you to the water about a mile and a half. If your not in the best of shape or not used to high altitude, take it easy this is not easy for older or out of shape bug tossers!

indian creek nevada
Indian Creek

This section has more stout trout, so you might want to take your 4/6-weight rig unless you can handle wind with your lighter weights? You may want to brush up on the old roll cast and have you done the slingshot lately? If you’re into hoppers, ants, bees and all those special buggy creations you worked so hard to tie, this is the place to get buggy! World-class wild trout fishery, lake Tahoe, Carson City and more water to cover ( over 40 miles) then you can do in a week! This eclectic high mountain born river may be just the change you’re looking for?

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