Merced River Fly Fishing In California
Born and unleashed by the aqua gods that rule the highest Yosemite Park peaks, the Merced River roars out of the park early each spring. This river can be dangerous during spring run offs when the flows reach 25,000 plus CFS or more! One can actually stand near the Arch Rock entrance to this magnificent park and watch the rushing headwaters begin their journey down some of the most spectacular steep canyon walls imaginable. If another more breath taking almost Wild River exists, it must look much like the mighty Merced.
Beginning up close to the park entrance continuing down to the tiny town of El Portal fly fishers can enjoy year round catch and release only with barb less hooks. Monster Brown trout ten pounds and up thrive in the warmer Merced waters that turn ice-cold runoff into perfect rapid growth serum. Rainbows experience the same quick waistline expansion and can grow up into the 24-inch class! This river is most often waded when flows drop into low numbers by mid summer.
A word of caution for waders who are not used to rocky, slippery maneuvering. This river regardless of seasonal flows is not one to be disrespected. Rocks and boulders of every configuration make the going an adventure. Be prepared to share the water with our dear rafting friends and those seeking to dip their toes into this pretty river. If one simply drives along highway -140 and watches the river meander and give up its secret deep holes. The results can be educational and conducive to exciting morning and evening dry fly action in the early late fall months.
Highway-140 hugs this river and makes the access to deep holes easy to see, but, not always easy to get to. Steep drop offs and rocky terrain make this river a challenge. If one takes along a sturdy wading staff and moves carefully, the excitement of watching huge brown trout and healthy bows rise out of crystal clear depths makes it well worth the effort. This part of California is also known for the occasional rattlesnake among the local residents. Fly-fishing gear is seasonal with 5/6 weight outfits usually more then adequate. During late early late fall dropping down to 3/4 weight makes the river even more fun.
Merced River The most effective set up is at least nine feet of tapered leader followed by 4 to 8 feet of tippet depending on water depth. Flies that never fail or size #16 or smaller Beaded Prince Nymphs, Mosquitoes, and a good assortment of terrestrials including: hoppers, spiders, and ants. One must of course adjust sizes depending on water flows and depth. The year round section mentioned above from park entrance to El Portal is prime dry fly area when late fall descends on this ethereal water.
Those who thrive on traditional deep nymphing will not be disappointed in early mid spring. If your adept at rigging deep diving nymphs with several split shots about four feet above your fly and working fast water. You will be blessed with all the action you can handle. As is the case with most all rivers, hiring a local guide first time out is always wise. If you only have a few days and really want to dial in this river, hire a guide. If you’re at ease working streamers using various mending techniques near ledges and boulders while alternating slow quick stripping. You will with patience be introduced to local aquatic citizens full of fight in an unforgettable setting!
The quaint town of Mariposa about thirty miles from the Arch Rock park entrance has many quality lodgings set in a place time forgot. Mariposa can also be a wonderful starting point heading toward the park and catching the Merced River at the bottom of a steep grade where highway- 140 flattens out. Here one can either head toward the park and stop and fish all along the hiway or take a dirt road that hugs the river downstream for many miles.
If convenience and little time concern you? Then driving and working the many pools along the road toward the park may be the way to go. A true park and throw opportunity exists along this portion of the river with caution and respect a priority. This river is easy to find and a challenge to wade and fish depending on weather and water flows. Late fall when the river edges turn bright orange and visitors become scarce is prime time for those who favor solitude.
Eagles, many duck species, doves, fox, raccoon, deer, and bear occupy this natural corridor to the park. The ambience of throwing flies in a place that was deemed magical by Native American Indians will touch whoever tastes this special place. Depending on the section of water and the time of year checking special regulations is always a good idea.
This river winds for many miles in both directions. Highway Ð140 is the only road out of Mariposa, if you stay on it and wind down a steep canyon. At the bottom of the hill a quick turn left puts you on a dirt road that follows the river. If you stay heading right 140 follows the river straight to the park. It is easy to find and many pullouts are available all the way to the Arch Rock Gate.