Photo of Clark Fork, Tuolumne County, CA

Fishing the Clark Fork

of the Stanislaus River

Tuolumne County

Photo of the Clark Fork of the Stanislaus River, CA

Clark Fork

The Clark Fork of California's Stanislaus River has attracted anglers for nearly 150 years because of its excellent fishing and its seemingly never-ending succession of scenic falls, pools, and rapids. Although it is popular, with a little traipsing through the woods you can always find a secluded section of river of your own to fish. I suggest you park at the end of the road and work your way upstream where few people venture. An excellent trail parallels the Clark Fork for miles, providing easy access to numerous deep holes and swirling bends along the way.

In My Creel

  • #16 Elk Hair Caddis
  • #18 deer hair emerger
  • Royal Trude
  • salmon eggs
  • Kaufmann's Chironomid Pupa
  • 1/16 oz gold Panther Martin

For fishing the Clark Fork I carried a variety of flies and baits. For Boulder Lake I brought along a couple of lures.

Getting to the Clark Fork

To reach the Clark Fork from California's central valley, drive east from Sonora about 50 miles on Highway 108. Watch for the Clark Fork turnoff at the base of the descent from Donnell Vista. Beginning as soon as you cross the bridge over the Clark Fork, you will find good fishing almost anywhere you stop. If you prefer a little more off-the-beaten-path fishing, set out up the trail from Iceberg Meadow. Ready your pole with fly or bait because you will find plenty of tempting spots to fish along the upper Clark Fork leading toward Saint Mary's Pass. Soon after leaving the parking area you reach a short, steep climb. Once over this hill the trail rejoins the river (about 1 mile). That's where I found my best fishing.

Photo of the Clark Fork, Tuolumne County, CA

I noticed that the far side of the Clark Fork has much less brush, so if you see a safe log on which to cross, you may wish to try that side. Fishing should be easier from that side. In any case, continue to work your way up the Clark Fork until you come to the junction of Boulder Creek (about 2.5 miles and 400 feet elevation gain). Beyond that the flow is so diminished that it probably isn't worth continuing.

On my way out I spotted two large trout lounging in a small pool (shown left here). I promised myself I would return another day to try my luck. It's been several years now, and I still haven't made it back. I bet those two are still there.

Accommodations and Supplies

Lodging near the Clark Fork is available back on Highway 108 at Dardanelles Resort or a little farther up at Kennedy Meadows. There is more lodging and vacation cabin rentals in Strawberry, Pinecrest, and Twain Harte. Several National Forest Campgrounds are situated along the Clark Fork and many more along Highway 108. In the summer they are usually crowded. On the east side of Sonora Pass you will find a campground at Leavitt Meadow and along the Walker River and Highway 395.

Photo of the Clark Fork, Tuolumne County, CA

Lower Clark Fork

The Clark Fork above Iceberg Meadow is part of the Carson-Iceberg Wilderness Area, and if you plan to backpack and do overnight camping there you will need to pick up a wilderness permit. The best place is at the Summit Ranger Station along Highway 108 at the Pinecrest turnoff. Camping is not permitted for the first several miles up from Iceberg Meadow, but beyond you will find many nice places within view of the Clark Fork. There are also excellent campsites at Boulder Lake.

California's Best Camping logo

To find the very best campgrounds in the area and all across California, visit California's Best Camping.

For complete information about camping and fishing around the Clark Fork and all up and down Sonora Pass, see Sonora Pass Vacations.

On your way to the Clark Fork you can get fishing supplies at the following places:

Recommended Books for Fishing the Sierra Streams and Lakes


I was always intrigued by little Boulder Lake on my map, so finally I took a hike up to see what it was like. From the Clark Fork it was a long 1.5 miles and about 1300 feet elevation gain on a poorly maintained trail. I had great views of Saint Mary's Pass from the trail. Boulder Lake is at 8200 feet elevation. It was early in the season when I visited and some snow was still around. I didn't have any luck fishing there. The water is fairly shallow, but others have reported landing brookies from the lake.

If you enjoy fishing small streams, you could try your luck on a couple of the tributaries to the Clark Fork. A good trail follows Disaster Creek up to its headwaters, and another trail parallels Arnot Creek. The two trails meet about 5 miles up from the Clark Fork.

Photo of Boulder Lake, Tuolumne County, Ca

Boulder Lake

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