Photo of Middle Fork San Joaquin River, Madera County, CA

San Joaquin River Middle Fork Fishing

Devils Postpile & Reds Meadow

Photo of San Joaquin River

The Middle Fork of the San Joaquin River near Devils Postpile National Monument and Reds Meadow in California's Eastern Sierra offers nine miles of superb fishing for anglers of all abilities. Fly fishing is popular on this stretch of the San Joaquin River, especially along the meadow sections. Bait fishermen like to work the pools along the more rugged portions of the river. You'll find rainbows, browns, brook, and even some golden trout in the San Joaquin River.

Even though it feels like the eastern side of the Sierra, the Devils Postpile National Monument and Reds Meadow are actually on the western drainage of the mountain range. The Middle Fork of the San Joaquin River flows south through the valley and then sweeps around to the west, flowing 25 miles through a virtually trackless canyon to Mammoth Pool Reservoir midway between Yosemite and Kings Canyon National parks.

In My Creel

  • #16 Parachute Adams
  • #14 Elk Hair Caddis
  • #16 Royal Wulff
  • #16 Royal Coachman
  • #16 Black Gnat
  • Dave's Hopper

Since I was fishing late in the season when water levels were low, I brought along some of my most trusted flies. I knew fishing would be challenging and I was right. Late summer is a better time for fishing.

Making Your Way to the Middle Fork

To reach the Middle Fork of the San Joaquin River and get started fishing, drive on Highway 395 to Highway 203 and follow it west past Mammoth Lakes. Special restrictions govern access to the Devils Postpile/Reds Meadow area. In most cases, you are required to park at the Mammoth Ski Resort near Minaret Summit and take a shuttle the rest of the way. It is best to check the National Park Service's website for up to date information: National Park Service - Devils Postpile. Even though Devils Postpile and Reds Meadow are reached via Mono County, they are actually in Madera County.

Photo of San Joaquin River

I like fishing the San Joaquin River after Labor Day weekend when the shuttle has stopped running and cars are allowed to go into the area. You still have to pay an admission fee to the Devils Postpile National Monument, however.

Fishing is good all along the river. You can park at the north end at Agnew Meadow, follow a trail down to the river, and then work your way upstream, fishing as you go. The first 3 miles are fairly easy travel.

One of the most popular sections of the San Joaquin River for fishing is the stretch of river below Minaret Falls. Follow the road down toward Minaret Campground. Another good place to fish, away from most other anglers is downstream from the Devils Postpile. From the main parking lot at Devils Postpile follow the trail past the monument for just over a mile to where it rejoins the river. From there you will have 2 miles of easy access fishing all the way down to Rainbow Falls and even on down below the lower falls.

Accommodations and Supplies

Reds Meadow Lodge offers the only lodging in the Devils Postpile - Reds Meadow area. They have housekeeping cabins and motel rooms. Back in Mammoth Lakes there are plenty of accommodations available from condos and motels to resorts and lodges. Snowcreek Resort is an excellent place to stay. They have everything you could need from an athletic club with pools and spas to a golf course and restaurants. Numerous other lodges and resorts are worth investigating, too.

Photo of San Joaquin River

Campgrounds are available in the Devils Postpile - Reds Meadow valley: Agnew Meadow, Pumice, Upper Soda Springs, Minaret Falls, Devils Postpile, and Reds Meadow campgrounds. None of them can be reserved. The Devils Postpile Campground is operated by the National Park Service and only costs $14 per night, while the others are $20 a night. All have piped water. Many more campgrounds can be found back in the Mammoth Lakes area.

For RV owners, Mammoth Mountain RV Park is located at 2667 Main St. in Mammoth Lakes. Camp High Sierra, operated by the Los Angeles Department of Recreation and Parks, is located at 869 Lake Mary Road in Mammoth Lakes . They offer cabins and campsites.

California's Best Camping logo

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

For more information about camping, lodging, boating, and fishing in the Mammoth Lakes area, see California's Greatest Lakes coverage of Mammoth Lakes.

logo saying California's Greatest Lakes

Fishing supplies can be purchased locally at the following places:

Recommended Books for Fishing the Sierra Streams and Lakes


Sotcher Lake makes a quick and easy sidetrip for a little fishing adventure. It's located close to Devils Postpile and only takes two minutes to reach from the shuttle stop. Starkweather Lake is visible from the main road. It's small enough to be called a pond. Both lakes have rainbows, browns, and brook trout as well as Alper trout. They are good place to take children for a morning of fishing.

Photo of Stotcher Lake

Sotcher Lake

Nearby Featured Trips in Mammoth Lakes: