Photo of Tenaya Creek, Yosemite Natiional Park, CA

Tenaya Creek Fishing

Yosemite National Park

Photo of Tenaya Creek in Yosemite National Park, CA

Tenaya Creek

Tenaya Creek is often overlooked as a fishing destination in Yosemite National Park. Its larger and easier to access neighbor, the Merced River, draws most of the attention, leaving Tenaya Creek to twist its way down the deep canyon between Half Dome and North Dome. Mirror Lake on Tenaya Creek draws many tourists, but a good majority of them never venture much beyond the lake.

Tenaya Creek begins at Tenaya Lake high in Tuolumne Meadows and cascades down a virtually impassable canyon over Pywiack Cascade into the deep valley below Mount Watkins and then begins a more leisurely flow until finally emptying into the Merced River.

The lower 2½-mile portion of the creek offers a variety of fishing from deep, gushing pools to quiet, shaded runs. Farther up, Tenaya Creek becomes a rocky mountain stream and the quality of fishing rapidly deteriorates. Like the Merced River, Tenaya Creek makes a great early season destination.

In My Creel

  • #18 Blue Winged Olive
  • #16 Zug Bug nymph
  • #18 Pheasant Tail nymph
  • #22 gray Midge
  • #18 Adams
  • #18 Hare Emerger

For Fishing Yosemite on Tenaya Creek I took along nothing but nymphs and a few small flies.

Making Your Way to Tenaya Creek

Park in Yosemite Valley. From any shuttle stop in the valley take the free shuttle to stop #17, which will put you within easy walking distance of the Tenaya Bridge. From there you can fish up or down the creek on either side.

Another approach is to go to Lower Pines Campground. Tenaya Creek passes through the campground before spilling into the Merced River. That lower section, however, sees a lot of activity from campers, so I would recommend working your way upstream from the Tenaya Bridge.

Mirror Lake

There are some excellent deep pools just a short distance above the bridge worthy of fishing. Only about half a mile up the road from shuttle stop #17 you arrive at Mirror Lake. A lot of tourists will congregate there, making it a less than desirable place for fishing. For fishing purposes, the lake is considered part of Tenaya Creek (not a lake) and may only be fished during the fishing season.

Photo of Mirror Lake in Yosemite National Park, CA

Mirror Lake

From the Tenaya Bridge a loop trail passes up either side of Tenaya Creek to a bridge about 1.5 miles farther up the creek from Mirror Lake (2 miles from the Tenaya bridge). Most hikers are on the north side of Tenaya Creek. A rock slide in 2009 blocked the trail on the south side of Tenaya Creek just before the upper bridge. Since the fishing above the rock slide is poor, you will do equally as well going up either trail.

Access to Tenaya Creek for fishing from the trail is obvious in some areas. Other times you may be clambering over deadfall and pushing your way through bushes. I like fishing Tenaya Creek early in the season before the higher elevation creeks have opened up and before the bushes have leafed out. The trout are small and sometimes difficult to catch, making it a place to challenge your skills.

Photo of Tenaya Creek in Yosemite National Park, CA>

Accommodations, Camping, and Supplies

Lodging is available, of course, in Yosemite Valley at Yosemite Lodge, Camp Curry and the Ahwahnee Hotel. Prices at the Ahwahnee Hotel are steep. Wherever you choose to stay, you should make reservations early. Another option is the Wawona Hotel, located 4 miles from the park's southern entrance. You can save money by staying outside the park in nearby El Portal where there are several large motels or outside the park on either Highways 41 or 120.

Campgrounds abound in Yosemite, but finding an empty campsite is difficult during peak season. About half of Yosemite National Park's campgrounds are on a reservation system. Reservations for them are essential from April through September. The first-come, first-serve campgrounds usually fill up by noon during busy times. The only non-reservation campground in the valley is Camp 4, which fills up by 9 am in the summer.

In the valley floor, there is no camping outside the campgrounds. You may not sleep in your car, except in a designated campsite. Other campgrounds are located outside the valley, mostly along the Tioga Pass Road (Highway 120). For backpackers with a wilderness permit there is a Backpackers' Campground where you may spend one night prior to your leaving on your hike the next day.

California's Best Camping logo

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

You can set up a backpacking campsite at least 4 miles above the upper bridge on Tenaya Creek, but I don't recommend it as a backpacking destination. Neither does Yosemite National Park. They have posted a sign near the upper bridge warning that fatal accidents have occurred in that area annually from people falling on the rocks around the river. Up the canyon beyond Mt. Watkins the ground is littered with down wood and there aren't any appealing camp sites. To top it off, fishing up there is poor.

On your way to Fishing Yosemite you can pick up fishing supplies at . . .

Recommended Books for Fishing in Yosemite

Photo of Tenaya Creek in Yosemite National Park, CA

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