Photo of Lyell Fork, Yosemite National Park, CA

Lyell Fork Fishing

Yosemite National Park

Photo of Lyell Fork, Yosemite Natioinal Park, CA

Lyell Fork

Fishing Yosemite doesn't get much better than along the Lyell Fork of the Tuolumne River, running through scenic Lyell Canyon, near Tuolumne Meadows. You can start Fishing Yosemite as soon as the snow melts, usually in mid-June and keep coming back until the end of the season. Fishing Yosemite is a dream for many because of the spectacular scenery and the abundant wildlife. For fly fishermen the Lyell Fork offers miles and miles of meandering river bordered by fields of lush meadow. Although the John Muir Trail leads straight up the canyon along the Lyell Fork, most of the hikers are bent on covering miles, not lingering to try their luck fishing Yosemite.

In My Creel

  • #16 parachute PMD
  • #14 Adams
  • #14 Brown Elk Caddis
  • #16 Light Cahill
  • #14 Prince Nymph
  • #14 Peeking Caddis

For Fishing Yosemite on the Lyell Fork in mid-summer I took nothing but nymphs and flies. You certainly could work the pools with a light spin casting rig, but it's such an ideal fly fishing location that it seems a shame to do anything else.

More Fly Suggestions

For an interesting article about selecting flies for fishing the Sierra, read Bud Bynack and Richard Anderson's article on "Go-To-Flies" in the February 2011 issue of California Fly Fisher Magazine. .

As soon as you hike a mile or two from the road you will be amazed to find that you have left most of the people behind and have the Lyell Fork to yourself. You could make your Fishing Yosemite outing a day trip or pick up a wilderness permit and camp at the upper end of the canyon.

Making Your Way up the Lyell Fork

Photo of Lyell Fork, Yosemite Natioinal Park, CA

To begin your Fishing Yosemite adventure, drive to Tuolumne Meadows in Yosemite National Park. At Tuolumne Meadows several trailheads connect with the John Muir/Pacific Crest Trail leading up the Lyell Fork. I prefer the trailhead at the Wilderness Center. There is a good parking lot there and the trailhead is clearly marked. Follow the John Muir Trail for a a little over a mile, crossing bridges over the Dana Fork and then the Lyell Fork (known as Twin Bridges). At the trail junction, turn left and you are on your way to fishing Yosemite along the Lyell Fork.

You soon see the Lyell Fork on your left, a broad meandering stream. I usually hike a mile or two to get beyond the reach of most of the people before I begin my day of fishing Yosemite. From there you can fish your way up the canyon for 9 miles, only gaining 500 feet in elevation the entire distance.

Fishing Yosemite: Accommodations and Supplies:

Lodging is available in Yosemite Valley, Just be sure to make your reservations early. From Tuolumne Meadows, however, it is only a few miles over Tioga Pass and down to Lee Vining and the June Lake area where you will find numerous motels, lodges, and some vacation rental cabins. There are also motels and lodges outside the northern park entrance station on Highway 120.

Photo of Lyell Canyong, Yosemite National Park, CA

Campgrounds are plentiful in Yosemite, but finding an empty campsite is always a trick. Again, if you drive over Tioga Pass and outside the park you will find campsites on the eastern side of the pass. They, too, can be crowded in summer and fall, but nothing like in Yosemite National Park.

For more information about lodging and camping in Yosemite, see Yosemite Natioinal Park's website: Staying Overnight in Yosemite.

For backpackers there are a number of hurdles to overcome. The first is to obtain a wilderness permit. Some of the daily allotments of permits can be reserved ahead of time. The rest are issued on a first come, first served basis. Next you must hike at least four trail miles from Tuolumne Meadows before you can camp. Be sure to carry an approved bear canister for your food. Many good campsites can be found along the Lyell Fork. You also might consider a side-trail up to one of the neighboring lakes to the west of the valley.

California's Best Camping logo

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

On your way to Fishing Yosemite's Lyell Fork you can pick up fishing supplies at

Recommended Books for Fishing in Yosemite

Photo of Lyell Canyon, Yosemite National Park, CA

Sidetrips from Yosemite's Lyell Fork

Two miles up the trail from the Wilderness Center you will come to the turnoff to Vogelsang High Sierra Camp (reservations required). The trail follows Rafferty Creek which offers good stream fishing. After 7 miles and a 1400-foot climb you will reach Evelyn Lake. I have always passed it by, but others tell me it can offer some great fishing for rainbows. I have also heard that during the caddisfly hatch things get exciting Evelyn Lake. It can serve as a jumping off place to even more backcountry fishing.

After hiking 6.5 miles up the Lyell Canyon to reach the turnoff to both Evelyn (yes, the same one as mentioned above, just a different trail) and Ireland lakes. You can reach Evelyn Lake by hiking 5 miles and climbing 1700 feet. Ireland Lake, with a few more trees and much better fishing, is 4.3 miles and 2000 feet up the trail.

Nearby Featured Trips around Yosemite

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