Photo of Bottleneck Lake, Sabrina Basin, Inyo County, CA

Bottleneck Lake Fishing

John Muir Wilderness - Inyo County

Photo of Bottleneck Lake, Inyo County, CA

Bottleneck Lake

Bottleneck Lake is situated high in the Sabrina Basin in California's Eastern Sierra. To reach the lake anglers will likely want to set up a back country camp near Dingleberry Lake and then hike cross country up to this remote lake for a fabulous day of fishing. Most likely you will find yourselves the only ones there. Hungry brook trout strike eagerly at flies and lures. This is a strenuous high elevation trek that involves off-trail route finding and should only be attempted by experienced cross country hikers.

In My Creel

  • Adams
  • Zug Bug
  • Elk Hair Caddis
  • Blue Wing Olive
  • Mepps
  • Thomas Buoyant
  • Panther Martin

From experience I knew that the avaricious fish in the Sabrina Basin are usually not overly particular about which flies, lures, or baits are presented to them. The smaller, pan-size fish, will strike at almost anything. The bigger fish, as usual, are more leery and required a little more finesse. I wish I had brought a grasshopper imitation because they hoppers were bouncing all over the place in late August.

Bottleneck Lake is at 11,100 feet, 5 miles from the Sabrina Lake trailhead. The Sabrina Basin is filled with lakes, making it a great place to set up a base camp and fish for a week. Dave's Sierra Fishing includes two other Featured Trips in the Sabrina Basin, Hungry Packer Lake and Baboon Lakes, both of which are accessible by trail.

Making Your Way to Bottleneck Lakes


The trailhead at Lake Sabrina is reached by driving west about 17 miles from Bishop on Highway 395. Parking at Lake Sabrina is found along the highway about a half mile east of the trailhead, not right at the lake. For overnight trips into the John Muir Wilderness, which includes the Sabrina Basin, you will need a wilderness permit, which you can pick up at the ranger station in Bishop.

The trail up from Lake Sabrina is steep, with many swtichbacks. For those not accustomed to high elevation hiking, plan to take it slowly. Carry water. 2½ miles of hiking accompanied by a 1,100-foot climb will deliver you to beautiful Blue Lake, a great place to stop for lunch or to camp. You can fish there for both rainbow and brook trout.

Photo of Dingleberry Lake, Sabrina Basin, CA

Dingleberry Lake

Half way down the shore of Blue Lake, turn onto the Dingleberry Lake trail. It is clearly marked with a sign. The trail rises and drops slightly as it works its way around a rugged canyon, past lower Emerald Lakes, and over a low ridge before dropping to Dingleberry Lake.

As you approach Dingleberry Lake, look across the valley toward the hillside on the north side of the lake. The cross country route to Bottleneck Lake climbs that mountainside and passes through the gap between the two prominent peaks (see the photo below and to the left with Dingleberry Lake shown in the foreground and the route marked).

Although you could camp at Bottleneck Lake, it is probably better done as a day hike since the climb from Dingleberry is steep. Various routes lead up to the gap directing you to Bottleneck. I began at the creek crossing 0.2 miles upstream from Dingleberry and angled across the slope and up, following an obvious tree line leading north. Once high on the slope, I doubled back to the pass. The lowest point is on the left (southwest) side of the pass. Follow an obvious route through the gap and almost immediately find yourself at Bottleneck Lake.

Photo of trail to Bottleneck Lake

Route up to Bottleneck Lake

Accommodations and Supplies

Good backpacking camps can be found all over the Sabrina Basin. At Dingleberry Lake, packers often set up groups at the campsite designated for horse groups immediately upstream from the lake. You will find nice campsites a little farther upstream where the trail crosses the creek. You could also camp at nearby Blue Lake or Emerald Lakes or in many places farther upstream along the creek.

For accommodations near the trailhead, consider Parcher's Resort located a few miles away near South Lake. They have cabins with a range of amenities. Down the road a short distance from Lake Sabrina is Cardinal Village Resort with housekeeping cabins.

Fishing supplies can be purchased locally at the following places:

Photo of Bishop Pack Outfitters pack train

Bishop Pack Outfitters

Bishop Pack Outfitters

For an extended stay in the Sabrina Basin, consider having yourself packed into a base camp by a local packer. I had a great experience with nearby Bishop Pack Outfitters. They are located a couple miles from the trailhead near North Lake. You can arrange to have them pack your gear into a recommended base camp while you make the trek on foot or you can make the journey on horseback along with the packer.

Owner Mike Morgan and his crew are very knowledgeable about the area and can pack you into great camps you might not find on our own. They can also steer you to some of the best fishing spots in the Sabrina Basin.

Recommended Books for Fishing the Sabrina Basin

Photo of Fishgut Lakes, Sabrina Basin, CA

Fishgut Lakes


Nearby Featured Trips in Inyo County

  • Hungry Packer Lake - 2 miles from Dingleberry Lake, spectacular scenery
  • Baboon Lakes - beautiful lakes to explore, days of good fishing
  • Marie Louise Lakes - a short hike from South Lake, great lakes for children to learn the joys of fishing

High Sierra Trails

A Backpacker's Guide to the
Most Spectacular Trails
in the Sierra Nevada