Photo of Bull Lake,  Inyo County, CA

Bull Lake Fishing

John Muir Wilderness - Inyo County

Photo of Bull Lake

Bull Lake

Make the 2-mile hike up the trail from South Lake in the direction of Bishop Pass to often-overlooked Bull Lake. This beautiful mountain lake makes a great place for a weekend backpack and fishing trip, off the beaten-track, with some of the most amazing scenery in the Sierra. Fishing the varied shoreline of Bull Lake with the backdrop of colorful Chocolate Mountain and jagged Cloudripper is a special treat.

In My Creel

  • #16 barbless Adams
  • #12 barbless Blue Wing Olive
  • #14 barbless Royal Wulff
  • Mepps
  • Thomas Buoyant
  • Panther Martin

I relied on many of my favorites at Bull Lake, especially the new barbless flies I recently ordered from Big Y Fly Company. Once again I found them great choices.

Making Your Way to Bull Lake


The trail to Bull Lake begins at South Lake, a 20-mile drive east from Bishop on Highway 395 in the Eastern Sierra. The Weir Pond just below South Lake is a popular fly fishing destination, as are the South Fork of Bishop Creek and South Lake itself.

The trail set out along the south shore of South Lake for a short distance, climbing steadily. Then it swings south and continues to climb. On a previous trip I had struck out at nearby Hurd Lake along the way in, so this time I passed it by. The South Lake area is populated with numerous lakes, among them stunning Long Lake which is right beside the main trail (actually beyond the turnoff to Bull Lake). Fishing there was mediocre.

Photo of South Lake

South Lake

The turnoff to Bull Lake is 2 miles up from South Lake, before Long Lake. Watch for the sign that says Chocolate Lake and turn there. The trail leads down and up to Bull Lake (0.2 miles) before continuing on up to Chocolate Lake. Another approach to Bull Lake is from the lower end of Long Lake. Simply head northeast along a meadow and creek that are the drainage from Bull Lake. In less than half a mile you will arrive.

I fished all along the shore, finding my best luck near the outlet and at the upper end where a stream from Chocolate Lake runs into Bull Lake. The most productive fishing, by far, was early in the morning. Mid-day things were rather dull.

Photo of anglers at Long Lake

Long Lake

Accommodations and Supplies

There are a number of good backpacking campsites along the north side of the lake. Small scattered trees provide good shelter. Because it is above 10,000 feet, campfires are not allowed. Wilderness permits are required for overnight stays.

Several resorts are located in the Bishop Creek drainage below South Lake and its neighbor, Sabrina Lake. Among them are Bishop Creek Lodge, Cardinal Village Resort, and Parcher's Resort by South Lake. Campgrounds abound along Bishop Creek: Sabrina Campground, Forks Campground, Bitterbrush Campground, Big Trees Campground, and others. Dispersed camping is not allowed along Bishop Creek.

You can pick up fishing supplies locally at the following places:

Recommended Books for Fishing the Eastern Sierra

Photo of Bull Lake, Inyo County, CA

Bull Lake


There are a dozen other lakes sprinkled about the area, many of them looking very promising. Among them are Long Lake, Saddlerock Lake, Chocolate Lakes, and Treasure Lakes.

Other Featured Trips near South Lake

  • Marie Louise Lakes - nearby, quiet lakes with enjoyable fishing
  • Baboon Lakes - beautiful lakes to explore, days of good fishing
  • Hungry Packer Lake - an incredible beautiful lake high in the Sabrina Basin with rewarding fishing
  • Bottleneck Lake - for adventurous anglers, this lake is a superb destination, cross-country and uphill, but worth the effort

High Sierra Trails

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