Last week I told you about the lower sections of the Kern River, learn more HERE. This week I’m going to share the upper sections of the river with you, which just happen to be my favorite sections.
I fly fish for two reasons: 1. I love to fish and 2. I love the peaceful solitude it can bring. The latter of these two reasons is why I love the headwaters of the Kern River so much. Everything upstream of the Johnsondale Bridge is only accessible by foot (click here for directions). This keeps a lot of people out of the area and leaves you with plenty of solitude and lots of fish to catch.
There are several trails you can hike to gain access to the upper reaches of the Kern, but our favorite was the Forks of the Kern Trail. This trail leads into the Golden Trout Wilderness, which is part of the Sequoia National Forest. If you hike down this trail for about 2 miles you’ll reach the confluence of the North Fork of the Kern River and the Little Kern River. This is an easy day hike for most people and you will see a fair number of people fishing and camping in this area. However, if you’re willing to go farther you’ll be rewarded with solitude and even better fishing.
Crystal and I usually hiked out to Kern Flats, a large open meadow roughly 8 miles from the trailhead. There is ample space to camp out there and great fishing. And once you’re this far out into the wilderness you likely won’t see more than 10 people over an entire weekend. This area is quite a trek from Los Angeles so Crystal and I typically went up here on long weekends like Memorial Day, 4th of July, and Labor Day. During the summer months this section of the river can be electric.
(Reluctantly, here’s directions to the trailhead. Don’t all go there at once because it’s our favorite spot.)
As I stated in my first Kern River post, the whole river is dominated by rainbow trout, although there are a few browns here and there. In the upper areas you can also hook Kern River Rainbow trout, which are a subspecies, and once you get above 8,000 feet in elevation you’ll have a shot at landing a golden trout. The trout here are colorful, strong, hungry, and acrobatic. Even smaller fish will use the current and fight like mad and nearly every trout you hook will take to the air in an attempt to spit your hook. There are also a lot of big fish in this area. 20”+ fish can be found and the majority are in the 12” – 16” range.
In the warmer months a dry dropper rig is the way to go. I’ve used several combinations depending on the conditions and any hatches that might be happening, but I’ve had the most success with a Royal PMX dry fly and a bead head Zug Bug dropper. This combination has served me incredibly well in this area and I’m sure you’ll find it works great as well.
I can’t say enough good things about the fishing in this area, but you’ll have to check it out for yourselves to really understand. Be careful on the trail cause there are a few of these guys slithering around:
But if you don’t bother them they won’t bother you. The area is susceptible to wildfires especially now due to the drought so always check on fires and trail closures before driving up. And if you do go, please pack out what you pack in, don’t scar this beautiful area with your trash.
You can’t really go wrong fishing anywhere on the Kern, but like most great trout fisheries the best areas take a little extra effort to get to. So if you’re ever in the Bakersfield area of California and want to wet a line, I suggest you give it a try. Until next time, happy fishing!
– A. Egli