Middle Fork American River - Sierra Tahoe

Middle Fork American River

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North Fork American River
Suggested Flies for the Middle Fork American River area:
Sierra Tahoe Hatch Selection

Stillwater Flies:
Woolly Bugger #4-10
Krystal Buggers #4-10
Clouser Minnow #4-10
Marabou Muddler #4-10

Gold Ribbed Hares Ear
Birds Nest
A.P. Nymph #10-16
Caddis Emerger
Burk's Hunchback Infrequens #14-16

Parachute Adams
Elk Hair Caddis #12-16
Yellow Humpy #14-16
Golden Stimulator # 6-10


Upper North Fork American River Directions

From Auburn, on Highway I-80, go Northeast 2 miles to Auburn-Foresthill Road. Turn East and go 18 miles to Foresthill. Continue on Foresthill-Soda Springs Road. Mumford Bar Trailhead is 13 miles from Foresthill on Foresthill Road . Beacroft Trailhead is 17 miles from Foresthill on Foresthill Road and Sailor Flat is another 5 miles further on Foresthill Road but the trailhead starts off a high clearance 4 WD road that goes 2 miles to the left. Most of these trails are 3-4 miles to the river and drop about 2000 feet. The American River Trail is along the North Fork and follows the south side of the river from Mumford Bar to Sailor Flat.

Notes:Upper North Fork River at Heath Springs
The Middle Fork of the American begins with springs within the Granite Chief Wilderness. The river flows west to Talbot Creek where the river heads southwest to French Meadows Reservoir, a distance of 12 miles. Most of this water is pools, pocket water, and riffles. Flows can fluctuate greatly throughout the day. The river holds mostly Rainbows in the 8-15 inch class as well as some larger browns within the deepest pools closer to French Meadows Reservoir. Nymph action is best during the early season while dry fly actions picks up in the later summer. A number of Golden Stone hatches occur as well as Caddis and Mayflies. Streamers are always effective within the deeper pools. There are no special regulations. Limit of 5. Duncan Creek is a tributary that feeds the Middle Fork of the American and is accessed from Mosquito Ridge Road where it crosses the creek prior to reaching French Meadow Reservoir. The creek contains small rainbows in the 6-10 inch class as well as a few browns in the upper reaches. This area was one of the richest gold mining areas within the Sierra and continues to have active mine claims.

North Fork of the Middle Fork American River: This water consists of small pools, runs, and pocket water. The Rainbows tend to be on the small size of 6-8 inches. The river is within a very deep canyon which tends to cool the ambient temperature. There are good hatches of Mayflies and Golden Stones.

French Meadows Reservoir: (5,300 feet elevation) The lake contains primarily Rainbows, which are planted throughout the season, as well as Browns and Smallmouth Bass. It is primarily known as a bait and lure fishery but flyfishing opportunities exist as well. Use sinking lines with streamers such as Woolly Buggers and Leech Patterns in Olive, Brown, or Black colors. Try the areas around the downed trees and snags. Also locate the rocky ledges and drop-offs. You'll need a boat since there are few good access points from shore. Know the sink rate of your line and count down to the proper depth before retrieval. Add some twitching action to the fly. There is a callibaetis hatch that occurs sporadically so that nymphing can be good at those times. During late afternoon or at low light, try some surface flies such as Parachute Ants.
French Meadows Reservoir is also a good starting point for access to the upper Middle Fork of the American River. There are some good campsites at the inlet side of the lake with road access up to Talbot Campround at French Meadows. Trail access is available from there.

Hell Hole Reservoir: (4,700 feet elevation) It is fed by the Rubicon River and is within a granite gorge with steep walls. Primarily accessed by small boats, the lake is trolled for the large Mackinaws and Browns that reside there. There are no Brookies or Rainbows.
For flyfishing purposes, Hell Hole gives you good access to the Rubicon River. The tailwater contains Rainbows in the 12" class and some Browns. The tailwater is not very enriched as a food source since Hell Hole is considerably deep. But the tailwater does provide some good fast-action for dry fly fishing.
Above Hell Hole, the Rubicon can be reached by taking the trail off the North Shore of Hell Hole. A jeep road ends at Greyhorse Creek but you can follow the shorline up to Five Lakes creek. Cross over the Rubicon at this point and follow the Hell Hole trail along the south side of the river. The river contains 7-12 inch Rainbows with Goldens in the upper reaches of the Desolation Wilderness.
The tributary streams also offer flyfishing opportunities:
Greyhorse Creek: Contains Rainbows and Brookies.
Five Lakes Creek: Contains Rainbows, Brookies, and Browns.
The SF of Long Canyon Creek: Contains Rainbows.

Fishing Regulations (Effective March 1st, 2021)

American River, North Fork, Middle Fork, South Fork and their tributaries above Folsom Lake (Placer, El Dorado, Amador and Alpine cos.):

Saturday preceding Memorial Day through September 30th. 5 trout, no gear restrictions. Summer fishing only to protect Spring and Fall Spawning.
October 1 through the Friday preceding Memorial Day. 0 trout, artificial lures with barbless hooks. A Fall to Spring angling opportunity with significant gear restrictions.

All Lakes and Reservoirs:

Open all year. No restrictions. 5 trout per day. 10 trout in possession.

All other creeks and tributaries:

Last Saturday in Apr. through Nov. 15. No restrictions. 5 trout per day. 10 trout in possession.


Hell Hole Bathymetric Chart


French Meadows Bathymetric Chart

© 2021 Steve Schalla
This page is not to be copied without my explicit permission.


Mumford Bar French Meadows Reservoir Upper MF American at Picayune Hell Hole Reservoir Upper NF of the MF American River McKinstry Lake French Meadows Reservoir NF of the MF American Hell Hole Reservoir McKinstry Lake Rubicon River NF American Granite Chief Wilderness Upper NF American MF American at Talbot Campground MF American at Ahart CG MF American at Coyote Group CG Duncan Peak Lookout