Fly Fishing the Sierra

Tenaya Region

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Suggested Flies for Tenaya Region:
Western Sierra Hatch Selection

Other Local Favorites:

Dry Flies:
Parachute Adams #14-18
Parachute Ants #14-16
Cutter's Perfect Ant #14-16
Elk Hair Caddis #14-16
Yellow Humpy #12-14
Dave's Hopper #10-12
Royal Wulff #12-14
Purple Haze #16

Nymph Flies:
Pheasant Tail Nymph #14-16
Copper Johns #14-16
Gold Ribbed Hare's Ear #12-14
Prince Nymph #12-14
Bird's Nest #12-14
Zebra Midge #18


Tenaya Lake Directions

From Yosemite Valley, take highway 120 ten miles to the Crane Flat turnoff onto Tioga Road, then take Tioga Road 31 miles east to reach the Tenaya Lake, which is right beside the road and impossible to miss. From Yosemite's east entrance at Tioga Pass, drive 15.5 miles west to reach the lake.

Notes:Tenaya Lake
The Tenaya region is the heart of Yosemite. Centered by Lake Tenaya, there are numerous trailheads providing access to lakes and streams. The most popular trail is the John Muir Trail which starts at Yosemite Valley and proceed northeast of Lake Tenaya where it meets the Pacific Crest Trail in Toulumne Meadows.

Tenaya Lake (ele. 8,150 feet) is a natural lake that has Rainbows and Browns. Rainbows used to be planted but there exists a self-sustaining population of 'bows in the 6-9 inch class. The Browns tend to be larger but rarely caught. The best areas are along the southern shoreline which has a channel that runs about 30' deep. The late afternoon and evening bite is the best time for some dry fly action in the shallow areas near the inlets with Mosquitos and Mayflys. The season is the last Saturday of April to November 15th. However, the highway usually closes by the end of October and does not reopen until late May.

May Lake: At 9329' elevation. The trailhead is at the end of Old Tioga Road ( aka, May Lake Road). It is just a one mile hike to the lake with a 500' descent. Contains Brookies in the 6-9 inch range. It was planted with rainbows but most of these have died out due to poor spawning. A 6 Lb. Rainbow was once caught within May Lake.

From the Murphy Creek trailhead at Tenaya Lake you can reach Poly Dome Lake. Murphy Creek is fishless except near the shores of Lake Tenaya.

Poly Dome Lakes: A 2.5 miles hike from the trailhead with a 500' gain. Group of 3-4 lakes and numerous ponds. Used to have rainbows but is now fishless due to poor spawning habitat.

Going south from Lake Tenaya is the Sunrise Lake trailhead.

Sunrise Lakes: This group of three lakes is an easy hike of less than 3 miles with plenty of good fishing. The first lake is at 9166' elevation, second is 0.5 miles further at 9258' elevation, and the third lake is 0.5 miles further at 9427' elevation. The lakes contain Brookies and Browns.

Mildred Lake: The lake is off-trail at 9539' elevation. Most go north from the Middle Sunrise Lake about one mile or up the Mildred drainage from Lake Tenaya.. Contains small Brookies.

Taking the Sunrise trail to the JMT and head north toward Cathedral Lakes. There is an eastward spur trail about a mile north of tye High Sierra Sunrise Camp that goes to the Cathedral Fork of Echo Creek. Going off-trail you can reach:

Matthes Lake: At 9623' elevation. 8 miles from the trailhead, the last 1.5 miles is off-trail going up the Matthes drainage. Contains Brookies, 9-10 inches.

Echo Lake: At 9356' elevation. 7.5 miles from the trailhead, the last 1 mile is off-trail going up the Echo Lake drainage. Contains Brookies, 9-10 inches.

Taking the JMT south from Tuolumne Meadows, you can reach:

Cathedral Lakes: About a 4 mile hike from the trailhead at Tuolumne Meadows taking the JMT south.Two lakes, upper and lower, at 9288' and 9585'. The lower lake is fishless but the upper lake still contains some Brookies averaging 9 inches..

Budd Lake: At 9975' elevation. Use the Cathedral Lake Trailhead at Tuolumne Meadows but follow a lightly used trail along Budd Creek up to the lake. About three miles. Used to contain small brookies. Has been gill-netted for frog restoration and is now fishless.

Elizabeth Lake: (63 acres).The trailhead is at the Tuolumne Meadows campground. It is a 2 mile hike to the lake at 9487' elevation. Named for Elizabeth Crow Simmons, the niece of Robert B. Marshall, who was the chief geographer with the U.S. Geological Survey in 1899 and had the duties of naming lakes and peaks. Marshall was also a founding member of the Sierra Club and close friend of John Muir. The lake was first stocked with Brookies in 1907 and they established a self-sustaining population, 8-12 inches. The smaller brookies are close to the shoreline but the larger ones are on the opposite side of the lake from the outlet near the drop-offs.

The lakes around the Vogelsand High Sierra Camp can be accessed by taking the PCT/JMT down the Lyell Fork to the Rafferty Creek Trail, about 1.5 miles from the trailhead. Rafferty Creek has plenty of Brookies 6-8 inches but they get scarcer as you get to the upper elevations. It is about 5 miles to get from the JMT trail to Tuolumne Pass at 9992' elevation.

Boothe Lake: 9845' elevation. 7 miles from the trailhead. Being considered as a frog restoration site. Contain Brookies 8-9 inches.

Evelyn Lake: 10,334' elevation. Strangely, this lake was stocked with Brookies that could not establish themselves and rainbows were able to get a foothold on the lake. The lake did not have great numbers of Rainbows but some reached 16-17". Today, many consider the lake to be fishless.

Fletcher Lake: Next to Vogelsang High Sierra Camp at 10,157'. 7.25 miles from the trailhead. Contains small Brookies 8-9 inches.

Townsley Lake: At 10,396' elevation. Follow the inlet creek from Fletcher Lake up to Townsley Lake, about a 1/4 mile. 7.5 miles from the trailhead.This lake has been planted with Goldens numerous times up to 1969. Some Goldens still remain 8-12 inches.

Hanging Basket Lake: At 10,601' elevation. 8.3 miles from the trailhead. Must go off-trail from Fletcher Lake. This is the only lake within Yosemite that you can catch Lahontan Cutthroats. They are small, less than 10", and must be released.

Lake Vogelsang: 10,324' elevation, 7.6 miles from the trailhead. Both Goldens and Rainbows were planted within this lake up until 1968. The Goldens were not able to survive but there was some hybridization with the rainbows. Lake Vogelsang contains Rainbows up to 12-14 inches.

Gallison Lake: 10,426' elevation. The Bernice/Gallison Lake complex contains many fishless small waters. This area is being managed for frog restoration. Fishless.

Bernice Lake: 10,206' elevation, 10.3 miles from the trailhead. Although there is frog restoration efforts within this area, Bernice Lake continues to have many small Brookies, 8-9 inches.

Emeric Lake: 9538' elevation. 10 miles from the trailhead.This lake has been stocked with rainbows up until 1976 but they were never able to reproduce naturally. Brook trout are present although they were never planted there. Not great in numbers but some reach up to 15".

Babcock Lake: 8885' elevation, 11.5 miles from the trailhead. Too shallow to contain fish, subject to ice-freeze. Fishless.

Taking the JMT out of Yosemite Valley, the trail connects with the Merced Lake trail and continues along the Merced River.

Merced Lake: At 7212' elevation. 11.5 miles from the trailhead. This is a deep lake with mostly Browns in the 10-11" range. Some Rainbows and Brookies can also be found.

Merced River: Between Merced Lake and Washburn Lake , the river has a good population of Browns near Merced Lake and Rainbows near Washburn Lake. Both species average about 6-10 inches.

Washburn Lake : At 7605' elevation. 15 miles from the trailhead. Contains mostly Brookies in the 8-10 inch range and some Rainbows 8-11 inches.

Taking the Bernice trail north from Merced Lake, you follow Lewis Creek and can reach Florence Lakes.

Florence Lakes: Following Florence Creek from Lewis Creek, Lower Florence Lake is about 1 miles from the trail or 16 miles from the trailhead.It is at 9852' elevation and contains Rainbows 10-12 inches but have some larger up to 16". Upper Florence is another 1200' higher at 10,541' and is difficult to reach. The rainbows here are somewhat smaller than those at Lower Florence.

Fishing Regulations (Effective March 1st, 2021)

Lake Tenaya:

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

Other Rivers and Streams within Yosemite National Park:

From the last Saturday in April through November 15, five trout daily bag limit, 10 trout in possession; and, from November 16 through the Friday preceding the last Saturday in April, 0 trout bag limit, artificial lures with barbless hooks only and trout must be released unharmed and not removed from the water.

Lakes within Yosemite National Park:

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


© 2021 Steve Schalla
This page is not to be copied without my explicit permission.
May Lake Upper Cathedral Lake Lake Tenaya Sunrise #2 Sunrise #3 Budd Lake Elizabeth Lake Evelyn Lake Vogelsang Lake Babcock Lake Washburn Lake Vogelsang Lake Merced Lake Evelyn Lake MF & SF Tuolumne Headwaters Merced Headwaters Upper Tuolumne Agnew Lake Backcountry Washburn Lake