A Case for the Southern Sierras


Any fisherman in tune with their Farmer’s Almanac or local weather forecasts a year or so ago would have done well do predict that this year would be an epic water season in the Southern Sierras.  This past winter and spring’s record rain and snow, combined with recent, frequent, thunderous summer downpours and regular swampiness has left the Southern Sierra waterways and wilderness with an abundance of drink.

Riverside Park, Jan. 2017

Riverside Park, Jan. 2017

 The hills, flats and canyons are awash with green, more-so than the valley has seen this time of year for years and years.  Life is everywhere.

Cannel Trail after all that snow

Cannel Trail after all that snow

Quite literally, waterfalls that have sat dry and not drooled a drop for years have had torrential moments more numerous this past season than they have in a decade.  If you have been up in the Kern River valley any time thus far in 2017 and haven’t seen something awesome related to the wilderness, the water, the people, or the power emanating from the lifeblood that is the Kern River, you were probably sleeping.   The entire Kern River valley and surrounding watershed in all directions for endless miles are thriving. 

Lake flats that have sat dry and barren for years are now phasing through periods of high water, to lush, green, fish frenzy on the flats to hot, dry desperation and death that is the reality of such an alive waterway that is the Kern River and surrounding waterways.  Carp, crappie, catfish, bass and trout can be had in near daily changing lake flats that rise and fall as nature gives and humans take for power, agriculture and recreation.  Some can be sight-fished from just a rod lengths away and make for an epic backwater battle.  Others require a more distant launch or otherwise tricky, delicate presentation.  The ever changing lake levels make for new adventures daily.



The creeks near and far are epically alive, having had a thorough exfoliation and rejiggering due to this past season’s super high water.  Every hole is clean.  Every hole is new.  All the fish are still there and are primed and ready to go.  The weak got an express trip down system but the strong survived and are readily had with appropriately dialed dries, sufficiently sloppy nymphs, or passibly swung wets.   With a fishing buddy and a dedicated day or more of fly fishing in the Kern River valley you can very easily whack off half of your California heritage trout challenge, and probably swing back into Kernville for a brew and dinner not too long after dark.



The main branch of the Kern that has made and broke scores of fisherfolk from all varied pursuits continues to be a mysterious but lovable animal.  Flows have been below 1000 CFS and fishable for over a month now, however rain and humans have muddied the water to the point of being unfishable several times.  Stocked trout can be had whenever a planting has happened and they haven’t been dredged out, if thats your thing.  Bright or otherwise attention getting seems effective.  Large, aggressive native kern river rainbows can be had in deep backwater behind rock breaks in countless sections of the river with a combination of fluffy dries or varyingly attractive, weighted and hackled nymphs and flymphs.  Every day can be different and there are some righteously huge fish lurking in that river, from child-sized catfish and carp to leg-length pike minnow, with a splash of epic trout action in between.  You can easily exhaust yourself as a fishermen up here right now if you aren’t careful. 



The quantity and variety of waterways that await appropriately minded folks in the Southern Sierra wilderness is nothing short of staggering.  There are all manner of wonderful destinations, varyingly distant and costly from here that could offer epic experiences all their own, but I can’t help but gawk at the amount of adventure that is so close, relatively speaking.  There are lifetimes worth of adventure to be had within the range of those that are reading this.


Get out.  Fish.  Adventure.