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photo by Greg Vinci


Utah.  Directly below you lies one of the Sierra Nevada’s most scenic alpine meadows aptly named Hope Valley by early pioneers.  Springs that feed Hope Valley’s lush meadows coalesce into Red’s Lake Creek and eventually merge with the West Carson River.  After leaving the valley the West Carson flows through a steep gorge and eventually reaches a confluence with its sibling the East Carson in the state of Nevada.  Along this stretch is some of the best trout fishing that the northern Sierra has to offer. 

About ten miles east of the summit Hwy 88 eventually joins the West Carson and  follows it several miles to about the California/Nevada state line.  Along this stretch there are many turnouts and campgrounds that provide good access to the river.  Chances of a big fish on the West Carson is rather slim, but the chance to catch quantities of fish is quite good.  Local businessmen learned a long time ago that when you have an abundance of cool clear rivers and streams loaded with fish, the fishermen will come.  In addition to weekly plants of hatchery fish by the California Department of Fish & Game, the county purchases large quantities of fish from private hatcheries just to ensure no fisherman goes home empty handed.  Mind you, just because very few of the fish are of trophy size, they’re not dinks either and if you should hit it right, you might catch one up to three or four pounds after the hatchery dumps in some of its brooders at the end of the season. 

Liz Weirauch who along with her husband Don owns the Angler’s Edge fly shop in nearby Gardnerville, Nevada says that the West Carson is one of the best places to hone your dry fly skills.  Because of overhanging foliage, a shorter rod such as a 7’ or 8’ three or four  weight rod is perfect in the canyon sections and  a 9’ five  weight is OK  for the more open sections near the campgrounds and in the meadow.  She says, fish aren’t real picky so 5X tippet is about as small as you have to go, unless you are fishing real early or late in the year and need to go to tiny beatis and midge patterns.   If you are going to nymph the pocket water in the canyon sections, the usual strike indicator/nymph rigs will work fine work fine here.  Due to the aforementioned overhanging foliage you you will want to avoid overhead casts, so a heavier hard foam strike indicator will make your roll casts a little easier.

Fly selection is very straight forward as all of the generic stuff works well, even on the wild fish.  Adams Parachutes, Elk Hair Caddis,  Beetle and Ant patterns  will work most of the time for dries.  The fish go crazy for hopper patterns up in the meadow section later in the summer.  For nymphs, #14, #16 & #18 bead head Pheasant Tails both flash back and standard are perfect for mayflies, and simple patterns such as the Green (or tan) Rock Worm and the “Gas Caddis” pupa work for Caddis. 

The West Carson It is a great destination for an enjoyable fishing weekend or a last chance stop for those on their way back to Sacramento or the bay area from the more technical waters of the Mammoth Lakes area.  It’s only about thirty minutes from the nightlife of South Lake Tahoe so one can combine some adult fun with some great fishing all in one trip.