To survive at this high elevation the fish need to
be very opportunistic as far as their feeding preferences are concerned.
Summer only lasts for a couple of months so when food presents
itself their main instinct is to eat as much of anything as they can.
This means that you can present almost any type of fly to them
and you will have a chance of getting their attention.
That doesn’t mean that the fish are stupid, it just means that
you have less chance of picking the wrong fly in any given situation.
Where on other waters the fish will get into a pattern of only
feeding on a particular life stage of a bug (we’ve all had the
experience of watching trout refusing to take a surface fly, when they
are zoned in on eating nymphs) in the high country Yosemite streams, the
fish will continually switch back an forth between nymphs and floating
adults. It is important to
keep in mind that the pattern you select is approximately the same size
and hue as the naturals you see along the stream.
These fish love terrestrials so ants, beetles and small hopper
patterns work when all else fails.
All of the generic patterns work.
A great pattern that crosses over from an ants to mayflies is a
size #16 Royal Wulf or a Royal Trude in that same size.
Another great crossover pattern is a #16 Renegade.
Early in the season Blue Wing Olive patterns such as a #18 olive
Parachute take fish though I personally prefer a more generic Parachute
Adams as the gray hue is never wrong and to the fish it makes the fly
acceptable no matter what color the actual hatching bug is.
When fishing the larger pools such as you will find on the Lyle
Fork, the fish can get picky so spring creek tactics need to be applied.
There you may find that you do best with cripple imitations like
Ralph Cutter’s EC Caddis, Randal Kaufman’s Timberline Emerger or
Quigly Cripple style patterns. If
fishing during high water during the early season, you can swing black,
olive or brown Wooly Buggers into the seams of runs and get fish.
The correct tackle for Yosemite high country
depends on the time of the year. Early
season water is high, cold and fast.
Nymph rigs should provide the capability to get the fly down
quickly in roily water. The
Dana Fork for example is relatively narrow with lots of large granite
boulders causing the early season water to just blast through the
canyon. Here “pocket
water” rigs with heavy weight and relatively short leaders are going
to work best. A floating
line with a seven foot leader (either tapered or straight) and a tippet
section tapering to 5X will be adequate.
I generally prefer a tapered leader for nymphing in case I decide
to switch to drys. On the
relatively narrow Dana Fork, you can use high sticking or Czech nymphing
techniques but on the Lyle Fork, I find that a strike indicator, such as
a Micro-Ball Indicator, that
can be rigged with a 90 degree dropper will help you detect strikes when
fishing holding areas that are some distance away.
Later in the season when the water gets low, the trout
concentrate in deep pools between the boulders on both the Lyle and Dana
Forks. Fishing dry flies
brings more success at this time and on the larger pools of the Lyle
Fork you will be fishing longer leaders and maybe a little finer tippet,
though you should never have to go below 6X.
This is a time when you will want to use spring creek techniques,
though the difficulty will be a lot less.
Yosemite high country fly fishing is a place where you can dust off your two and three weight rods, at least for dry fly fishing later in the season. The trout are small yet aggressive and an eight inch Brookie on a two weight can be as exciting to catch as a fourteen inch fish on a five weight. Generally though, I’ve found that a four weight is about perfect for most situations no matter what time of the year. As mentioned earlier a floating line is more than adequate for both nymphing and dry fly fishing.