Water scout – Upper Middle Fork Stanislaus

Up 108 before Sonora Pass is one of my favorite late summer escapes from the central valley. Shortly after Donnell Lake, the highway provides great access to the river. As you get closer to Kennedy Meadows, campsites become common. The campsites can be packed, but not everyone that camps chooses to fish, so though it might seem crowded, you might have a good portion of the river all to yourself. Brightman Flat is just up from the Clark’s Fork and is the campsite of choice for my buddies and me. It’s a steep walk down to the water, but wet-wading and bolder-hopping on a hot August afternoon for trout that get into the mid-teens is pretty nice. Don’t forget to fish in front of boulders just as much as behind them. The slow, deep water in front of rocks just before plunges provides nice cover for fish to snipe food.
The closer the river gets to the road, the more crowded it gets. There have been days that every tiny pull-out that can hold a car does and fish get a little wise to the crowds trying to catch them. Most people fish the easiest, closest spots, so if you can find a pull-out, then walk up or down river, problem solved. I don’t punish any one spot for long. I like to cover ground.
Kennedy Meadows itself is beautiful. There are lots of spin-fishermen and people with stringers of fish barely big enough to cook, but throwing little dry flies to 6-8 inch browns in such a place makes you forget the lot where your car is resting is completely full. There are some pretty big rainbows hiding in difficult stump cover or under submerged trees, but prepare to lose at least a couple nymphs when trying to get at them.

Fly patterns – elk hair caddis, Royal Wulff, pheasant tail, blue/red copper john, prince nymph. Sizes 12-20.

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