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Anyone thru-fished the JMT?
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David Stenberg
(dstenberg1) - F

Locale: South
Anyone thru-fished the JMT? on 09/06/2006 16:03:07 MDT Print View

I saw an article over on and Ayce said he had fished while he did a thruhike of the JMT

I flyfish and spinfish for trout, but I only want to take one kit. What do people think? Which one? What set-ups have you used for backcountry fishing?

The last thread got me excited about eating trout in the backcountry.

Stephen Jones
(joness606) - MLife

Locale: Central Florida
Thru-Fishing the JMT on 09/13/2006 10:33:41 MDT Print View

I did last year (Aug/Sep 2005). Fly fishing is by far the best way to go in the high country as the fish eat bugs almost exclusively. I spoke to people using spinning gear and some had success in specific waters, a few were skunked throughout. There are a number of guidebooks. I used Beck's "Trout Fishing the John Muir Trail" and it proved to be useful and surprisingly accurate when discussing presentation and fly selection. For example, at Guitar Lake, just below Mt. Whitney, Beck said to use the smallest fly possible. I got many refusals with a selection of #14-#18 flies. After tying on a #24 Mosquito imitation I took (and released) at least ten 10-inch Goldens in the next half-hour. The JMT is a wonderful trip and the fly fishing experience just makes it all the better. Good luck.

Benjamin Tomsky
(btomsky) - F

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Re: Anyone thru-fished the JMT? on 09/13/2006 10:51:56 MDT Print View

I fly fished almost every day of my sixteen day thru hike this past July/August, and was consistently impressed with the quantity and quality of fish. "Trout Fishing the John Muir Trail" was my primary resource but, in retrospect, not really necessary. The summary of Where to Fish, provided at was the most helpful thing for me. As someone very new to fly fishing, it was really incredible to catch so many beautiful fish...

Scott Peterson
(scottalanp) - F

Locale: Northern California
Fishing In High Country on 09/13/2006 12:36:26 MDT Print View

I have never heard that flies are better in the high-country as a rule. Having used both spinner and fly methods in a variety of locations and situations I tend to find that in California high country, whether streams or small lakes...a 1/16 oz. Panther Martin (gold/black) is one of the most effective elements for catching ANY kind of trout. A month ago I caught 14 - 8 to 10 inch Brookies (in 2 hours) in a Trinity Alps lake at 7200' that has not been stocked since the 1920's. Those fish were more or less native at this point and were very hungry! I suppose the right nymph would have produced the same productivity, but you really have to know the lake/season or be an entomologist. Dry flies would definitely not have worked.

Stephen Jones
(joness606) - MLife

Locale: Central Florida
Re: Fishing In High Country on 09/13/2006 16:01:14 MDT Print View


The fish up there have a very short feeding season and will often go after anything that resembles a protein source and fits in their mouth (ever wonder where all the Yellow-legged frogs went?). Last year at Chief Lake just below Silver Pass I saw a guy take about a dozen nice fish on a spinner -- one after another. However, he had been shut out on several other lakes and many of the streams were difficult to work with a spinner. In 18 days on the JMT I never fished a piece of water that I didn't take at least one fish. Fly selection was not rocket science and although I caught most on dry flys, a significant number came to nymphs bounced through the riffles.

On Marie lake, just below Selden Pass, I experienced the unique situation of actually getting tired of catching fish after landing over 30 Brookies in the 10-12 inch range on fairly large, bushy flies. By the way, if you fish Marie go to the inlet. The photo below shows an area where dozens of fish stacked up there lazing in the sun and taking whatever bug happens to enter their feeding lane.

Brook Trout at inlet to Marie lake

I would add that casting a fly to water covered with the dimples from rising fish at sunset is an incredibly satisfying way to close out the day.

cary bertoncini
(cbert) - F

Locale: N. California
nice trout pic on 09/13/2006 16:22:13 MDT Print View

how big are they - look big in the pic. they are brookies?

gotta disagree on the frog thing - trout are in my opinion a minor factor in their disapperance. at my favorite lake for huge golden trout, I saw a beautiful yellow leg frog lounging about just a couple weeks ago.

carefully examining the data, we'd see that something else is primary factor for the frogs' decline. i'm voting pesticide, as there is some clear evidence there that is being avoided by many because of the powerful agri lobby in the central valley.

study was done while back that Ralph Cutter cites - found that in many lakes, PRIMARY food source is insects from central valley that have blown up to sierras and dropped - along with the pesticide residues.

Rick Dreher
(halfturbo) - MLife

Locale: Northernish California
Re: Marie Lake on 09/13/2006 16:36:19 MDT Print View

Oh man, I've stood at exactly that spot, sadly sans tackle. There were some very hefty fish that day, too. (Of course they get bigger as time goes on.)

For those not force-marching the JMT/PCT, that part of the John Muir Wilderness has some specacular destinations, not that the main attraction isn't nice too.

Stephen Jones
(joness606) - MLife

Locale: Central Florida
Re: nice trout pic on 09/14/2006 06:49:47 MDT Print View


The fish in the picture are all Brook Trout in the 12 inch range. Without a a known object for reference it's difficult to get a feel for their size. The photo covers perhaps 20% of that particular congregation of trout. Within 50 yards there were at least three other schools nearly as large. Lots of cruising singles along in the deeper areas of the shoreline too.

The frog comment was just my weak attempt at humor. Perhaps keyed by some of the studies I've read in the past I did notice that lakes with no fish tended to have a population of tadpoles. Guess that makes sense from the preditor/prey perspective, as well as habitat compatibility, but the pesticide argument makes the most sense to me. When you are in the High Sierra the area seems invulnerable to outside influence but one look at the map and you realize it is a relatively small geographic feature in a region completely dominated by mankind.

Scott Peterson
(scottalanp) - F

Locale: Northern California
Re: Re: nice trout pic on 09/14/2006 08:40:31 MDT Print View

Wow Stephen....what a great sight! Very rarely do I come across groupings that large in the Sierras. I am obviously not going to the best areas...but my skills are not as developed as yours either. I was going to post a pic of the nice 20" rainbow I pulled out of the Big Horn in Montana 2 weeks ago, but the posting pic thing has always miffed me. Anyway...seems rivers like that offer even the worst fly fisherman an opportunity to haul in huge fighting Germans and Rainbows without much ability!

David Stenberg
(dstenberg1) - F

Locale: South
Which weight fly rod? on 01/16/2007 21:52:15 MST Print View

For those who have fished on the JMT, which weight fly line did you use? Is a 5 weight rod too heavy or should I go with a 3 weight?

Please give any of your opinions, thanks.

Brett .
(Brett1234) - F

Locale: CA
re:Anyone thru-fished the JMT? on 01/16/2007 23:28:51 MST Print View

This is a little off topic because its not JMT related, but on my day hikes here in Japan I frequently saw guys catching fish using bamboo poles. So I bought a light telescoping fishing pole and asked a sales rep for recommendations on hooks and bait. I have no idea "how" to fish other than throwing a hook into the water, but I am going to carry this 1/2 Lb kit and try my luck. I usually camp by a river.. I think it would be a great way to supplement my dehydrated and not-too-tasty backbacking food.

Benjamin Tomsky
(btomsky) - F

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Re: Which weight fly rod? on 01/17/2007 00:00:33 MST Print View

I brought a 6 weight rod last year for my JMT thru hike and appreciated it for the lake fishing I did.

If I were to do it again, I'd probably bring my 3 weight rod to save 1.5 oz. Besides that, I prefer it for stream fishing and it is adequate for most of the lake fishing.

So, I wouldn't say a 5 weight is "too heavy"... but you would probably be fine with the 3 weight...

R Alsborg
(FastWalker) - MLife

Locale: Southwest
Re: Re: Which weight fly rod? on 01/17/2007 01:44:30 MST Print View

I've had good results from a #4, 5-Piece, 7'6" Length with a Breakdown Length 19 1/2" that weighs less then my titanium cup.


David Stenberg
(dstenberg1) - F

Locale: South
March Brown fly rods on 01/17/2007 20:04:39 MST Print View

Thanks to those who replied. I am hiking the JMT this August and trying to nail down my gear list. I have a 5 weight 4-piece rod, but it does not pack very small even though it is a 4-piece. I looked at the Cabelas rods which several on this site use and they are a good price. I am not sure.

Another question,
Has anyone used the March Brown travel rods? They pack really small, but I am not sure how they cast. Any experiences would be great.

Brett-Good job getting some fishing equipment. I hope you eat well and enjoy yourself! Fishing is one of my other favorite activities. It will be very fun to backpack and fish on the same trip!

Edited by dstenberg1 on 01/17/2007 20:06:33 MST.

Stephen Christopherson
(schristopherson) - F

Locale: Northern Virginia
Re: Re: Re: Which weight fly rod? on 01/19/2007 18:52:25 MST Print View

Yeah, I agree with FastWalker on the rod selection. Though I've no experience on the JMT, my choice for a pack rod that's versatile on small creeks or bigger water is a 4-wt.
The7.5' is a really good length; you can still caste with some distance and have reasonable control for mending. I DON"T have one though and carry a 4-wt, 6.5' White River ultralight (Bass Pro Shop), 3 piece. I use one of those clear tubes sold on BPL's website. The action on the rod is med-fast, and with little practice you can throw a #12 or #10 size wooly bugger if you want. Doing it again I would go with a 7.5' 4-wt 4-5 piece. A small arbor reel loaded with Double Taper line. I'd cut the DT in half and save the other half for another reel, or for when the line needs to be replaced (stored in a ziplock bag in the freezer). I don't need that much flyline for a 4 wt or lower. I'd rather use the saved space on the reel for backing. Cabelas and Temple Fork Outfitters make great rods - well priced. I have fished my 4wt with 3wt line and it seems to work well for low, clear creeks where you need more delicate presentation.

David Stenberg
(dstenberg1) - F

Locale: South
flyfishing rods on 01/22/2007 10:03:13 MST Print View

Thanks for the info. I had looked at the Bass Pro ultralight rods also, and I appreciate your comments about them.

Craig W.
(xnomanx) - F - M
Re: Which weight fly rod? on 01/25/2007 22:36:28 MST Print View

I know I'm a bit late with the advice here but...

Last time I was trekking on the JMT I had my 5 wt St. Croix with me- I found myself wishing I had my 3 wt. Elkhorn.
Most of the fish I caught were small and I never fished any big water. I don't think you're likely to find any bulls out there...and if you did, a 3 wt. would just increase the excitement. If you're not fishing for survival, I say go as light as possible.

Fish On!

Greg Heidt
(Greg1inCA) - F
Re: flyfishing rods on 02/05/2007 21:19:05 MST Print View

I own the smallest Bass Pro Ultralight. White River 3 piece 3 wt. 6'3". For $175, it was not a bad deal for rod, rod tube, reel, backing, flyline, and leader. The rod is great for stealthy approaches to heavily wooded streams and good for short casts. The rod does well with small trout, but a bigger trout means you have to use the reel which is very small. As far as casting goes, the rod is just OK. It is pretty soft at the tip and takes a little longer than some of today's fast action rods to load-up. The included flyline is of poor quality, and has a lot of line memory. I often find myself trying to straigten the flyline if it has sat on the reel for more than a couple of days. The flyline is also very short, so longer casts require pulling out a few yards of backing. As far as a "beater" rod goes, this rod gets the job done. Unless you are an experienced caster, I would go with a longer length than my 6'3". The 6'3" will not allow you to cover a lot of water from the shore of the JMT lakes. I would also recommend the 4 wt. because I feel that the 3 wt. casts more like a 1 or 2 wt.

If you are looking for a very nice rod that is of much higher quality, consider the Sage Launch 4 piece 3 wt. 8'6". It is a very light rod and casts well. You can get a package deal on Cabelas for about $260. A little more price, but you will get better flyline (RIO) and a reel that gives you the option of setting the drag. Also, the 4 piece setup is idea for the JMT because you can break it to two pieces for a quick jump from spot to spot, and put it away in 4 pieces for fishless travels.

(onthecouchagain) - MLife

Locale: Sunny SoCal
JMT is small trout heaven! on 02/10/2007 21:10:34 MST Print View


I hope to see you out there this August...we are shooting for a start date of 8-1-07. I have thru-fished the JMT 3 times (02,03,05) and can say it is fantastic! My journals fish counts are 72, 78, and 87 respectively (all released).

Like the other posts, I have been bored of catching soooo many trout (23 in under an hour at Rae Lakes and Donahue high mountain lake)...they seem to be 6" to 8" range most of the time but I have landed some 12/13" at Purple Lake, Garnet Lake, and Cathedral Lake..the larger trout have all been rainbows while the small but fiesty brookies and golden trout are the usual catch.

I saw a guy flyfishing Cathedral lake using a wet fly (black wooley) and he landed a 15" rainbow- absolutely amazing fish!

Gear: I use a two-piece spinning rod (this year I dropped the money for a beautiful 5' two piece G-Loomis as I KNOW how fun the Sierra can be with a good outfit)reel is a micro light by Shimano, 2 lb test is plenty, 3 lures in a film canister.

Lures are 1 rooster tail, 1 mepps spinner, 1 panther martin

that's it..all you need.

Hollywood should film,"Field of Streams"...if you cast it, they will come!

The Sierra and JMT is awesome for small trout action. Try the streams that parallel the trail- just look for a quiet pool or some clear water, throw it in, and let the fish fest begin!

Good luck,


Edited by onthecouchagain on 02/12/2007 22:28:43 MST.

David Stenberg
(dstenberg1) - F

Locale: South
Re: JMT is small trout heaven! on 02/12/2007 08:00:15 MST Print View

Thanks for the encouragement. That gets me really excited. I have a fly rod set up, but I also have a small spinning kit that I can use. I am just unsure which to go with. It sounds like I can't go wrong with either one.