Kings River CA – Early Season March Brown Madness

Upper Kings River CA

Upper Kings River CA

I am happy to announce Sierra Fly Fisher Guide Service as our fly fishing reporter providing up-to-date fishing conditions in Yosemite National Park and the majestic High Sierra.

We begin our coverage of the Sierra Nevada fisheries with a report on fishing Kings River.

Fishing Kings River CA

Kings river can be broken down into three different areas:

  • Lower Kings which flows out of Pine Flat Reservoir
  • Upper Kings a 20-mile section between Pine Flat and the confluence of the South and Middle Forks
  • Cedar Grove section on the upper south fork in Kings Canyon National Park
Fishing Kings River

Fishing Kings River

The 20-mile stretch of the upper Kings river above Pine Flat Reservoir is special regulation trophy trout water. It is also one of the most beautiful rivers in the west. All fish in this reach are wild, impressive Kings River rainbows.

Kings River Hatch Report

The fishing begins here in mid to late February with some heavy BWO (#18 – 20) hatches and Golden Stone flies (#12 – 14). Depending on the weather, March also announces the arrival of the largest May fly of the year, the March Brown (#12), the focus of today’s report.

March Brown Mayfly

March Brown (photo by Artin Marootian)

Timing the March Brown Hunt

Upper Kings River Flow Chart

Upper Kings River Flow Chart

The upper Kings River is fickle and the game is to catch the spring insect activity at this low elevation stretch before the higher elevation snow melt kicks in. Following the river stages and weather patterns is key. The rest is up to the fish. Rich hatches and actively feeding trout willing to take good sized dry flies make early season fly fishing very exciting on the upper Kings. This year we had a false spike in flows and the window of opportunity, as of April 2nd, has remained good.

Kings River Fishing Tips

Sight fishing is part of the fun however pocket water produces well during the lulls in surface activity. You are probably not going to catch a fish of a lifetime here but sizable rainbows (over 14 inches) will rise to a dry fly and these fish are unusually scrappy.

Wading Kings River

Wading Kings River

Even on nervous water and in turbulent foam lines, Kings River rainbow trout can be finicky so use the space; make good mends, work on your technique. The key is to be persistent. Fish hard and be thorough. This is big water. Caution while wading is also key.

Kings River Fly Patterns

As for flies, general mayfly patterns such as an Adams or March Brown fished with a gentle presentation will provoke eager strikes. Subsurface patterns ranging from deep nymphs to emergers are effective. Hatch related feeding frenzies can light up and shut off at the drop of a hat so be prepared to act when it does kick in. Given King River’s rich stonefly population, nymphs of this order are always a safe bet. Streamers are hit and miss but can produce for the dedicated.

Also note that by late March, it is spring here and flowers and wildlife abounds. It is beautiful country.

Upper Kings River Wildflowers

Uppper Kings Wildflowers

This report was submitted by Bernard Yin. Bernard is a team member of the Sierra Fly Fisher guide service founded by Jimmie Morales based out of Yosemite Rivers Fly Shop in Oakhurst, CA located at the southern entrance to Yosemite National Park. For more information, contact Jimmie Morales at Photography, except where noted, by Andrew Maurer of Trout Stream Designs.


About the Author Ken Sperry

Ken is an avid fisherman of 40+ years who loves to explore and find new places to fish. He created DIY Fly Fishing to help you do the same.

Jesse marvin says

I’m trying to get back into fly fishing after 25 plus years any recommendations for the upper kings river for August and September? Any input will be greatly appreciated.

Ken Sperry
Ken Sperry says

Hi Jesse, the Upper Kings River, meaning the 20-mile stretch upstream of Pine Flat Reservoir to the confluence with the South and Middle Fork of the Kings River, gets pretty hot in August and September with air temps near a 100F. You can wet wade to cool off but definitely would recommend fishing early morning or in the evening. Terrestrial patterns, hoppers and ants, will be your best bet in August. Later in September some of the smaller mayflies, BWO in particular, and even some caddis will start to come off. I’d give the guys at Sierra Fly Fisher a call at (559) 683-7664 before heading out and they can provide you the most current info.

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