The Lower Kings River in California was once a premiere fishery, famous for its excellent rainbow trout population. Unfortunately, in the early 90s, drought and irrigation caused this River to sink in quality.
However, we are happy to report that this fishery is making a comeback! The waters are once again teeming with rainbow trout.
Start planning your trip to Kings River today and prepare to feel like royalty.
Fly fishing in the Lower Kings River
The Kings River is a 132 mile long river in the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range in California. The headwaters rise along the Sierra Crest, and flows through the San Joaquin Valley, southwest of Fresno. The Kings River splits into multiple branches in Kings County. The Lower Kings River refers to the tailwater stream that is located below Pine Flat Dams.
The Kings River basin was originally inhabited by the Yokut tribe. The first recorded Spanish explorers arrived in 1806 and they dubbed the River “El Rio de los Santos Reyes” or “the River of the Holy Kings.” The River has been a source of controversy for many years, with disputes arising over dam construction and the possible negative environmental impact the dams could have over the wildlife that call this River home. In 1969, the California Department of Water Resources declared the Kings River fully appropriated. This means that no new water rights can be claimed, unless bought from existing rights-holders.
In the Lower Kings River, you will find both wild and stocked rainbow and brown trout. The fishery is open year round. You can find plenty of good fishing by exploring the upper reaches of this River as well.
Lower Kings River Map and Fishing Access Sites
Best Places to Fish Lower Kings River
Most of the River is special regulation, so be sure to observe the posted regulations in the area you choose to tackle. From Garnet Dike Campground to Pine Flat Lake, the River has a two fish per day bag limit. The Middle Forks are artificial lures, barbless hooks, catch and release only.
Access to the River is pretty good if you are planning on taking on the lower reaches. This brochure, provided by Kings River Conservation District, contains an excellent map that outlines the different fishing regulations along the river. Be sure to check it out before you make your visit.
Best Time to Fish Lower Kings River
You can visit the Lower Kings River during any time of the year and still find success fishing. This is a great place to visit in the colder months, starting in November through April. Fishing the Upper Kings River is particularly fruitful in the spring and summer.
At Lower Kings River, you’re most likely to see midges, Blue-Winged Olives, and a variety of caddis.
Fly Box - What You'll Need
Here is list of general fly pattern recommendations for Lower Kings River:
- CDC Comparadun (#18-20)
- Blue-Winged Olive Parachute
- Adams Parachute (#18-20)
- Elk Hair Caddis (#14-16)
- Pheasant Tail Nymph
- Prince Nymph
- Hare's Ear Nymph
- Zebra Midge
Ventures Fly Co. offers a great selection of dry flies, nymphs and streamers that will catch fish just about anywhere. Set includes 40 high quality, hand-tied flies (see list below) and waterproof fly box.
- Adams Dry Fly
- Elk Hair Caddis
- Blue Wing Olive
- Royal Wulff
- Griffith's Gnat White
- Stimulator, Organge
- Chernobyl Ant
- Rubber Leg Nymph, Brown
- BH Pheasant Tail Nymph
- BH Prince Nymph
- BH Hare's Ear Nymph
- Barr's Emerger Nymph
- Zebra Midge Nymph, Black
- Wooly Bugger, Black (Size #8x2)
- Wooly Bugger, Olive (Size #8x2)
A 9-foot 5-wt fly rod with floating line is perfect for fishing dry flies and small nymphs on the Lower Kings Road. A tapered 9-foot leader, with tippet size 3X to 5X to match the flies you are throwing, is pretty standard.
The Lower Kings River Fishing Report
Area fly shops, guides and websites that can provide the Lower Kings River fly fishing report are listed below:
The state of California requires that all people who are 16 years of age and older have a valid fishing license. There are resident and non-resident sport fishing licenses available. You can purchase a one-year, 10-day, two-day, or one-day license. Some areas also require a permit. You can purchase the license and learn about the most current regulations through the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.
Trip Planning Tips
The nearest airport to Lower Kings River is the Fresno Yosemite International Airport, which is located about eight miles away from Fresno. You can also travel to Sacramento International Airport, which is about 180 miles from Fresno. Keep in mind you can travel to any major or municipal airport in Central California and arrive after your destination after a few hours of scenic driving.
The Townhouse Motel is the perfect lodging option for the budget minded fisherman. They offer clean rooms, reasonable rates, and free WiFi. Of course, in an area as breathtaking as central California, it’s hard to justify staying indoors. Choinumni Park is a 170 acres park that boasts beautiful wildlife, plenty of fishing access, and even a playground to keep little ones occupied.
While the Upper Kings River gets the most attention, we feel that the Lower reaches has much to offer the intrepid angler as well. In fact, you could say it’s fit for a king.
Looking for more places to fish? Check out our DIY Guide to Fly Fishing California
Feature image by Gene Daniels