Rush Creek in California

DIY Guide to Fly Fishing the Rush Creek in California

Rush Creek has all the traits of a promising fishery: easy roadside access, plenty of rainbow and brown trout, and breathtaking scenery to boot.

But Rush Creek offers more of a challenge to anglers than one might imagine at first glance.

The trout in Rush Creek are smart and easily spooked, and there is very little coverage along the banks, which makes sneaking up on your prey difficult.

This means having the right presentations is crucial to your success on this stream.

Rush Creek is a great place to hone your fishing skills and challenge yourself.

Fly Fishing in the Rush Creek in California

Rush Creek is a 27.2 mile long creek in California, located on the eastern slope of the Sierra Nevada. It is the largest creek in the Mono Basin. The Creek rises high on Mount Lyell, and its upper branches flow from Marie Lakes and Davis Lakes on Mount Davis.

It then flows through many lakes as it threads its way through Madera County, including Waugh Lake, Gem Lake, Silver Lake, and Agnew Lake. After the stream flows through Grant Lake, it receives Parker and Walker Creeks. The Creek then enters Mono Lake.

The name “Rush Creek” appeared on the Hoffman and Gardiner map of 1863-1867, making it one of the oldest place names in the Sierras. The exact origin of the name “Rush Creek” is unknown. 

The Creek is well known for carrying large wild brown trout (in the lower reaches) that, unfortunately, scare very easily. While the fishery is well known for its browns, the Creek also contains rainbow and brook trout.

Most of Rush Creek is considered a naturally reproducing trout stream, as the waters have not been stocked in many years. For the most part, the water is still and crystal clear.

The Lower Rush Creek behaves like a freestone stream, and contains falls, whitewater, and plunge pools.

Rush Creek Map and Fishing Access Sites

DIY Fly Fishing Map

Click map icons to get directions to fishing spots, boat ramps and USGS stream flow data

Best Places to Fish Rush Creek

Highway 158 follows Rush Creek from June Lake all the way to Grant Lake. The parking area is located downstream. It will require a short walk down the path to reach the service road that follows the Creek.

The upper section below Grant Lake is a steep gradient stream with classic pocket water and hemmed by a pine and willow riparian strip. As you head downstream toward Mono Lake the gradient flattens out and the creek is more shallow with riffle. Closer to the Mono Lake you will find undercut banks that can harbor some large wild browns.

If you really enjoy a challenge, try fishing the inlets and outlets of the lakes, and use patterns sizes #16 to #22.

Best Time to Fish Rush Creek

The season for fishing Rush Creek is the standard California trout season. Spring is a great time to fish Rush Creek as it is a tailwater fishery where flows are maintained at 45 cfs, making it good option when other area fisheries are blown out.

Chironomids are an import year-round food source in the Upper river below the Grant Lake dam. Blue Winged Olives are an important hatch on this stream, along with Pale Morning Duns and a variety of other mayflies that emerge from Arpil through October.

Caddis supplement the mayfly hatches beginning in June and running through October. August brings terrestrials such as grasshoppers that proliferate in the surrounding sage brush flats.

Hopper-dropper rigs consisting of an Elk Hair Caddis and beadhead midge or Pheasant Tail nymph are an effective way to fish the shalllow riffles of Rush Creek.

It can also be useful to have a partner spot trout for you, and make upstream casts to avoid spooking the trout.

Fly Box – What You’ll Need

Here is list of general fly pattern recommendations for Rush Creek:

  • Elk Hair Caddis (#14-16)
  • Parachute Adams (#14-16)
  • Pale Morning Duns (#12-14)
  • Blue Winged Olives (#16-18)
  • October Caddis (#12-14)
  • Zebra Midge (#16-20)
  • Pheasant Tail Nymph (#14-16)
  • Hare’s Ear Nymph (#12-14)
  • Hopper Patterns (#10-14)

Gear Recommendations

A 9-foot 4-wt fly rod with floating line is perfect for fishing dry flies and small nymphs on Rush Creek. A tapered 9-foot leader, with tippet size 4X to 6X to match the flies you are throwing, is pretty standard.

Rush Creek Fishing Report

Area fly shops, guides and websites that can provide a Rush Creek fly fishing report are listed below:

Fishing Regulations

The portion of Rush Creek from Grant Lake to Mono Lake is a special-regulation wild-trout water where only artificial flies with single barbless hooks are permitted.

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 municipal airport to Mono County, California is the Mammoth Yosemite Airport. The closest international airport is Reno Tahoe International Airport, which is located about 154 miles away from your destination. You can travel to any major or municipal airport in California and arrive in your destination after a few hours of scenic driving.

There are many beautiful campgrounds to choose from in the area. A favorite among fishermen is Silver Lake Campground, a cozy site surrounded by aspen and willow trees. Among the creatures that call this site home are black bears, mountain lions, mule deer and pine martens.

Rush Creek may be a challenging fishery, but with the proper preparation, it can pay off with some unforgettable catches and experiences. 

Feature image by Greg Reis

Looking for more places to fish? Check out our DIY Guide to Fly Fishing California


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.