California Fly Fishing 4 min read

DIY Guide to Fly Fishing the West Walker River in California

Ken Sperry

Posted by Ken Sperry

June 19, 2020

West Walker River in California

A successful fishing experience is by no means guaranteed to every angler who attempts to fish the West Walker River. The angling difficulty level on this River depends heavily on the yearly flow conditions.

Your chances of productively fishing this stream will increase if you choose the right time of year to visit and equip yourself with the right patterns. 

The West Walker River is a challenging fishery that is not for the faint of heart. But with proper preparation, you’ll not only catch rainbow, brown, brook trout, but you could also hook up with a rare Lahontan Cutthroat.

Check out the rest of our guide so you can increase your chances of success on this unique river.

About West Walker River

Fly Fishing in the West Walker River

The West Walker River is a 95 mile long tributary of the Walker River that flows through eastern California and western Nevada. The River rises from the snowmelt in the Sierras, north of Yosemite National Park. It flows north along the Sweetwater Mountains before entering Antelope Valley. It then flows north into Douglas County, Nevada. Once the River reaches Nevada, it turns in a northeastern direction and joins the East Walker River to form the Walker River mainstem, about 7 miles south of Yerington. 

The West Walker River is heavily stocked with rainbow, brown, and brook trout. The Lahontan Cutthroat are native to the stream, and there are also a few Mountain Whitefish to be found here. Much of the River’s water is used for agricultural irrigation and flows through private land.

This is a great River to wade, when the water low and clear in the late summer and early fall. While most of the River flows through roadless areas, there are several public access points you can reach from the Highway.

West Walker River Map and Fishing Access Sites

map of fishing access spots on the West Walker River in California

Get Directions to the Fishing Access Points shown above with the DIY Fly Fishing Map

Best Places to Fish The West Walker River

There is a public access point at Pickle Meadows, which is located about a mile off of Highway 108. There is a parking lot here, along with a trail that takes you right to West Walker River. You can also access the River from Hoye Canyon and Wilson Canyon.

The best place to fish is located near Leavitt Meadows, which you can reach from Highway 108. This area of the River consists of large pools and riffles. Try fishing the pocket water in this section. 

Stream Flow and Current Conditions

Be sure to check the stream conditions before heading out to fish the West Walker River in California. The USGS stream gauge near Coleville, California provides a good indication of current conditions.

The graph below shows the stream flow (discharge) for the past 7-days. If flows are considerably above or below historical norms (yellow triangles on the chart) then fishing conditions ma not be ideal.


  • Streamflow: 859 ft³/s
  • Gage height: 3.67 ft
Streamflow GraphGage height Graph

Best Time to Fish the West Walker River

The fishing season for the West Walker River is from April 25 to November 15. The best time to fish the West Walker River is in the late summer or early fall, as this is when the flow conditions are ideal. Fishing in the spring is not recommended, as the water level is very high and the water is muddy. However, other local fisheries thrive during this time, so it works out well if you want to explore different rivers in the spring.

West Walker River Hatches

The most important hatches on the West Walker River are Blue Winged Olives, Little Black Caddis, and Pale Morning Duns. You’ll also see Green Sedges, Golden Stoneflies, and Spotted Sedges starting in June. In the summer Terrestrials such as hoppers are on the menu. 

Fly Box – What You’ll Need

Here is list of general fly pattern recommendations for West Walker River:

  • Blue Winged Olive (#18-20)
  • Brown Stonefly (#10-14)
  • Golden Stonefly (#4-10)
  • Little Yellow Stonefly (#10-12)
  • Olive Stonefly (#10-16)
  • Caddis (various) (#12-18)
  • Yellow Quill (#14-18)
  • Stimulator Dry Fly (#8-12)
  • Madam X Dry Fly (#8-12)
  • Pheasant Tail Nymph (#12-14)
  • Hare’s Ear Nymph (#12-14)
  • Woolly Bugger (#6-12)
  • Terrestrials

Gear Recommendations

A 9-foot 5-wt fly rod with floating line is perfect for fishing dry flies and small nymphs on West Walker River. A tapered 9-foot leader, with tippet size 3X to 5X to match the flies you are throwing, is pretty standard.

West Walker River Fishing Report

Area fly shops, guides and websites that can provide a West Walker River fly fishing report are listed below:

Fishing Regulations

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 major airport to the West Walker River is the Reno Tahoe International Airport, which is located about 108 miles from your destination. You can also travel to Oakland International Airport, or one of the local airports, including Mammoth Yosemite Airport or Stockton Metropolitan Airport. 

The Bridgeport Reservoir Marina & Campground is a popular destination for anglers from all over who are looking for a scenic place to unwind after a long day of fishing. Honeymoon Flat Campground is another favorite among outdoor enthusiasts. Situated on the shores of Robinson Creek, the campground is a family friendly and beautiful choice for any travelling fisherman.

The West Walker River is a challenge to fish, but if you choose the right time of year to visit, it can be a very rewarding and unique experience.

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

Feature image by Tahoenathan