Guides, Fly Shops, and Clubs

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Regional Locations

I've put together a list of Guides and Fly Shops that are related to the regions shown on the maps. When traveling to a destination, this will give you a selection of the nearest Fly Shops and Guides which serve that area. I have also included a list of Fly Fishing Clubs. They mostly meet monthly and welcome guests. It's a great way to meet fellow anglers and get local information to enhance your flyfishing experience.

  1. Sierra Tahoe
  2. Westside Sierra
  3. Eastside Sierra
  4. Southern Sierra
  5. Flyfishing Clubs

 

How to select a Fly Fishing Guide

Using a Fly Fishing Guide can be a very enjoyable experience. Guides will not only introduce you to their favorite waters but will show you how to properly fish those waters with instruction on casting, selection of flies, presentation, and choice of rigging. Guides are useful regardless your experience or skill level. You can choose an independent guide, a guide service, or a package deal that will provide room and lodging. There are a number of ways to select a great guide.

  1. Personal recommendations. Talk to the manager of one of the local fly shops. They will have a list of available independent guides that serve the area. Often, they will have a guide service that operates from the shop. Check with friends that you have made within a local flyfishing club. Clubs will often schedule trips utilizing guides within a small group and might utilize a package deal with both lodging and food.
  2. Websites. Check to see if the Guide has a website. If so, they will list their license number and creditations. See how long the Guide service has been in operation. What are the policies of the Guide service for booking trips, taking deposits, covering liabilities, etc.
  3. Bonded, Licensed, and Insured. Check to see if the Guide service carries adequate coverage and have been issued the proper licenses. Federal landholders will have jurisdiction over waters within their boundaries and issue special use permits only to guides authorized to work within those boundaries. Within the National Parks, only a select few are licensed to guide within the park boundaries. Be sure to check these out if you are being guided within these areas.


How to Tip a Guide

Using a Guide can be a very fulfilling experience when you explore a new area. They will not only show you how to fish local waters but will be a full day instructor on many of the finer points of flyfishing such as selection of flies, rig set-up, and presentations. As in most service industries, tipping can be an integral part of the income for a Guide. This can be even more important when the guide belongs to a service or lodge which holds a large percentage of the fees. Within the Sierra Nevada, budget for about 15% of the entire fee as a normal gratuity. Gratuities of more than 20 percent mean you were extremely happy about the experience; tipping less than 10 percent means you were dissatisfied, but communicates to the service provider that you know tipping is customary. But not tipping is almost always insulting. If you have a bad experience, it is best to discuss this with the guide or service but leave a tip anyway.

Many of the best guides value the experience of the day's fishing with the client's behavior. If a client is enjoyable to fish with, tipping almost becomes irrelevant. If a client has been a pain all day long, no amount of additional compensation improves the outlook of the guide with that client. Here are a couple of other non-monetary suggestions for treating your guide well and letting them know you appreciate their efforts:

  • Show up 5-10 minutes early. Don't make your guide wait, especially early in the morning.
  • Be pleasant company and fish well. Can't fish well? You can try hard, and that's all a good guide expects. Don't get angry or frustrated to the point where it is interfering with the experience. Don't talk on your cell phone. Have your gear ready to go.
  • Don't treat taking your guide out to dinner as part of the gratuity. Most hardworking guides consider the opportunity to spend precious evening hours with their clients part of their work day, not a bonus.

Etiquette on the Stream

A California flyfishing guide, Neal Taylor, once told me about fishing the Lower Owens River in the early 60's when he was a teenager. He watched an older gentleman nymphing the stream without an indicator and catching fish after fish in areas that he had earlier tried to no avail. Neal went around the gentleman and asked if he could fish a few hundred feet upstream. The gentleman said, "Sonny, this is the first time I've ever fished in California and you are the first flyfisherman on this stream to show me the proper etiquette on the water. I'd like to thank you!" The gentleman was Ray Bergman, a reknowned flyfisherman from the midwest, and he showed Neal the finer techniques of nymphing.

Flyfishing is an activity to catch fish. However, it is also an activity to achieve a peace and solitude. This peace and solitude can often be disturbed by the actions of another flyfisherman. Here's a few tips to remember to keep flyfishing an enjoyable experience.

  1. Rights to a section :

    You have the rights to a section of stream by being the first one there. Some fly fishermen will work their way upstream or downstream, others will park on their favorite section and remain all day. You have the right to claim the section of water in front of you for, at least, a 100 feet direction either upstream or downstream, regardless whether you are actually fishing or not.  When fishing one of your favorite pools, there will be a time period when you want to give the section a rest and allow the fish to resume normal activity. Sit on the bank and watch the water. Eat some lunch and enjoy the scenery. Even though you are not actively fishing this section, it's still under your control. This right belongs not only to you but to all other anglers whether bait or spin cast.

    When you encounter another fly fisherman on a section of river, sitting on the bank, ask if the water is available or if you can fish upstream or downstream of him. Most fly fishermen are friendly and willing to share stories, flies and often water if you ask first.  As in most places, rudeness is not welcome. You never want to interfere on another fly fisherman without asking first. If you do get allowance to enter the same waters make sure that you do so up-river and allow the other angler majority of space. Don’t enter the water on a small river or stream directly across from another angler.

  2. Keep a low profile:

    It's easy to spook a fish. They will make a mad dash either upstream or downstream. This can be very disturbing to a neighboring angler. Enter the water upstream from another angler and do it as quietly as possible.  Try to keep your wading noise to a minimum. Your fishing experience will be better and so will the downstream angler. If you are watching another angler fish a pool, don't stand where you cast a shadow on the pool and spook a fish he may have been fishing for over the last hour.   

    If you must walk along the bank, try and stay as far from the water as possible.  Walk slowly, quietly and with a low profile.  Try to keep your shadow off the water. When passing another angler do it with common sense. Most people don’t like to fish where the
    water has just been fished by another angler, so leave some unspoiled water between you and the other angler before entering the water. This distance is determined by the ratio of anglers on the water.

    If fishing on water where only one or two anglers are in sight, observe the other anglers a few minutes to see how fast they
    are moving upstream – then give them space to fish for about an hour before you enter the water. This could mean
    leaving two to three prime fishing spots open before returning to the water. When fishing in areas when it’s crowded, moving up-stream one hole or run is totally acceptable.

    If several anglers exist and are “leap-frogging” back and forth, leave each plenty of room to fish upstream before you enter the water. Consider crossing the river and proceeding up the other side to another location. The angler that is traveling up-stream always has the right of way over an angler traveling down-stream.

  3. Playing a fish:

    Take your line out of the water for any angler who has a fish on the line. This is so that they have plenty of space in order to land their fish. This rule is very important if you're fishing down-river from the other angler. Make sure that you never step into the space of an angler who is releasing or landing a fish on the bank.

  4. Respect for your fellow fishermen:

    Trout can be spooked as far as 200 feet down stream from a careless wading angler and run for cover. Clanking wading staffs or moving rocks will scare fish upstream and downstream for long distances. If you are moving to another spot, try to take trails if possible.  Another angler may be just behind you and want to fish that stretch where you scared all the fish with careless wading tactics.  Remember respect for others.

  5. Respect for the stream:

    If you pack it in -- pack it out.  When changing leaders, save the old leader package to store the used leaders in when you are done with them.  This practice also makes it easier to throw away old leaders properly.  Don't throw them on the ground or in the stream.  They may get washed into a place where a trout could get gill caught next year or an angler catch a foot while wading. 

    Streams are delicate ecosystems.  Try and leave them the way you found them.  Don't build mini-dams or trout holding areas.  Even with good intentions, you may change the way the stream acts during spring run off.  Such seemingly harmless actions may actually cause bank erosion next spring.

    Before making any new trails, consider what erosion effects you may cause.  Keep well away from banks to prevent sediment from falling or washing into the stream.  You will also move upstream easier without spooking the fish.

  6. Respect for the fish:

    Fish barbless hooks — do yourself, your friends, and the fish a favor, pinch down all barbs. Handle fish with care.
    The less a fish is handled the better and the greater chance the fish has to survive.
    Fish survival hints:
    • Make sure your fishing net’s web is wet before picking up a fish.
    • Wet your hands before handling any fish!
    • Don’t squeeze a fish’s stomach.
    • Don’t stick your fingers or any object into the fish’s gills.
    • If you can’t remove a hook, from a fish, cut your tippet line and release the fish before the fish becomes overly stressed.
    • Quickly photograph a fish and immediately return the fish to water.
    • In warmer water conditions try photographing fish in a net that’s held partially in the water.

    Stressed Fish

    As water in a stream or river warms during the summer the amount of dissolved oxygen goes down.  Lower oxygen content creates a deadly situation for trout.  Often stream levels and flow rates will drop very low during the hot months of July and Aug. 

    Hooking and playing fish during low water conditions may exhaust a fish so much it can't recover.  If you must fish during these conditions, make sure any trout are well recovered before letting them go.  When water temperature rises significantly — stop fishing and thus eliminate stressing fish..

    During these critical warm and low water times, you may find big trout stacked up with smaller trout in the head of a pool fed by a fast run or where a cooler streams enters a larger one.  You may want to ask yourself if it is really ethical to fish for such vulnerable fish.

    Spawning Fish

    Trout will generally try and pick a clean shallow gravel bed for a spawning bed. The female trout will dig a shallow bed or "redd" in the gravel to lay her eggs.  She will guard her redd ferociously.  She may even strike at your fly out.  But probably out of anger or territoriality not hunger.  Spawning is a high energy project for a trout.  The last thing a female on guard duty needs is to be caught and stressed by a fisherman.

    If you spot a female on guard, take some time and observe the activity, then leaver her alone.  You will be doing your part to help repopulate a stream.  Also be careful crossing those innocent looking shallow water gravel beds in the spring and fall, you may be killing off future generations. Stay off spawning beds and resist fishing to spawning trout. The spawning process is a major key in
    our river’s future and what you may catch next year, and the next, and the next!

  7. Respect Private Property Rights:

    Within the Sierra Nevada, you can often encounter a mixture of leaseholders and private property owners, even within the National Forest. Meadow areas can be fenced for grazing and gates may need to be closed. Ask the landholder for permission to fish if in doubt. They will often give you permission as long as you are courteous.

 

Catch and Release Techniques

With the increased popularity of fishing, there is a great pressure upon the fish resource of the Sierra. We have tried to assist the fish resource by developing fish hatcheries and planting trout throughout the Sierra. The result has been a further reduction in the numbers and quality of wild trout. Hatchery trout compete for the available food within the stream, often they do not have the ability to survive past one season. The current trend is to eliminate fish stocking programs and enhance the wild trout stocks. This cannot be accomplished without effective Catch and Release Techniques using the following elements:

  1. Use Barbless Hooks
  2. Play the fish quickly
  3. Remove the hook and handle the fish gently
  4. Revive and release the fish

Use Barbless Hooks

Barbless Hooks are much easier to remove from a hooked fish. Using barbless hooks will not reduce your ability to land the fish once you learn how to apply proper line pressure. You can purchase flies that are barbless, tie your own, or mash down the barb with your hemostats. Many areas require barbless hooks. If you use the mashing technique, test it with a piece of tippet across the mashed barb. If the barb still catches the tippet, it is not legally barbless.

Play the Fish Quickly

Once you hook a fish, the fish will fight to get away. This exertion builds up an oxygen deficit with the fish which causes stress on it's organs. If you fight a fish for too long a period the stress levels will become too great to recover and death will occur. Things that you can control to reduce stress is to choose the use of a rod, line, and tippet that will allow you to play the fish for a shorter period of time. For instance, using a 5 weight rod with a 4X leader will allow you to bring a sizable fish to the bank much faster than a 2 weight rod using a 7X leader. If you feel that the fish you are going to catch will reach a certain size, choose a larger rod and rig rather than a lighter one. As you play the fish, once the fish's head comes out of the water and it no longer sprints off or makes a run, it is just fatigued enough to bring in and let it go.

Remove the hook and handle the fish gently

Once the fish is brought to the bank, leave it in the water to remove the hook. Keeping the fish in the water will help replenish lost oxygen. Usually you will hook the fish in the jaw and using a hemostat will allow you to grip the hook and make a quick removal. At times, the hook may get swallowed or get hooked in a more sensitive area. In this situation, cut the tippet close to the hook and the hook will rust off within a short period of time. If blood is coming from the gill areas, the fish will die shortly and you may prefer to take the fish home for consumption. Unfortunately, some regulations demand that the fish be released immediately.

Fish have a protective slime coating that protects them from fungus and parasites. If this slime coating is removed, the fish will have difficulty in surviving. Wet your hands prior to picking up a fish and, if you use a net, use a net with a seamless mesh and a shallow bag. Many times, these nets are marketed under a "Catch and Release" moniker.  

You can temporarily immobilize larger trout or other species by gently grasping them around the belly and turning them upside down.  Then use the other hand to remove the hook. Never squeeze a fish, you may damage it's internal organs, particularly the air bladder that it uses for buoyancy and to keep itself upright. 

Revive and release the fish

During a long fight, handling and hook removal, a fish can become exhausted and starved for oxygen.  This final stage of Catch and Release can mean the difference for the fish's survival and death.

  • Grasp the fish loosely in front of the tail and cradle the belly in your other hand 
  • Place the fish in slow water with the head facing the current so it can regain equilibrium.  
  • If necessary, gently rock the fish forward and back so water passes over the gills allowing the fish to re-oxygenate and recover. 
  • The fish will tell you when it is ready to go by  swimming away on it's own. 
  • Often a fish may finish its recovery by hiding behind your boots or a nearby rock.