North Fork and Middle Fork Stanislaus River

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North Fork Stanislaus River
Westside Sierra Hatch Selection
Suggested Flies for NF Stanislaus:

Dry Flies:
Parachute Adams #12
Elk Hair Caddis #14-16
Clark's Little Yellow Stonefly #12-14
Stimulator #10-12

Nymph Flies:
Pheasant Tail Nymph #12-14
Gold Ribbed Hare's Ear #12-18
Bird's Nest #12-18
Prince Nymph #12-14
Kaufmann Stone #6-8

Directions: The are three access sites to lower section. From Arnold on Hwy 4 go East 3.5 miles to Calaveras Big Trees State Park. 1) Big Trees: enter park and drive 4 miles toward South Grove. Access at bridge on South Grove Road. 2) Boards Crossing, go 1.5 miles past Big Trees to Dorrington on Hwy 4. Turn Southeast on Sourgrass-Boards Crossing Road (USFS #5N02, paved road). 2 miles from Dorriington turn South on Boards Crossing Road (USFS Road 5N75, dirt road), go 3 miles to river.3) Sourgrass: Stay on USFS Road #5N02 (2 miles from Dorrington), go 4 miles to river at Sourgrass.
Upper Section: From Dorrington, on Highway 4 go East 17 miles to Spicer Reservoir Road (USFS Road 7N01). Turn Southeast and go 3 miles to Stanislaus River Campground on river.

Notes:
North Fork Stanislaus The North Fork of the Stanislaus starts below Lake Alpine and travels some 65 miles to New Melones Dam near Angels Camp. It is a deep canyon with many boulders and rocks creating deep pools. The river contains Browns, Brookies, and Rainbows. Most of the access spots are stocked with planters, so you need to move away from the access positions to get into the wild trout, averaging 10-14". The Calaveras Big Trees State Park access is well-stocked with planted rainbows. You need to go either upstream or downstream from the bridge to reach the wild trout. Board's Crossing and Sourgrass Crossing are excellent areas to access the Stanislaus.

The hatches are not plentiful or regular. Stoneflies, Caddis, and Mayflies exist but anticipating the timing of the hatches is difficult. Generally, attractor dries work good as well as standard nymph patterns. Hopper and Ant patterns are also good during the mid-summer months. During June, a Golden Stone hatch can come off in which a stimulator pattern with an attractor beadhead nymph works well. By July, Little Yellow Sallies as well as Golden Stones will be around. By the end of July, Caddis nymphs and midges are effective during the early morning hours and, during the evening, a caddis or mayfly dry with a caddis emerger dropper will work well. August and September will be hopper time. A PMD hatch can start around August and remain until October.
Beaver Creek is another option. It has mostly wild rainbows in the 6-10" class and some brookies. Caddis, Stonefly, and Mayfly dries and nymphs will work.

The Middle Fork of the Stanislaus River has been building a reputation over the years as having some of the best fishable waters westside of the Sierras. Most of this reputation has come form the nutrient-laden waters below Beardsley Reservoir resulting in excellent aquatic insect populations of stoneflies, caddis, mayflies, and midges. A 17 mile section from Beardsley Afterbay to the confluence of the North Fork Stanislaus is designated by the State of California as a Wild Trout Fishery. At Beardsley Afterbay, you can fish year-round with a two-trout limit of 14 inches and must use barbless flies or lures. It can be fished by float tubes during low flows or along the banks. Beyond the Afterbay to Spring Gap Bridge, a distance of 3 miles, it is still barbless flies or lures but the season is the last Saturday of April to Nov. 15th. These areas consist of both Rainbows and Browns up to 17", with some trophy-sizes available. The remainder of the Middle Fork Stanislaus is open to all types of fishing, bait or fly. A foot trail is available for access along the river from Spring Gap Bridge to Sand Bar Flat, a distance of 4 miles. Downstream of Sand Bar Flat, the trail fades quickly and you enter the rugged canyon reach, only lightly fished because of its difficult access, as the river comes down to its confluence with the North Fork, 10 miles further.The river is characterized by large boulders and deep pools with scattered pocket water sections. Best fishing starts in Mid-June after the Reservoir slows its releases to less than 200 cfs.

Beardsley Reservoir contains both Browns and Rainbows that are planted by DFG. It does not have a sustainable habitat for spawning, although there is some spawning above Beardsley in the MF Stan. Most of the forage are minnows, crayfish, and invertebrates. Above Beardsley Reservoir , the stream is a freestone-type that is heavily planted with rainbows. (Click the map above at Beardsley Reservoir for a more detailed map)

Early Season hatches include the Golden Stoneflies, size 8, starting in May and ending in June. Although stonefly nymphs can be used at any time, the adult patterns are best during the dusk part of the day. The river is very susceptible to high flows from discharges of Beardsley Reservoir during June and July, check on conditions prior to fishing. Caddis hatches will occur throughout the Summer months starting in the late morning until mid-afternoon. Patterns such as Z-wing Caddis, Elk Hair Caddis, and Goddard Caddis are suggested. For Mayflies, try Pale Morning Duns and Light Cahills. The PMD's will start hactching in June and continue through August. Small Mayflies start hatching in March, try #18 and #20 Adams. Nymphs such as Bird's Nest, Pheasant Tail Nymphs, and Zug Bugs are popular. Pheasant Tail Nymphs dropped from the dry works well as do #6-10 bugger patterns. A good October Caddis hatch usually starts in mid-September and continues through October.

The South Fork of the Stanislaus above Lyons Reservoir contain some good sized browns. It has good fishable waters up to Pinecrest Lake with trail access along the river. Most of the access points are planted but a sizeable population of wild trout exists not far from each access point. The DFG puts in about 8,000 rainbows annually from Fraser Flat to Strawberry but the stream is so heavily fished that many of these stockers are caught and kept within 4-5 days. Fortunately, there are many wild trout which aren't caught easily by bait and help keep the stream a viable fishery. The Spring run-off makes the stream difficult to fish until late June and, since the South Fork is smaller than the Middle Fork, it is considered to be a better "early-season" trout stream to the end of July.

Pinecrest Lake (300 acres) is a popular recreation lake at 5,620 ft. elevation, used mainly by bait fishermen. The lake was formed by the construction of a rock-filled dam in 1916 over the South Fork of the Stanislaus River. It is regularly stocked with about 60,000 Rainbow Trout by Fish and Game, annually, in the 10-12 inch class. The season is year-round. There is good access for float tubers along the western and southern shorelines. During the Spring, the trout will work the southern shorelines. By early Summer, the trout will go deep, usually beyond the range of sinking lines, within the vicinity of the dam and the river inlet. However, Fall can be the best time to flyfish this water, since most of the vacationers have gone home, and the fish are once again feeding along the shoreline. During the Winter, the lake is drawn down substantially. There are a few browns and brookies that come up to the lake from the South Fork of the Stanislaus. There are also some resident catfish within the lake. The lake contains a marina and free boat launch facility. Over 300 campsites are available at Pinecrest and Meadowview Campgrounds. Most of the lake is accessed by hiking trails that circumference the 5 mile lake shore. A restaurant is located nearby as well as restrooms. (Click the map above at Pinecrest Lake for a more detailed map)

© 2017 Steve Schalla
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NF Stanislaus Highland Creek NF Stanislaus NF Stanislaus Beaver Creek NF Stanslaus MF Stanislaus Beardsley After Bay MF Stanislaus SF Stanislaus Pinecrest Lake NF Stanislaus NF Stanislaus Pinecrest Lake Beardsley Lake