The Kern River is best reached by taking the Sierra Way Road from Kernville just north of Lake Isabella.
Sierra Way follows the Kern River for 22 miles to the Johnsondale Bridge. Above Johnsondale Bridge is an
area to park for access to the Wild Trout section of the river. The Wild Trout Section is within a 4 mile section above the bridge. Road 22S82 follows parallel to the river
and provides numerous trail access to the river up to the "Forks of the Kern".
Most of the flyfishing opportunities are above Johnsondale Bridge
due to the heavy river use by rafters, baitfishermen, and campers below the bridge. The 4-mile Wild Trout
section, 4 miles above Johnsondale Bridge, is fished throughout the year with the most popular periods during the
Fall months of October and November. There is a strong Spring runoff usually during May and June that
makes fishing difficult. The water clears by July and fishing is good throughout the summer months. This
area contains Kern River Rainbows, Rainbows, and
Browns in the 10-17" range. A trail runs along the eastern side of the river.
There are many areas you can wade across during the summer months. The best fishing occurs above Dry Meadow
Creek which is a 45 minute hike from the bridge. The area is known for large Golden
and Black Stoneflies, as well as good hatches of caddis and mayflies. Streamers such as Matukas, Zonkers,
and Woolly Buggers will produce within the deeper holes. Dry Flies are best used during March-April and
July through November when water levels are down. All of the Wild Trout section is open year-round.
It is limited to barbless hooks and is strictly C&R from November 16th to the last Saturday in April.
After the last Saturday in April, there is a 2 fish limit with a 14 inch minimum.
Survey results from the State of California show that most of the fish within the 4-mile Wild Trout
Section are Browns in the 12-16 inch class with Rainbows in the 8-10 inch class with a few larger ones.
The preferred tackle for these waters are a 9 foot 5x leader with 5x or 6x fluorocarbon tippets, using a 9 foot 5 weight rod.
A number of creek tributaries enter the Kern and also provide good fishable habitat. Taking Road 22S82,
one can reach the trailheads that have access to the Little Kern River. This area will contain
Little Kern Goldens.The confluence of the Little Kern and the Upper Kern is known
as "the Forks of the Kern" and has had a reputation for excellent fishing. The Upper Kern has
had a reputation for holding many large trout over 20". In recent years, however, the large trout
have decreased substantially. In the 1990's the upper Kern was designated as a Catch and Release area. It
is hoped that this special regulation will help rebuild the number of older and larger trout.
Flows can vary depending mostly upon snow melt and rainfall. Usually the flows are less than 1000cfs. Safe Wading flows will be 150-750. Check the link above for Current conditions.
Other local creeks to explore are:
Nobe Young Creek: A tributary of Dry Meadow Creek. Consists of Rainbows and Brookies. Take Mountain
99 out of Kernville and go 24 miles to Road 22S82. Camp Whitsett, a Boy Scout camp, is at the fork of the road. The creek is planted around Camp Whitsett and at the junction of Dry Meadow Creek during the early spring months with Rainbows. Water levels will drop in insufficient levels by mid-summer.
Dry Meadow Creek: Flows into the Kern River. Consists of Rainbows and Brookies. Generally stocked from season opener to mid-July when water levels are too low around the campsite areas, which are .7 miles off Road 22S82 just east of Camp Whitsett. Campsite area is active with 4WD roads from the confluence of Nobe Creek to the Kern River. Below the campsites are numerous large pools holding wild rainbows with a hike of about 1.75 miles to the Kern River.
Peppermint Creek: Tributary of Kern River. Consists of Rainbows, Brookies, and Browns. Upper
Peppermint Campground can be accessed by Hwy 190 out of Springville. The creek is at 7,200 feet elevation
and is usually 10 feet wide and 3 feet deep within this area. DFG stocks about 2000 Rainbows annually within
the pools of the nearby campgrounds and Brookies will be found within the upper reaches. It is about 3 miles to hike to the Lower Peppermint Campground with a
2000 foot elevation drop. There is no trail and it is a steep canyon. You can also access this area
by taking Road 22S82 out of Johnsondale. About 1200 Rainbows are planted annually around
the lower campground. Just downstream, below this campground, are Peppermint Falls with a 150 foot drop.
There are some deep pools below the Falls with wild trout in the 7-9 inch class. As you get closer to the Main
Kern, you will encounter Browns. Two additional Falls are located near the confluence of the Main Kern.
Freeman Creek: Consists of Rainbows and Brookies. Freeman Creek is about 17 miles on Road 22S82 from Johnsondale. It is stocked 2-3 times each year at the Pyle's Boy's Camp for the boys benefit. The stream is quite small. A nearby grove of Giant Sequoias is just west of Pyle's Camp. More importantly, the area is an access trailhead to the Forks of the Kern off Lloyd Meadows Road.
Rattlesnake Creek: Consists of Rainbows and Brookies.
Durwood Creek: Consists of Rainbows and Brookies.
Brush Creek: Consists of Rainbows and Brookies.
Trout Creek: Flows to South Fork Kern River. Consists of Rainbows, Brookies, and Browns.
Local Guide, Guy Jeans, developed a Kern Emerger as a local favorite fly. It's a Hare's Ear pattern with a
yellow foam wing case in size 12-18. He indicates that he usually uses it as a dropper off a #8-10
Stonefly nymph with an indicator using a Dead-Drift Nymphing technique. Guy will often fish
a 1/4 mile stretch of river nymphing upstream and then will proceed downstream with a nymph dropper off a
Woolly Bugger. He finds that the downstream presentation is often more successfull when following an upstream
nymphing presentation. The Kern Emerger is available at Guy's Kern River Fly shop in Kernville.
Fishing Map Available
Covers the water between Johnsondale Bridge and Forks of the Kern, includes much of the Little Kern. Shows camping areas, road access, trails, and creeks. Special Features are the Hatch Chart, Fish Identification, Fishing Season and Regulations, and Stream Etiquette guidelines. Printed on Rite-in-the-Rain Paper that will allow you to write those special notes. Waterproof and Durable.