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South Fork of the Kings River and Kings Canyon and Sequoia National Parks Trip Report


While staying in Fresno this summer I took every opportunity to get out on the water and into nature. While the city of Fresno itself lies in the central valley in a somewhat desert like climate, there are multiple rivers running through the area, and trips to mountain lakes and streams are a short drive away. My first outing was to Sequoia National Park, less than a 2 hour drive from the city, and filled with things to do. Most of my day was spent hiking and viewing the impressive giant sequoias that the park is known for. I did fish the Marble Fork of the Kaweah river, which is known for fast action on small wild rainbows, but only for an hour in-between hikes and did not manage any fish.

Mountain View

The view from Morro Rock in Sequoia National Park. There is a nice 3 mile hike to Morro Rock, followed by an exhilarating stair climb zigzagging the exposed rock face to the very top.

The General Sherman Tree

The General Sherman Tree is the largest tree in the world. It stands 275ft tall and is 102ft around. It really is hard to describe the feeling you get being around these giant trees that have been alive for over a thousand years. Your mind wonders, contemplating time on a grand scale and nature’s curious ways.

Sequoia Trees

Sequoia Trees

Large Sequoia Tree

Large Sequoia Trees

There are numerous trails to take through the sequoias, all of which have great views of the trees.

Cypress Tree Moss

Sequoia Trees

A few days later I made it to Kings Canyon National Park. Sequoia and Kings Canyon are actually connected, but Kings Canyon is closer to Fresno and seems to have less traffic entering and exiting the park from that side.

Large Cypress Trees

A waning crescent moon behind the General Grant Tree, the second largest tree in the world located in King Canyons National Park.

Large Sequoia Trees

Dry Canyon

Once inside Kings Canyon National Park, it becomes obvious how the park was named as you wind around the canyon walls in your car with the South Fork of the Kings River underneath you. In order to fish the South Fork of the Kings River you have to make a 3-4 mile hike from the road on a pretty steep gradient, but it’s worth it!

Mountain Rapids

The upper section of the South Fork of the Kings River is on a steep gradient with the river dropping down small waterfalls and careening around boulders. Lots of good pools and pocket water can be found here. An added benefit is being able to stand on boulders and ledges well above the river, giving you a great view for spotting fishy water.

All the fish in this section are wild and most are in the 12-16″ range. These wild sections of river are the sections I enjoy the most. Catching a hungry wild rainbow surrounded by beautiful scenery without another person around for miles is an inspiring outdoor experience. It helps cleanse the mind of all the negativities of the day to day grind for sure!

Held Rainbow Trout

Mountainside Flowers

Rainbow Trout in Net

You can find Brown Trout, and if you are lucky, the California Golden Trout in this section of the river. On my trip I believe I spotted a few browns, but could only get the bows to play. I will be back for sure trying to tangle with the golden trout.

Freshwater Stream

Kings River Map

The area of the South Fork of the Kings River when it leaves Pine Flat Lake is a catch and release fishery. Below the dam on Pine Flat Lake the river widens considerably and becomes less wadeable than the pocket water and pools of the south fork above Pine Flat Lake. You must use artificial lures and barbless hooks when fishing this section of the river. Here you will have to hike to spots and fish from the bank, finding openings amongst the trees and brush to make casts. This is where you will find trophy rainbow trout.

Fishing Rod and Lemon

The average size fish I was catching here was 18″ and over. It wasn’t fast and furious by any means, but when you hooked up, it was almost certainly a quality fish.

Netted Rainbow Trout

Caught Rainbow Trout

If you are fly fishing the rig of choice is a dropper rig. After running into a local fly fisherman on the river I learned the normal setup is a streamer or wooly bugger with a nymph as a dropper. Cast out into the current and let your setup swing around to the bank and then strip it back in. The big bows are hanging in eddys and slow water along the bank.

Held Rainbow Trout

Freshwater Rainbow Trout

Held Rainbow Trout

After a few days of scouting different areas along the river I ran into my personal best rainbow which was an absolute monster. Unfortunately I didn’t have my tape or scale on me, but a conservative estimate would be 27″ and 7-8lbs.

Rainbow Trout Caught

Held Rainbow Trout

If you like freshwater trout fishing, don’t sleep on the central coast area as your next trip destination, there are a lot of hungry fish waiting for you!