In search of Trout in the North Fork of the Stanislaus River
Gi has limited time to fly fish the high Sierra Mountain Rivers with the fourth year of the California drought which is causing most of the rivers in California to run at low levels and also the higher than normal temperatures.
As a follow up to last month’s trip to Calaveras Big Trees State Park, we headed further up California Highway 4 to try the next major campground up on the North Fork of the Stanislaus River called Wa Ka Luu Hep Yoo (Indian name for The Wild River) Campground. The campground is about 3 miles further up Highway 4, near the town of Dorrington, then 5 miles down Boards Crossing Road. This campground is managed by the US Forest Service so there are no reservations but there were several open spaces to choose from which is pretty good for mid-June.
We arrived on Thursday night and found what looked to be a good level spot. Gi and I headed out early Friday morning to an easily accessible fly fishing spot near the campground. After about an hour I headed back to the RV and relocated the RV to a new, more private site.
Review of Ten Campgrounds on Highway 4
With Gi off fly fishing I got on my motorcycle and headed up Highway 4 to find a possible camping spot for the July 4th weekend. Here’s a quick review of the ten campgrounds I visited:
Stanislaus River Campground – The campground is next to the river but there is very little water at this elevation. The campsites were in the trees, some of the sites would work for our 24 foot RV but it seems a bit crowded.
Union Reservoir West – A beautiful campground two miles up a dirt road with some rough spots but I could get my RV in there (just go slow). The campground is small and has several spots for an RV but it is right next to gorgeous Union Reservoir.
Union Reservoir East – Similar to the West Campground except the road is 2.5 miles and not as rough to get to the campground road. There are only a few sites, some are next to the lake but many of the sites are not level.
Utica Reservoir Sandy Flat – Two miles of dirt forest road with some rough patches. Not really RV advisable. Small campground next to the lake, most of the sites are not level.
Utica Reservoir Rocky Point – 1/10 of a mile past Sandy Flat. This campground has several nice sites next to the lake.
Spicer Reservoir – Nine miles off Highway 4 on a nicely paved road. The campground is well maintained and every site looks to be RV friendly. There is not much tree cover and the reservoir is a 10 minute walk from the campground. When I was there the water level was down by maybe 80-100 feet.
Silvertip Campground – This small campground near Lake Alpine looks old and rundown with unpaved and not level sites that are close together. Skip it.
Lake Alpine Campground – A large campground along the shore of Lake Alpine. All of the sites are paved and most are RV friendly. It did feel a bit crowded but the location was great, just a short walk to the Lake Alpine Lodge. Nice place to spend the July 4th weekend except it’s a long drive up Highway 4.
When I got back from my scouting mission, we ate dinner and we headed back out to the river for some sunset fly fishing.
Saturday morning Gi woke up at 5:30 and headed down to the river for her second day of fly fishing. Katie (my puppy) and I went on a long hike. After lunch at the RV, we packed up our backpacks and headed out to a ‘secret fly fishing spot’ that I learned about from the guy at the Orvis store. We walked to the day use parking lot on the other side of the river and up forest road 5N02R.
Saturday night after two days of fishing, hiking, and motorcycle riding, we thought it would be fun to join the Junior Ranger event at the camp to play Wheel of Wealth. It was a cute takeoff on the Wheel of Fortune and the answers were all about the Stanislaus River area. Gi even got to spin the Wheel!
After all that fishing, I’m sad to say that Gi did not land any fish. She was so disappointed at one point that she broke in tears. I felt so bad but there will be other days and hopefully the drought will end this winter and the trout will be jumping next spring.
Things we learned
Drought and trout don’t go well together. The warm weather and the low water levels made for some pretty difficult fishing.
Participate in the campground activities. You may be surprised how much fun you can have and the things you will learn about the area.
The weather was very warm and Gi will try wet wading next time instead of carrying her waders and boots. Most people were fly fishing from the backs and rock outcroppings.
- June 18-21, 2015
Thanks for reading and please leave a comment!
Brian and Gi