The Walker River is located in west-central Nevada, and is approximately 60 miles long. Fed principally by snowmelt from the Sierra Nevada mountains of California, it drains an arid portion of the Great Basin southeast of Reno, and eventually flows into Walker Lake. The river is an important source of water for irrigation throughout its course and water diversions have reduced its flow such that the level of Walker Lake has fallen 160 feet as of 2011. The Walker River is formed by the confluence of the East Walker and West Walker rivers. For fly fishing purposes, the East and West branches of this river are what most anglers focus on.
The West Walker River originates at Tower Lake in Mono County, California, at 9,623 ft above sea level in the Stanislaus National Forest. It flows north through a rugged canyon which provides the route for U.S. Route 395. It then emerges into Antelope Valley, before it enters Nevada and turns northeast. It flows through Hoye Canyon, then across the Smith Valley, and finally through Wilson Canyon into the Mason Valley where it joins the East Walker.
The West Walker, contains a large population of holdover trout. In addition, it is heavily planted each year by both the California Department of Fish & Game and by Mono County. They even plant some of the legendary huge Alpers Trout which are raised by a private hatchery near Mammoth Lakes. Hold over hatchery fish eventually take on the characteristics of wild trout, and can become be very challenging to catch. Due to the large numbers of fish here, it is very rare to not catch anything, making this a great place for beginner fly fisherman. Being that you are targeting mostly hatchery raised fish, general attractor patterns are all you need. Adams, ants, beetles, elk hair caddis, and Humpy's do for dries, while Pheasant Tails, Prince's and Hare’s Ear work for deep water nymph fishing. Also, don't forget about standard streamers like woolly buggers and matuka's.
The East Walker River is where the serious fly fisherman goes. It also begins in Mono County in the Bridgeport Valley, and is fed by several Sierra streams originating in the Hoover Wilderness including Buckeye, Robinson, Green and Virginia Creeks. After forming the Bridgeport Reservoir, the East Walker flows northeast into Nevada, and then along the eastern edge of the Toiyabe National Forest, before its confluence with the West Walker River.
The East Walker is a tailwater fishery. That means it usually regulated by relatively steady flows and consistent temperatures. The river leaves Bridgeport Reservoir and empties into the "Big Hole", right below the dam. It then travels through a fairly flat meadow area known as the Miracle Mile, before entering into a canyon. Some sections in this canyon are really steep and gnarly, while others are flat and tame. This section, from the dam down to the Nevada state line, are designated special regulation waters, and are a favorite among fly fisherman. The first section, still in California, has it all with riffles, runs, pools, even a swampy still-water like section known as Murphy’s Pond. The upper Nevada section flows through two ranches, the Sceirine Ranch and then the Rosaschi Ranch. At one time both ranches were private, but now the Rosaschi land was obtained by the US Forest Service and is now public, special regulation water. However, the Sceirine Ranch now charges a fee for access to the river. This upper section is flatter than the bulk of the California section and for the most part, it quieter, flatter water. It still has some deep pools and under-cut banks, as well as flatter runs and riffles, a lot like a spring creek. The Rosaschi Ranch ends as it enters a deep canyon. When the East Fork exits that canyon you’re at an area known as The Elbow. The Elbow is generally shallow riffles and runs, with an occasional deep pool. The quality of fishing begins to degrade somewhat below The Elbow due to warmer water flows, but good fishing can still be had. This section has no special regulations, and lacks the numbers of large fish found in some of the other sections, but great fishing can still be had!
The East Walker river is as diverse of a river as you can find anywhere here in the U.S. It's one of our favorite rivers to fish here in California. On any given day, you’ll use everything from a 3 weight rod with size 24 midges on 8x tippet, to 7 weight rods and size 2 woolly buggers. You can go from chuck and duck style nymphing one month, to technical dry fly fishing the next. For these and many other reasons, we consider this river to be one of the best in California.
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