Tenkara Trip Reports Trout & Char

Yosemite Backcountry Tenkara

Trip Report by Nick Feller
September 17-20, 2021

Day 1. 4 miles, 773′ gain (-1530′)

After a long drive down to Yosemite National Park, and then down into the valley, Maddie was rewarded with a surprise walk up permit to climb Half Dome. I politely declined one as climbing isn’t my thing. We were worried about the smoke, but the forecast showed it was supposed to clear the following day so we proceeded. We altered our route a bit on the fly to make sure we’d fit a day for Maddie to do Half Dome and still keep things fishy. 

A short 4 miles full of descent put us down by a creek for our first camp. We set up the tent and I set off to fish! I missed a bite on my first cast, but after that I think ended up catching 6 or 7 before it started getting dark. All beautiful rainbows, the biggest being maybe 10″. I headed back to the tent and crawled in my quilt. It’s always an extra reward to fall asleep to the sound of a creek.

Yosemite Backcountry Tenkara - Nick Feller - Tenkara Angler - Small Rainbow

Day 2. 13.8 miles, 3400′ of gain (-2600′)

This second day may have been my favorite. We spend almost the entirety hiking alongside the Merced River. We reached Nevada Falls a little before noon, and it only took a moment to spot a rising fish. The first fish I caught here was a modest, 8-10″ brown trout. This wasn’t the first brown I’ve ever caught, but it was my first on tenkara. I’ll remember that one fondly. I caught a second, smaller rainbow and then we decided to move along. We had plenty of river to see, and it was a pocket water paradise.

At one point we walked though this trippy burn scar, the wind was whistling through the charred trees and you could see everything around you. It was hard to not feel small surrounded by all those granite domes.

Back at the river, we found slides and falls that just seemed to tumble into endless pools. I think I ended up with a baker’s dozen trout by the time we made camp at Merced Lake. This was a “backpackers camp” so it was a bit busier than I prefer, but still nice nonetheless. I crawled into my quilt again that night in awe of the places I’ve been fishing. Yosemite really was living up to the hype!

Yosemite Backcountry Tenkara - Nick Feller - Tenkara Angler - Camp

Day 3. 9 miles, 1200′ of gain (-2300′)

Today was Maddie’s day. She had her sights on Half Dome. Heights and cables aren’t so much my thing, so I declined a permit. We set out fairly early from Merced Lake, it was a beautiful lake but I decided not to try fishing there and hit the trail. Once we got back along the Merced River, I found a couple nice pools though. I quickly set up and fished for about 15 minutes, catching another brown trout and a pair of rainbows.

Yosemite Backcountry Tenkara - Nick Feller - Tenkara Angler - Pool

Back on the trail, we battled some thorn bushes on the only really overgrown section we’d faced. It got remarkably nicer though once we hopped on the John Muir Trail. That was a fun experience, as I’ve never set foot on it before. After a few more miles, it was time for Maddie to head up towards Half Dome. I took her bear can to alleviate some of her weight, and we parted ways.

I headed down to the Little Yosemite Valley Campground to hang out and wait. My initial plan was to continue fishing the Merced while she climbed Half Dome, but I felt weird about the amount of people in that campground and didn’t want to leave our stuff unattended. In hindsight I should have just done it, when we went down to the river to get water that evening, I immediately saw a rise. That was okay though, we still had another day…

Day 4. 7.5 miles, 2800′ of gain (-1700′)

Ahhh, our last morning. Always a bittersweet feeling. I knew we didn’t have a ton of miles ahead of us this day, but the ensuing drive was waiting at the trailhead. In an effort to save time, I decided before leaving camp that I’d be satisfied with just another quick session atop Nevada Falls.

Upon arriving, the fish weren’t as prevalent as they were a few days ago but I found a willing participant waiting below a ledge. Feeling content, I packed it up and we hit the trail again.

Yosemite Backcountry Tenkara - Nick Feller - Tenkara Angler -- Rainbow

Almost back to the trailhead, we crossed one final creek, and I just couldn’t help myself. Maddie stopped for a snack, and I busted the rod back out. I found a really nice pool upstream but ended up missing a good bite there. Just when I was ready to call it, I did a slingshot cast into a rapid, and a beautiful little rainbow sucked it in and darted under a nearby rock. It was a fun fight in the faster current. I decided to end on a high note, and pack it up there. I think we ended up back at the car a little after noon.

This was one of, if not the most incredible trip I’ve been on. This whole year has just been un-freakin-real, and I’m beyond blessed to have been able to see all the places I’ve seen.  Thank you all for following along! We’ve still got a few trips in the works, but it seems like the big ones are done for the year. That’s ok though, cause if you thought we went hard this year… 😉

Yosemite Backcountry Tenkara - Nick Feller - Tenkara Angler

Nick Feller found tenkara while going down the rabbit hole of ultralight backpacking and fell in love. Follow Nick’s tenkara adventures on Instagram @norcaltenkara.

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