Some of my earliest and `best fishing memories are of a great fishing river, the
mighty Tuolumne. l caught my first really big trout there, a rainbow just over 22 inches.
I saw my first bald eagle in the Tuolumne canyon, circling higher and higher until he was just a speck that vanished over the canyon rim. I found my first rattlesnake on the Drew Ridge Trail and was held spellbound in both fear and fascination.
On one trip, it rained the whole weekend and my brother and I had a ball. Our Dad found a big rock overhang and showed us how to build a fire in a pouring rain, and how to find dry wood even though it had been raining for days.
There’s something about moving water that is mesmerizing’ Perhaps it’s the way the water overpowers any obstacles. Moving water is the original immutable force, if you don’t believe me; check out the Grand Canyon sometime. Lakes are swell and all, but the current of a pristine wilderness river is a primordial force that speaks to your soul. After a day on a wild trout river like the Tuolumne, there is no doubt that that there is a master intelligence far greater than any mortal human. A day on the river is both humbling and restorative.
In my earlier days, I used to walk down into the Tuolumne canyon to find great wilderness fishing. The Preston Falls trail from Early Intake was a great spot and only a 4 mile walk in and then 4 miles back out. Since I prefer to fish as I’m wading upstream, I’m fighting the current the entire day which can get pretty exhausting. Other great spots were the Drew Ridge trail leading upstream several miles above Lumsdens Bridge. Another great spot was the Jawbone Trail which dropped about 2,000 feet down into the Tuolumne about halfway between Lumsdens and the Cherry Creek confluence; again at days end when I was already tuckered out, I had to face that grueling 2,000 foot climb back to my truck. Such hikes provide some great fishing, but are definitely a younger person’s game. I don’t think I could survive one of those Herculean treks anymore. I may be a fanatical angler, but I’m not suicidal.
Fortunately, over the last 40 years or so a cadre of professional raft companies has sprung up to help out old codgers like me. You can get on a raft at Meral’s Pool, downstream from Lumsdens Bridge, and take a 2 or 3 day trip all the way down to Wards Ferry at the beginning of Lake Don Pedro. Professionally guided raft trips down the Tuolumne make the river accessible to old folks like me and folks with physical disabilities that otherwise couldn’t experience the wonders of a mighty Sierra River.
Somewhere in time the river rafting experts came up with a rating system that ranks raft trips by degree of difficulty, a class I float trip is basically like floating in your bathtub with a slight current to keep you moving. No excitement, just peaceful relaxation while you observe the fish and wildlife. As the rating class numbers get higher, the ride gets more exciting. A class III river is about the most that amateurs should try by themselves, while a class IV or Class V raft trip is a white knuckle, white water, roller coaster. Depending on water flows, the upper Tuolumne ranks as a Class III, IV, or even a Class V raft trip. If the Tuolumne doesn’t get your adrenalin flowing, you probably died some time ago. You don’t have to be an angler to enjoy the wonders of the Tuolumne, but it’s a great way for old codgers like me to get into some great fishing, Reputable raft companies that I’ve known include: Sierra Mac Adventures, OARS, and Echo. Look them up in google under whitewater rafting – Tuolumne River. You’ll be glad you did!
Until Next Week,