Of Fly Fishing Tournaments and Cold Water Conservation

Photo Courtesy Dan Ocampo


By Jessica Strickland

The Kern River is one of California’s best trout streams. It tumbles out of the Sequoia and Inyo National Forests in the arid southern Sierra and is typified by pocket water and beautiful, spooky trout.

All of the Kern’s charms were on full display at the 4th Annual Inter-Club Fly Fishing Tournament in Kernville on November 2. This event was hosted by the Southwest Council of the Federation of Fly Fishers (SWCFFF) and the Kern River Fly Shop, and seeing as how it was a no-brainer excuse to get my waders in the Kern again I agreed to serve as a “controller” for the competition.

In my outreach to anglers and hunters, I’m always looking for new ways to connect the dots of sportsmanship, passion, conservation, collaboration, and project development. It turns out an organized competition is a great way to do this.

Ten Southern California fly fishing clubs attended the event, and six competed including two all-women’s teams. Proceeds went to the Southern Sierra Fly Fishers Club Youth Program and their Annual Kids Academy

The Kern River watershed harbors three unique species of native trout – the Kern River rainbow, the Little Kern River golden trout, and the California golden trout. For the last several years Trout Unlimited has been working to protect and restore key habitat for these species, and to help sportsmen engage in the current process to revise management plans for three national forests (the Sierra, Sequoia, and Inyo) that cover most of the southern half of the Sierra Nevada range and provide exceptional fishing and hunting opportunities.

Some folks frown on angling competitions, but Guy Jeans, owner and head guide for the Kern River Fly Shop, made a convincing argument that fishing tournament-style can make you a better angler. “You are assigned a short section of water, so have to look at the river differently, fish sections that you would normally just glance over,” he explained. 

The Southern Sierra Fly Fishers (Team Randy) took first place in the tournament, 2nd place went to the Carson Fly Fishing Club, and TU’s San Diego chapter – the Golden State Fly Casters -- got third place. But the real winning results were the spontaneous conversations about conservation opportunities and priorities, and the collaborations that formed to address some of these priorities for the Kern River, which evolved organically in the context of a fly fishing competition without scheduled meeting, webinar or teleconference.

A go-to fly in November on the Kern River: the "Kern Candy."
Photo courtesy Tim Blount.


Jessica Strickland is TU's California Field Coordinator.


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