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Descent: Fly Fishing the Plunge Pools of Yosemite Falls

See what they find, and how they deal with the numerous challenges, both foreseen and unforeseen, in this amazing new film.

The Middle Cascades of Yosemite Falls would likely never be visited if it weren’t for a recently developed sport called canyoneering. The Middle Cascades is the next level, an advanced technical canyon rated by ropewiki.com as 4C III R. The 4 indicates the highest level of technical difficulty, “C” means it contains constantly flowing water that requires special skills (most notably swimming), and the R rating means the canyon is for experts only, and has dangerous consequences even in the best conditions. An R rating means mistakes are often fatal, and there’s little hope for a timely rescue. Why do I tell you all this on the website of Fly Fisherman? You likely have already guessed when I mentioned that the C designation denotes constantly flowing water. Flowing water no one can get to. Flowing water within the range of native coastal rainbow trout.

A wide-angle scenic photo of Yosemite Falls.
The Middle Cascades flow through a slot canyon between Upper Yosemite Fall and Lower Yosemite Fall. The slot is elevated high above Yosemite Valley. The only way to fish these hidden plunge pools is to climb up, and then rappel down the course of the waterfalls. (Bruce Lemon photo)

How could trout survive in the plunge pools of the world’s tallest waterfall? Did they get flushed over the top from the upper plateau, and survive of drop of 1,500 feet? And how could they survive a waterfall environment in the spring when the thunder of the waterfalls can be heard miles away, and the spray in the spring creates moonbows and caused cars on the road to turn on windshield wipers?  Are there new trout coming into and out of these pools each spring, or can they hide in the deep bowls and find enough to eat?

It seemed impossible to find trout in a waterfall like this, but I thought that when I was in Yosemite in October, I would have a look. September and October typically provide the lowest flows of the year. 

It required careful planning, even more careful navigation, and a little luck. Follow along on this adventure of all adventures to see what Fly Fisherman editor and publisher Ross Purnell and his crew find, and how they deal with the numerous challenges, both foreseen and unforeseen, in Descent

A fly angler standing behind a large boulder hooked up to a trout, in a steep-walled canyon.
See what Purnell and his crew find in the film above. (Ben Annibali photo)

To read the full story, pick up a copy of the April-May 2024 issue of Fly Fisherman at your local fly shop, magazine stand, Walmart, Barnes & Noble, or major book retailer. 

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