September 24, 2016

Western Gems: Flyfishing in Utah

Story by Maximilian Werner
Photos by Christian Werner

Utahns are fortunate to have access to so many excellent trout fisheries. We can drive an hour in any direction and find ourselves on world class water. Our trout fishing season is year round, but fall is an especially good to time to fly fish: The days begin to cool, the leaves turn the colors of fire, and trout are eager to feed. In their rush to put on weight for the long, dark winter months ahead, trout will rise to the surface for a well-presented grass hopper, beetle, or ant, among other terrestrial species. If the dry fly action slows down, trout will also strike a minnow pattern or snatch meaty nymphs as they drift by. Thus, when it comes to fly fishing techniques and choice of fly pattern, fall is a time of options.

flyfishing in utahWe also have several choices of where to fish. Although Utah features several lakes and reservoirs, this article focuses on streams and rivers that offer the complete fly fishing experience: Healthy trout, small-to-nonexistent crowds, and beautiful Utah scenery. Before heading out, contact your local fly shop, tell them where you are going, and ask what the trout are taking.

A fly fishing gem, Currant Creek is approximately six miles east of Strawberry Reservoir off of Highway 40. Turn north at mile post 59.3 and follow the dirt road. The road parallels the creek for roughly 14 miles before reaching Currant Creek Reservoir. Pull outs can be found along the way, but as is so often the case in wilderness, the farther one goes, the fewer vehicular accommodations (and people) one finds. Rainbow and cutthroat trout in the 12”- 15” range are fairly common here, and larger trout inhabit the deep beaver pools below the reservoir. The fishing can be technical (lots of trees, snags, beaver holes, and overhead brush), but these challenges are well worth the effort.

trout fishingThe Provo River is probably the most well-known trout fishery in Utah, which is both good and bad: good because the river grows some giant, hard-fighting trout; bad because just about everyone-and-their-cousin’s-uncle travels near and far to fish for them. Fortunately, the river is broken into three sections: the upper, middle, and lower, which has the effect of dispersing the crowds and easing the pressure on the resource. A cautionary word: if possible, avoid fishing anywhere on the weekend, but especially the lower and middle sections of the Provo River. These sections are inundated with fly fishers, tubers, and kayakers on the weekends. That said, the Provo River boasts 25 miles of fishable water, and as Utah fly fishing legend Jeff Metcalf once said, “No matter how many people are on the water, you can always find fish.” Finding fish is not hard to do in a river that is said to hold 3,000 trout per mile. Much of the upper section is locked up by private land, however, but there is a mile-and-a-half or so of gorgeous water at Rock Cliff (a wilderness treasure), which is directly above Jordanelle Reservoir. Gaining access to the river east of Rock Cliff is tricky at best, but if one has the time and desire, the upper Provo is worth exploring. The middle section runs from Jordanelle Dam to Deer Creek Reservoir, and the much lauded lower section runs from Deer Creek down Provo Canyon.

Drive up just about any canyon in Utah, look to your left or right, and you’ll likely see good trout water. So it is with Weber Canyon and the Weber River, perhaps the most unsung river in Utah, which is odd because it is also one of the best. . . when it is fishing well. Unlike Currant Creek and the Provo River, whose water levels remain relatively consistent throughout the summer and fall months, the Weber’s flows vary greatly from day-to-day, which can negatively affect the quality of fishing. Keep in mind that some of the biggest trout in the state have been caught on the Weber. In fact, just last fall one of my students showed me an image of a 30” brown that was caught on the Weber. Browns in the 18”-20” range are common. Fishable sections of the Weber River can be found from the mouth of Weber Canyon all the way to Oakley and beyond. Anglers unfamiliar with the river may want to try the Upper Weber Canyon or the stretch below Echo Reservoir. §

Black River Dreams

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.Check out Maximilian Werner’s new book: Black River Dreams

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