National Parks 7 min read

DIY Guide to Fly Fishing in Capitol Reef National Park

Ken Sperry

Posted by Ken Sperry

August 9, 2020

Capitol Reef National Park

Located South of Provo, Utah, Capitol Reef National Park is well known for its geological makeup.

It sits along the Waterpocket Fold, which is described as a “wrinkle on the Earth.” Because of this, Capitol Reef has some of the most unique and fascinating scenery you could experience. 

Fly fishing near the park is another reason to visit. The Fremont river winds its way through the park, offering the opportunity to catch a variety of trout species, including Rainbow, Brown, Cutthroat, and Brook trout.

There are also a multitude of lakes to explore in the area, and we’ll talk about them all in this guide. 

About Capitol Reef National Park

An aerial view of Capitol Reef National Park in Utah

Beyond the Fremont River, there are several regions near the park in which to fly fish. These include Boulder Mountain and Thousand Lakes Mountain. They are both located on the Western side and straddle the town of Torrey, which makes an excellent home base to explore the area. 

Since the park covers about 250,000 acres, there is a lot of space in which to find the perfect fishing spot. The park is perfect for casual fly fishermen who want to enjoy the scenery as much as the thrill of landing their next catch. 

When you’re surrounded by such impressive geological formations and you don’t have to deal with throngs of tourists at every turn, fishing can become a serene and tranquil experience. In fact, it’s so mesmerizing that you may not even care if you catch anything at all (although that’s unlikely). 

Whether you live in the area or you’re planning on making a pilgrimage to Capitol Reef National Park, we know that you will treasure the experience forever. Let’s break down what you need to know for your trip. 

Capitol Reef National Park Fishing Map

map of fishing access spots in Capitol Reef National Park

Get Directions to the Fishing Access Points shown above with the DIY Fly Fishing Map

Best Places to Fish in Capitol Reef National Park

Fishing at Capitol Reef will depend on the type of water you like to explore. If you prefer calm and tranquil lakes, then we suggest either Boulder Mountain (technically located in nearby Dixie National Forest) or Fishlake Mountain.

For streams in which to cast your line, the Fremont River is the best place to go. It starts outside of the park and then flows East into Capitol Reef. You can find all kinds of excellent spots along the river, no matter where you are. 

Let’s look at each location to see which one is best for you. 

Boulder Mountain

With over 50 fishable lakes on the mountain, you won’t have any problems finding a spot to cast your line. These waters are home to a variety of trout, including Brook, Cutthroat, and Tiger. Some of the lakes are stocked, but many aren’t so be sure to check beforehand if you prefer one over the other. 

Getting to the lakes can be challenging, so it’s best to travel in a rugged 4×4 that can handle the rough terrain. Also, you will be hiking quite a bit, as many lakes are one to two miles from the road, with some of them being up to four or five miles away.

Fish Lake

As the name suggests, this lake is ripe for fishing. This area is massive, and there are a lot of fantastic spots to stake your claim and find your next catch. The lake is home to Rainbow, Brown, and Lake Trout. 

Since the lake is so huge, these fish can grow to be trophy size, so plan on doing some fighting to get your next catch. 

Fish Lake is right on Highway 25, and there is a resort lodge along the water’s edge if you prefer more upscale accommodations. There are also a few different campgrounds around the lake, offering different amenities and access to the water.

Fremont River

Fly Fishing the Fremont River near Capitol Reef National Park

As we mentioned, the nearby town of Torrey can serve as a home base for your fishing expedition. This stop will be perfect if you plan to fish the Fremont, as highway 24 runs right through the town and it follows the river almost all of the way through the park. 

The river is divided into sections. The Upper Fremont is more wild than other parts and offer some spectacular trout fishing. The fish here can grow quickly, making them an ideal catch for your highlight reel. This section is located about 30 minutes North of Torrey. 

The Middle Fremont runs through the towns of Loa, Lyman, and Fremont. Here, you can catch Brown and Rainbow Trout. This part of the river can be hard to access because most of it is on private property. However, if you can reach a public portion of the river, you’ll be satisfied with its fishing options. 

Finally, the Lower Fremont passes through Torrey all the way until you reach the park. Outside of Capitol Reef, the water is mostly restricted on private land, so you have to plan accordingly. Here, the bulk of the catches are Rainbow, although there can be a few Tiger or Cutthroat Trout to be found as well. Once the river reaches the park, it transitions to a warm water fishery. 

Check the Capitol Reef National Park website for more information on how to get to these lesser known fisheries.

Best Time to Fish in Capitol Reef National Park

Between Spring and Fall are the best times to go fly fishing in and around Capitol Reef National Park. Although the area doesn’t get much precipitation, the weather can get cold and inhospitable for fishing relatively fast. The official season starts in late May and ends in late October.

According to experienced anglers, the best time to go is in the fall. However, that also means that you’ll have less time to fish, and the competition may be more intense as a result. Still, the catches can be bigger and more rewarding if you wait until later in the year, so keep that in mind. 

If you choose to fish on Boulder Mountain, late summer and early fall are the best times to go. The high altitude means that it will get cold and slow down the fishing sooner than other spots, so don’t wait too long to plan your journey. As far as hatches go, Midges are prevalent until late June, and then Callibaetis take over. If you stay overnight, plan to see some excellent evening Caddis hatches as well. 

The Fremont River and Fish Lake are good for fishing throughout the whole season. Hatches are plentiful and primarily consist of mayflies and caddis.

Capitol Reef National Park Fishing Tips

Fortunately, with so many hatches and an abundance of trout in the area, you don’t have to be picky when packing your gear. Anglers of all skills and experience levels can find their next catch, making it a haven for anyone who loves to fish. 

Another thing to remember is that there are a mix of stocked and native fish. For the most part, Boulder Mountain is the area with the most stocked trout that tend to be easier to catch. 

The sizes of the trout here are average, although Fish Lake will offer much larger catches than the river or smaller lakes of Boulder Mountain. Bring along a heftier 6/7 weight rod and matching line just in case you manage to hook a trophy trout. Otherwise, rods and lines between three and six should suffice for most of your trip. 

Best Flies for Capitol Reef National Park

Here are some recommended flies that have proven effective for fishing in the Capitol Reef National Park region:

  • Blue Winged Olives
  • Pale Morning Duns
  • Tricos
  • Mayflies
  • Caddisflies
  • Stoneflies
  • Ants
  • Grasshoppers
  • Streamers

Capitol Reef National Park Fishing Reports

There are a number of area fly shops and guide services that can provide an update on current fishing conditions in and around Capitol Reef National Park. A few to check out are listed below.

Capitol Reef National Park Fishing Regulations

There are few restrictions inside the park, so you shouldn’t have to worry too much about rules and regulations affecting your trip. Overall, all you have to do is make sure that you’re following the Utah fishing regulations.

We recommend reading through the full guide of fishing regulations for the state, but they are relatively simple and straightforward.

Trip Planning Tips

To make the most out of your fly fishing trip to Capitol Reef National Park, we want to provide you with some additional notes. 

Backcountry Camping

While you can spend $20 to stay at one of the sanctioned campsites within the park, you can also get a free backcountry permit to camp wherever you like. We suggest going this route if you like roughing it and you want to have a more rustic experience. Since the permit is free and the park is so entrancing, there are a lot of benefits to traveling this way. 

Staying in Town

If you plan on fishing the Fremont, then you probably don’t have to go into the park at all. Since the best fishing on the river is outside the park. Torrey is the largest town in the area, but feel free to stay in Fremont, Loa, or Lyman instead. 

Each of these places is used to having scores of anglers throughout the year, so you can not only get help finding the best spots to access the river, but you can find any supplies you may have forgotten to pack. 

Be Prepared

While Fish Lake and Fremont River are not especially wild or untamed, Boulder Mountain can be. As such, you want to be sure that you are prepared for a lot of hiking and exploring. You should be driving a rig that can handle rough terrain, and you should pack light but warm. 

Looking for more places to fish? Check out our DIY Guide to the Best Fly Fishing in America and Best Fly Fishing in Utah

Feature image by Amazing Places on Our Planet