Utah has some of the best fly fishing in the US and offers a wide variety of fly fishing opportunities.
Trout that you'll come across while fly fishing in Utah are golden, lake, brown, brook, cutthroat, and rainbow trout.
These different varieties flourish, thanks to the cold water temperatures in Utah.
Ken Tanaka fly fishing the Green River in Utah
The Utah Division of Wildlife Resources has designated 36 waters in Utah as Blue Ribbon Fisheries. Blue Ribbon waters provide anglers with quality fishing experiences in exquisite settings. These are environmentally productive waters that sustain healthy fish populations and are some of the best spots to fish in Utah.
Utah's Blue Ribbon Fisheries include:
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Of course, your fly fishing adventure will only be as good as the spot you pick, so you’ll want to hit up all the best areas of the state. Let’s take a closer look at some of the standout locations that are known for fabulous fly fishing opportunities.
Fish Lake is a very well-known lake among anglers, and for that reason it can get pretty busy. The lake can be found on the Fish Lake Hightop Plateau, which means you'll be at an elevation of 8,800 feet. Expect to find large varieties of lake trout, yellow perch, rainbow trout, and a hybrid trout breed known as splake. You've got the option of fishing from the shore or taking a boat out onto the lake. If you’re after lake trout, you'll probably need a boat so you can access the deepest areas of the water, which is where the lake trout tend to be. Opt for deep down riggers or troll with your lures just below the surface of the water. Deep water fishing requires heavy jigs with bait such as sucker meat, dead minnows, and night crawlers.
One thing to note is that if you do plan to fish from the shore, the weeds can get pretty thick, so you’ll want to keep that in mind when considering what gear to pack. A good piece of gear to use here is a small jig that has bait on the tip.
If you plan to fish at Boulder Mountain, it is suggested that you head to the east side of the mountain. Here, you will find a massive collection of reservoirs and lakes, giving you plenty to choose from. This area isn't quite as accessible from the big cities, so it's more of a trek. Some of the typical fish you'll find in the 80 or so reservoirs and lakes include cutthroats, rainbows, sterile hybrids, and brookies. Keep in mind that the fishing season here is a bit shorter, as it doesn't offer year-round opportunities. You can visit the area between May and November.
The Weber River presents anglers with a great opportunity to enjoy trout fishing. This river begins in the Uinta Mountains on a slope facing the west. The river runs all the way to the valley below, with some sections running through some pretty urban areas. The Weber River is popular with those looking for a quick day trip or even afternoon getaway. There are different trout located along the river with the brown trout to be found near the bottom and the rainbow and cutthroat up near the highest point of the river. You will also be able to fish for whitefish in the river. The peak fishing period is July through to October.
Conveniently located just one out outside of the busy city of Salt Lake City is the Strawberry Reservoir. Again, you'll find a variety of trout, such as rainbow, brookies, browns, and cutthroat, and you can also find Kokanee salmon. It is recommended you have a float tube, pontoon, or boat if you wish to fish here. Use nymphs, leeches, streamers, and sinking lines for the best results. Again, the peak fishing season is July through to September, but you can still fish here the other months of the year.
Green River is ideal for wade or drift styles of fly fishing. The water is just teeming with trout, such as cutthroats, rainbows, wild brown, and brookies. As well, you may come across whitefish. Green River's claim to fame is in holding the record of the most trout per mile for all the rivers in the country. It's a bit of a trek from Salt Lake City, three hours to be exact, but well worth it. If you like to wade, you can make use of the trail that is on the stream side of the river. If you'd prefer to use a drift boat, you may have better luck catching trout. Another tip is that you check out local fly shops for the best gear just to be sure you pick up what will work.
Keep in mind that you need to use artificial lures or flies in this area, as this is a regulation. Although it's not required you catch and release, it is encouraged. Make use of rapalas, spinners, and fly tackle all of which the trout respond to.
Breaking down the seasons through the year, you'll find the experience to be quite different depending on the month you visit. From December through to February is the coldest time of year, and it's when you'll find the least amount of fish. If you plan on fishing during the winter, be sure to dress warm, make use of big streamers and midges, and expect to come across rainbow trout and giant brown trout in various streams.
Once March rolls around, the numbers will start to increase and you'll find you can catch a whole lot more. This pattern continues until the end of May. It's during this time that various bug hatches happen, which definitely helps you. Again, streamers are a good option. You can also use dry fly type of patterns and nymphs that look like the hatches during this time of year.
The next season happens in June and July when fishing really hits its peak levels. With that said, expect the crowds to be out during these times. Make use of streamer boxes, nymphs, and dry fly fishing. Typical fish you'll be able to catch during this time includes cutthroat and brookies.
The months of August and September will continue to stay good as far as fishing goes, but the numbers will start to dwindle as you reach the end of September. Tapered leaders that are long and tippets that are small are recommended as the fish are less hungry at this point, making them much pickier.
Lastly are the months of October and November. This is actually the peak time for hunting, so the crowds end up dwindling on the lakes, streams, and rivers. You can still find brown and red trout during these months, however, you’ll have less hours in the day to catch them. The prime fishing time is from 11am to 4pm each day.
Hatches are at their peak levels from June through to November.
Utah offers such a vast amount of lakes, streams, reservoirs, and rivers that it’s hard to pinpoint just a few types of reels, rods, and flies. Instead, base it on the season, the depth of the water, and the type of fish you’re after. Use the above season breakdown to help make this a smoother process.
Much of the fishing in Utah can be done from the shore, but there are some areas and lakes that are larger in size and will require a boat for you to access the deeper waters.
Be sure to apply for your fishing license before you head out on your adventure, and also brush up on the local rules and regulations. You can find all the current regulations in the Utah Fishing Guidebook, which is produced by the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources. Anyone age 12 and older needs to possess a fishing license. The fee structure changes based on your age, whether or not you are resident, and how long you want the license to be valid for. Keep in mind some areas require an additional reciprocal permit.
As a fly fishing destination, Utah manages to excel and really shine, offering anglers incredible varieties of trout, as well as other species, with backdrops that are nothing short of stunning. With so many great fishing spots located not far out of Salt Lake City, they are also very accessible. This state doesn’t disappoint and chances are you’ll want to make a return trip to it again in the very near future.