Written by our longtime friend Jason Dyer who we met on the snow, but now spends pretty much ALL of his spare time fishing.
What are skiers and snowboarders supposed to do all summer long? I mean, really how are we supposed to survive summer? Fortunately, there is life after the snow melts. . .
While Utah is known for The Greatest Snow on Earth, a lesser known fact is that it also boasts some of the greatest fishing in North America. After plentiful "field research" on Utah's lakes and streams, we've compiled the definitive guide to catching Utah's five trophy fish.
The Provo River is a Blue Ribbon fishery that for years has been a hot spot for consistently large German Brown Trout. The Provo’s ecosystem offers an ideal environment for fish to thrive and the easy access is perfect for anglers alike. Even better, Sundance Mountain Resort is located just a short 5-minute drive to the Provo. Sundance offers great summer activities which includes an amazing fly-fishing guide service. Run by former Hollywood star and all around fishy guide Brian Wimmer, Sundance Fly Fishing is a great way to get to know multiple areas of the middle and lower sections of the Provo River where on any day you can catch multiple 18” Brown Trout that you will be able to boast to your friends about for years to come.
Where to Fish: Lower Provo Access
This has to be one of the easiest fisheries in the state to access. From the SLC Int'l Airport you take I-80 East to I-15 South. Once you pass the “point of the mountain” Look for exit 272 for UT-52/800 N toward US-189. Take a left off the exit. After about 3.5 miles take the ramp on the left onto US-189 N/E Provo Canyon Rd. Once you enter Provo Canyon and the Lower Provo fishing area all you need to do is pick a spot to pull off the road and fish. This Utah DNR link should give you some prime spots for this Blue Ribbon fishery.
Time of Year to Fish
To be honest, in our “research” there is not a bad time of year to fish the Lower Provo River… but, if you had to pick a month to come out we would suggest early to mid-April right before the runoff starts. Once the weather warms, you will start to see surface hatches which provides you the option to fish streamers, nymphs or dry flies. It’s an exciting time to get your river legs back under you. Note: that depending on the snow year and temperatures the run-off can come a little early but this time is usually a safe bet to enjoy some early season Brown Trout action.
Sundance offers one of the best guide services in the state, ready to help you hook into some fish along the Lower Provo River as well as offering fly tying and fly rod casting clinics. This outfit is a one-stop shop for anyone looking to begin or improve their fly-fishing skills. Jans Mountain Outfitters in Park City also offers guided trips along the Provo.
The fly that dominates this section of the river almost year round is the Mayfly Genus Baetis or better known as the BWO (Blue Wing Olive). If the sun peaks out and provides a bit of warmth (even mid-winter), you can find a hatch of this little Brown Trout delicacy. Put one on your 5x leader and hold on for some fun.
First, Tiger Muskies do not happen naturally in the wild. Tiger Muskellunge are a sterile hybrid cross between a Northern Pike (Esox lucius) and a Muskellunge (Esox masquinongy). They are created for two reasons. One, regulate other smaller fish species in their habitat and two, to be a sought-after Utah game fish. They currently only reside in five reservoirs in Utah one being Pineview Reservoir in Ogden Valley between Powder Mountain, Nordic Valley and Snowbasin Resort. The longest state record was caught in Pineview back in 1998 and was over 53”. This fish does one thing and one thing only, eat. Local fly fishing expert and Powder Mountain Marketing professional Jean-Paul Goulet says the best way to hunt this fish is to go out early in the morning in the spring and make sure the water temps are pushing 45-50 degrees. Be ready to cast a lot as these fish are strong predators and can be very selective about their prey. Once you hook up with one get ready for the ride of a lifetime. Side note, they have a very large and sharp mouth of teeth, so it’s always good to have a good set of pliers to pull the hooks out once you land one of these freshwater beasts.
Where to Fish: Pineview Access
From the SLC Airport you take I-80 East to exit 117 toward I-215 N/Ogden. Follow I-215 N and I-15 N. Once you come into the outskirts of Ogden take exit 344 UT-39 E/W 1200 S St/W 12th St. Turn east and follow the signs through Ogden Canyon. You will follow the Ogden River up Ogden Canyon. When you hit the Pineview Dam take a left onto UT-158 and the public boat ramp will be on your right. This DNR link will give you the up to date details on this Blue Ribbon fishery.
Time of Year to Fish
Springtime (May–June) is prime Tiger Muskie fly fishing time! Tiger Muskies become really aggressive when water temperatures reach 50-degrees. They are coming out of their winter sedated state and ready to feed!
A plus and a minus to this fishery is that it does not have a true dedicated outfitter that focuses on its fishing cycles. But, if you are looking for some great intelligence on Pineview look no further than Angler’s Den in Roy, Utah. Their customer service is great and they are always looking to make your fishing experience top notch. The store's location if right off the 15 on the way to Pineview Reservoir so it’s not a huge time suck to stop by.
We have two tips for you with this predatory fish. First, patience is key for this species. The Tiger Muskie is known as the fish of 1000 casts. So if you have a ONE-fish-day, it's all good because it will be the best fight you have had in years. Quality over quantity as they say. Second, October can be just productive to fish as the late spring months the one difference is there will be a lot fewer anglers on the water. So while people are inside drinking hot cocoa in the cooler weather you will be fighting that 40 inch monster for 15 minutes.
Bear River Cutthroat Trout
This is a unique species of Cutthroat that can only be found in the state of Utah and has a unique history of how it is both located and remains in a small area of Utah. It is best explained by Brett Prettyman of Trout Unlimited and creator of the Utah Cutthroat Slam.
“The Bear River/Bear Lake Cutthroat Trout is an interesting variety with an interesting history. Even though the present day Bear River terminates in the Great Salt Lake within the Bonneville Basin, these cutthroat trout actually evolved on a separate path from other Bonneville cutthroat trout. The explanation for this comes from geological evidence that shows that the course of the Bear River has changed. At one time the Bear River was actually connected to Bear Lake and the Snake River drainage. Because of this, the Bear River and Bear Lake cutthroat trout probably shared ancient ancestors with the cutthroat trout in the Snake River and Yellowstone drainages. Bear Lake Cutts are known for their voracious appetites and can grow to impressive sizes.”
These days, you can go high up on the Logan River and chase these aggressive and very colorful fish. Late spring or summer are considered prime times to search out this state treasure. If you are feeling adventurous you can spend your morning on the Logan River chasing the native Utah fish then drive up Logan Canyon to Beaver Mountain and spend the afternoon hiking around scouting your tree lines for next winter’s long-awaited powder days.
Where to Fish: Logan River Access
From the SLC Airport you take I-80 East to exit 117 toward I-215 N/Ogden. Follow I-215 N and I-15 N. Once you are near Brigham City take exit 362 for 1100 S St toward US-91/US-89. After about 25 miles once you enter into Logan the road splits. Turn slightly left onto S Main St/Nibley Rd. Then after 1.5 miles turn right onto US-89 N/E 400 N. In about 2 miles you are entering Logan Canyon paralleling the Logan River. Along with our “Local Tip” section below follow the Utah DNR link to give you the up to date details on this higher elevation Blue Ribbon fishery.
Check out Al’s Sporting Goods in Logan which has been around since 1921 and their customer staff is second to none in knowing the product they sell as well as the abundance of adventures the Logan area has to offer. So I would suggest calling in or stopping by picking up some 5x tippet and talk shop with the fly-fishing department to see what fly is hot on the river and the ideal location to fish.
The highly fished areas of the Logan are near the first 3 dam(s) but if you have the time it is good to go up higher on the river. Though the fish are a little smaller they make up for their size with fight. Finally, the views of the upper river sections alone are guaranteed to up your Instagram likes by 20%.
Kokanee is the landlocked version of the more famously known Pacific Sockeye Salmon. It is located in several fisheries around Utah with the two most famous being Flaming Gorge and Strawberry Reservoirs. In keeping this article simple we will be focusing on one of our favorite local destinations during the spring and summer at Strawberry Reservoir. Kokanee flourish in this fishery just an hour and a half drive from SLC. This fish prefers colder water so if surface action is what you want then April and May are the ideal months to fish for this beautiful salmon. Once the water temperature increases you will need to fish significantly lower to entice these guys to take your fly. Overall, this fish and its blue silver color is one of our favorites to look at before we return them back to the water. The most popular image of this fish is during its fall spawning period when it transforms from a sleek body style to a bright red almost prehistoric look creature. Note: During the fall the Kokanee Salmon is illegal to intentionally catch in certain areas and if by mistake you pull one of these in please return it immediately to the water.
Where to Fish: Strawberry Reservoir Access
From the SLC Airport you take the I-80 E ramp to City Center/Ogden/Provo. Continue on I-80 east up Parleys Canyon and past he Park City Kimbal Junction Exit. Once past Kimbal Junction take exit 146 for US-40 E toward Heber/Vernal. Once you have driven through Heber Valley and Daniels Summit you will come to the cross streets of US-40 and Forest Road 131. This is the beginning of the Strawberry Res access area where there are many boat launch options as well as shore fishing. We suggest looking at several fishing reports as well as the DNR access point link before choosing a starting point for your days fishing adventures.
Time of Year to Fish
There is no real bad time of year to fish Strawberry Reservoir though we are too busy skiing to fish through the ice. Our favorite and most effective time is spring when the water temps are colder and the Kokanee are close to the surface. This way you don’t have to use a full sinking line and can see a significant amount of topwater action. We highly suggest fishing this reservoir in the months of April and May. If the winter is staying around longer than normal you can even have some great topwater fly-fishing into June.
Strawberry Bay Marina is a one-stop shop for all your needs. From boat and equipment to a well-respected guide service that will streamline your fly-fishing day on Strawberry. Check out their website for fishing reports and to book your fishing experience. Keep in mind to book early before your trip because reservations with the marina fill up fast.
The best way to get trophy size Kokanee and even Cutthroat Trout is during “ice-off”. This is when the ice is melting away from the shoreline and the fish are feeding along the edge where the ice meets the water. The ideal way to fish this is a personal inflatable pontoon set up, Canoe or kayak. The strongest fly in our experience is a rabbit hair woolly bugger casting right along the ice line.
Last but not least of our five Utah trophy fish is the Largemouth Bass. Though overshadowed by the abundance of trout waters in Utah this fish is not to be overlooked. Its preferred habitat is warm water lakes and reservoirs. Currently, there are 14 lakes and reservoirs that hold bass but there are a few strong bass fisheries in the southern part of the state between Brian Head Ski Resortand St. George. One of the best bodies of water is Sand Hollow and its sister reservoir Quail Creek Hollow just outside St. George. These reservoirs are connected by an underground pipeline system and hold an abundance of Largemouth Bass.
Where to Fish: Sand Hollow Access
Note this is a longer commute (4.5 hours) from the SLC Airport or just 2 hrs from Las Vegas.
From the SLC Airport you take the I-80 E ramp to City Center/Ogden/Provo. Once on I-80 E the road forks keep left at the fork to continue on I-15 S. After 275 miles take Exit 16 to State Hwy 9 W/UT-9 W in Washington. Continue onto State Hwy 9 W/UT-9 W for just over 4 miles then turn right on Sand Hollow Rd. The access point is on your left about 4 miles down. Also know that Sand Hollow is a pay to play reservoir. Plan on looking up the DNR fishing conditions for some good intelligence prior to fishing.
Time of Year to Fish
Sand Hollow is productive year round, but the ideal time is late spring to mid-summer.
St. George is the closest metropolitan area and hosts a couple shops. The largest known is Sportsman’s Warehouse. There are a couple independent guides in the area that do not affiliate with a specific shop. Greg with Hiswayfishing.com is highly regarded and by his bass tournament results, seems like a very good resource for getting you to the right spot to catch that trophy bucket mouth…
Sand Hollow has an underwater dive park and training area that is almost as renowned for the bass fishing. This underwater park has several features, such as a VW bus, that provides great cover for plentiful numbers of bass to congregate. Note that power boats are not allowed in this area but fishing on the edge in the open water can be very rewarding.
While we certainly miss conversation on a chairlift and that taste of an unforgettable powder day, the silver lining is that when winter sports slowly melt away the waters of the local fisheries rise up. So pick up your fly rod and get outside!