Tom Nokes and I have both written of the virtues of fishing close to home. Well, this summer I have resisted the call of the Green River and have concentrated my fishing on several waters within a short half hour drive from major metropolitan areas. Some of my fishing was within city limits. I fished nothing but dry flies, usually Adams, Royal Wulffs or ant patterns, size 16. Also, I made a point of only fishing waters new to me. I caught fish on all streams but one (I have a real good excuse, which I'll shortly offer.) I'll beg your indulgence with my five star rating system (five stars being great and one star being poor). This is strictly subjective and rates aesthetics, size of fish, whether wild or planted, water clarity, insect population, access, pressure and challenge. All my fishing was done in the late afternoon or early evening, and let me say up front that I rarely saw another fisherman on any of these streams, no matter their proximity to large cities and towns. Here's my report.
I fished this water just a few miles up the canyon from town, and was immediately into fish after a few casts. I was very much impressed with the ease of wading and the ease of reading the water. This river is larger than many of the others I fished and was easy to cover by wading midstream, casting to pockets against the bank and current seams wherever they occured. Fish were stacked up right where the textbook says they should be. I initially caught browns in the 11" to 14" range and after awhile moved upstream into all rainbows, same size. The water varied from riffle-pocket water to deep runs and pools and even some flat-slow water. My best fishing was in the pocket water. I did see other fisherman fishing with bait from a bridge, catching some nice fish, all planted rainbows. There is private property and some pressure to contend with here, but the Logan offered me one of the best days of the year. ***
The Weber was running really high and muddy one day so I decided a second-best alternative would be Lost Creek. It flows into the Weber just a short drive up the interstate between Morgan and Henefer Just up the road from the Devil's Slide (Croydon exit). This is a meandering meadow stream and offers some good dry fly fishing right by the cement plant at the exit. I fished further up past the town of Croydon. A good road parallels the stream up to Lost Creek Res., although it does become dirt up toward the dam. I encountered some access problems with private property upstream. When I did find access I found good fishing for small browns, eagerly sipping midges off the surface. They were popping the surface everywhere and I would turn my head to see a rise just as a fish would rise to my fly. This happened several times but I did get my share of hookups, some fish 12 inches, all browns. I imagine that larger fish would move into here from the Weber in the fall to spawn. I've heard that there are larger fish by the cement plant. This was real flat water with lots of moss, like a miniature Silver Creek. **
I fished the Ogden right in town by the mouth of the canyon. This area has been rehabilitated with structure and small impoundments that produce some real nice flats for dries. I caught nothing but 8-10" inch browns but rainbows are planted here to Harrison Blvd. Access is great off of the animal shelter road. I saw other spin and bait fishermen, but the fish responded to dry flies like they didn't have a worry. I think most fly fishermen drive up the canyon. I was surprised by the size of this, stream, larger than most along the Wasatch. **1/2
In one afternoon I fished Mill Creek and Big and Little Cottonwood Creeks. I fished an ant pattern until I hooked 3 fish on each stream, then I moved to the next. I made a little game plan to make it interesting, because I didn't expect to find much but a few heavily fished planters. Although adjacent to Salt Lake City, I saw no fishermen on any of these streams. I fished within three miles of the canyon mouth on all but Little Cottonwood.
Millcreek's water flow was smaller than most but it produced a real surprise for me, cutthroats! I hooked two small cutts, 8"-9", and one smaller rainbow in a short time right near the canyon mouth. This is the only stream that offered these beautiful fish although I've heard they're found in the Logan River and protected there with limits more severe than with the other species. How about a Millcreek Canyon picnic lunch and a little fly fishing on your noon break? Eat your sandwhich and release the fish. **
This water also offered a big surprise, nice browns! I thought all these streams close to the cities would offer only put and take rainbow fishing. My fish were all browns here, and I exceeded my three fish rule because they were nice sized, in the 12" to 13" inch range. I fished pocket water around large boulders just a short drive up the canyon. There were pockets holding fish everywhere. I really had fun here!! ***
Here the fishing was far exceeded by the aesthetics. Huge boulders created pools in this rapidly descending canyon stream. Water flow was so low that there very few places to fish. I was lucky to pick up one small rainbow on my ant. Perhaps water flows and stream conditions farther up the canyon would be more conducive to fishing, but I think flows here might just be either high and raging in the spring or next to nothing the rest of the year. I doubt fish would reach much size under those conditions. *
By lower Provo, I mean really low, inside the city limits. Here again, I thought this would be all planted rainbows, but I hooked several wild browns before I saw my first rainbow. I fished the Carterville section in Provo. I could wade this stretch easily in September and October. So much water is diverted out of the upstream river that it loses lots of ferocity by then. I waded right up the middle of the river. Fish were bigger here, 13" and larger. I hooked a real nice 20" inch brown which gave me quite a thrill. I'd been hooking smaller fish for so long I thought I'd snagged a rock. I didn't see the take and the fish just sat there untill I got upstream of it to work the "snag" lose. When it took off I almost threw my rod and ran. The rainbows were niced sized too, anywhere from 12" to 15". With the strict slot limits on the upper river, fish numbers are such that lots of browns must have to move downstream, and inspite of open season on them, they are there in great numbers. As you can imagine, I've returned several times to this spot and I've only seen one other fisherman. I can just see several of you wince as I mention this spot, however, because I think the Provo River from the canyon mouth all the way through town is the best kept secret in the state. ****
What a delightful stream. This water is full of real nice fish. Just out of Springville this stream flows about five miles up the canyon, past a golf course, where it forks. I fished the south fork, mostly. Although not a large stream, it affords lots of cover, with deep holes, undercut banks and lots of deadfall in the water. Fish are easily spooked and I really had to plan my approach to fish I could see feeding. Fish here are predominantly brown trout with an occasional rainbow. They are larger here than on any stream this size I've encountered, up to 14 inches, with an average size of about 12". ****
This stream can be raging torrent as it funnels the water out of Strawberry Res. into the Spanish Fork River and into Utah Lake. Drive up Spanish Fork Canyon to the Diamond Fork turnoff, just before the site of the big mud slide. A good road parallels the river for several miles. I should mention that this is the stream where I got skunked. The water was low and gin clear the day I fished it. Cased caddis were everywhere on the bottom like little pebbles. I thought they were pebbles until I saw them moving. A huge green drake hatch was coming off but I couldn't see any fish moving for them. After an hour of fruitless fishing I went home perplexed and ashamed, until I talked to Sam Webb the next day. He had just talked to Bruce Schmidt, director of fisheries for the state. Evidently when Strawberry was poisoned the water flow into 6th Water and Diamond Fork through the Strawberry tunnel was too high to be effectively neutralized. The rotenone did its work and most of Diamond Fork was poisoned along with Strawberry. Because of the high water flows a detox station could not be set up until well down the Spanish Fork River. There aren't any fish in Diamond Fork! Don't bother to fish it until it is restored. We'll keep you posted.
There are several other waters to consider, including the Blacksmith Fork, American Fork River, the Weber and upper Provo. All these streams support excellent populations of caddis and mayflies, midges and stone flies. At present they don't seem threatened by anything except our current drought. Pollution, fishing pressure and severe dewatering don't impact these streams inspite of their proximity to people. Maybe because of their proximity to people and not ranching and farming they are protected more. I hope my pleasant surprises of this summer will be joined by yours next summer. We really don't have to go very far to enjoy real satisfying flyfishing!