The water from the small stream seemed to mesmerize me to the point that I didn't see the small fly, disappear under the surface as a fall brown trout sipped it. I lifted the rod, but was much too late. The fish flashed and went back into his feeding lane, completely exposed in the crystal clear water. I stopped, checked the small Humpy, and began another cast, confident that I wouldn't be caught off guard again. Three casts later, I was once again looking at the fall splendor around me. The trees had turned to brilliant shades and every breeze showered me with round golden leaves.
This time the fish held the fly a bit too long and the point dug in past the flattened barb when I lifted the line from the water. I quickly played the fish to a calm pool at my feet and bent to release him as my friend, Brett Goodwin, came through the thick underbrush that lined the stream. "That should make a couple dozen for you, doesn't it?" "Close, " I said, "But I've missed twice that." I gently cradled the small brown trout as I revived him and let him go.
"That's the nice thing about these small streams, "Brett said. "The pressure is off. You know that you're going to catch fish." I understood what he meant, by remembering agonizing days on larger waters, when my eyes strained to see a #18 Parachute Adams on a fifty foot cast to leader-shy trout, or when my back had ached from fishing heavy rods and lines in very swift current.
Looking at my line, I realized that I hadn't thrown more than fifteen feet all day. Brett sat down on a convenient rock. "Get that last one and let's head for town." I clipped the fly from my line. "No, that's good for me. Do you fish here all winter as well?" "Yes, but even then these fish think a #14 Elk Hair Caddis is the neatest thing that they ever saw."
The fish weren't big. My largest would have gone twelve inches if you had stretched him a bit, but they were eager to be caught and had the most brilliant colors of any fall trout.
A good part of my summer fishing had been spent on streams very similar to this one. Always I had been greeted by outstanding success. There was only one trip that was not so great. That trip happened to coincide with a girls camp on the same stretch of water (the trout may never recover) but a mile up stream the trout were just as happy to see me as ever.
The exciting thing about this, is that these streams are not in some exotic, far away place, or five miles off of the road. The fact is, they are all right here along the Wasatch Front. The fishing trip with Brett Goodwin wasn't a trip at all. We left my office around 11:30 AM and returned at 4:00 PM. Barely enough time for our wives to notice we were gone (Brett had a kitchen pass. I was sluffing work).
We really do live here in a flyfishng paradise, and yet all we seem to do is dream of Montana, or other exotic locals. Nearly every stream that runs down a canyon has catchable trout and decent access, as well as some of the most splendid scenery found anywhere.
Within a one hour drive of Salt Lake, there are at least twenty five small streams that can be fished in an afternoon. Several are within fifteen minutes. I have taken my family up Big Cottonwood Canyon to cook dinner and have been able to get a couple of hours fishing in at the best time of the day. In most cases I was able to catch and release at least ten, and sometimes more. These are excellent places to teach children to fish and make points with the family to boot.
I don't mean to imply that our local fish are easier to catch. Even though many of the smaller fish come to a fly easily, the larger fish are as selective and as wary as anywhere else. Also, even though you are fishing a very short line, your cast must often be very precise. The streams are small and very clear. An unplanned approach or careless wading will scatter fish and end your fishing on that stretch of water. You should be prepared to leave several flies hanging on the trees as the best fish will be hardest to get to.
It is not usually necessary to fish a fly smaller than a #14 unless you prefer. The best working flies are simply the old stand-bys such as an Elk Hair Caddis, Humpy, Adams or Renegade. I have noticed that the attractor patterns with white wings don't seem to be as effective. I have also found that dry fly fishing is more productive than using a nymph or streamer, even when fish are not rising.
Many people have said that when we get out our guns for fall we should really be getting out our fly rods. I think that this is true. The fall is by far the most spectacular time to fish. Don't overlook this time of year for fishing, and why not look a little closer to home?