Flying Ants at Uinta Lakes
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The Crystal Lake area is my favorite spot in the Uintas. With Trial Lake Campground close by and numerous lakes within a mile on a paved road or a short hike, I've found little reason to go elsewhere. Since it snowed last night and the short two month Uinta season is now over, I have no reluctance to relate the great success of my last trip and reveal an absolute "killer" fly to use on these high mountain lakes. The fish are safe for at least 10 months and maybe you'll forget all this info that follows.
A short drive bypassing the Trial Lake campground road, past Washington Lake, takes you to the Crystal Lake trailhead. Due to its proximity to the Mirror Lake highway, several cars are always stacked up here, but don't be dismayed. People scatter from here in all directions and one can easily find solitude and a lake or stream all to one's self. Mostly one encounters Scout groups or others trying to find Hidden Lake. Hidden offers bigger than average fish and a very difficult to follow trail to add some challenge. My wife and I and my two sons, 8 and 11, were headed for Marjorie Lake which offers small Grayling which have never failed to cooperate. An occasional nice brook trout can be taken. Recent dry seasons have caused this and other lakes to be drawn down severely, to support the Provo River drainage that has its birth in this area. On this September trip we discovered a very nice option to the larger lakes that are routinely drained down.
As we walked past Crystal, a beautiful, larger than average lake, we noticed numerous surface rises. Even though the parking lot was full of over 30 vehicles there were no fishermen on Crystal. I guess everyone was headed for Hidden Lake. The fish seemed to going wild over something right on the surface. The wind was up real good so I wondered about ants being the food of choice. We continued on toward Marjorie, a two mile hike. My boys were not used to hiking at high altitude and I promised we'd stop at a unnamed pond along the way to rest. We soon got there and never left.
I have caught a few fish out of this pond but as we stopped to rest we were delighted to see even more frenzied surface activity. After a quick examination of the shoreline the mystery was soon over, there were flying ants all over the water. These black bodied, white winged treats are found all over the mountains and I've even seen them floating in swimming pools within the Salt Lake City limits.
They can range from small to large and this day they appeared in two sizes, small and large, a size 18-20 and a size 14. These fish in late fall are not too particular and we caught fish during the heavy activity on everything from grey hackle peacocks to cinammon ants, even small sparkle duns worked. As the fish turned off, who knows why they do that, we still got fish but they became much more selective.
I came across an ant pattern in a shop in Boise that matches this fly and I will share it with you as I'm sure it would be successful with or without the "wind hatch." It is speculated that the formic acid in ant bodies drives fish crazy and thus ant patterns are very successful in rivers, streams and still water. These terrestrials, unlike a water borne insect, are trapped by the surface film and cannot resume flight once on the water. The best they can do is a tantalizing dance in the film that attracts the fish. They soon drown and float on or just under the surface.
Anyway, about the fishing that day, Pat caught a nice brookie on her first cast and had several fish on before I even had the boys' rods hooked up. She lost one fish about 14" and most of the fish were bigger than average, all nice brook trout. We did much better on this no name pond than all the fishermen returning from Hidden, Island, Big Elk or all the other lakes. Many of these ponds are not controlled with dams and are not drawn down. If you can find one like ours that doesn't winter kill then claim it! There are hundreds to choose from and most people walk right by them.
The best fish that day was a grayling that evidently came from an unamed pond near Marjorie. That's all the fisherman would tell us as he showed off his fish, at least 14", the largest grayling I've seen, caught in Utah. I didn't think to get a picture until it was too late to catch up with him, so if anyone knows about a large grayling caught somewhere near Weir or Margorie Lake on September 16th, please give us a call.
HOOK Mustad 94840, sizes 14 to 20, or equivalent
THREAD - Black
BODY - Black dubbing or floss or thread segmented in two humps
WING - White hackle tips or poly yarn tied spent wing halfway down shank
HACKLE - Black, brown or grizzly tied between body segments