My wife and I returned yesterday from a wonderful fly fishing trip, memorable for many reasons. Namely, Pat hooked and landed her first fish on a fly rod. Now I think she is hooked on this form of fishing and might understand my need to wander to the stream. Also, I've noticed on state maps the road over Wolf Creek pass for years and finally made the trip. This route presents several excellent fishing options.
We started fishing on the upper Provo above Woodland, on Utah highway 35, the same road that goes up over Wolf Creek to the Hanna/Tabiona area of the Uinta Basin. Fishing was fairly active on attractor patterns, even though early in the afternoon without any surface activity. There was a pale morning dun hatch of sorts with an occasional caddis, but the only fish we saw rise came up to our royal Wulffs and parachute Adams. This was a great area for Pat to learn to cast with many areas free of backcast problems without having to wade. It was also a stretch of river that presented slicks and riffles and pocket water and she soon learned where to cast and how to avoid drag and read a river. She soon was telling me where to cast.
We left the upper Provo about 5:00 p.m., before the evening hatch, to get to the Wolf Creek campground before dark. A few miles beyond Woodland U-35 turns to a well graded dirt road and after 12 miles or so of steady climbing we reached the summit and the campground. There is a large reservation only area for groups and the Kennedy clan was having a reunion. There were only about six other campsites available but since this was mid-week there was only one occupied. After a wonderful meal, complete with flowers on the table, (men, there really are benefits of taking your wife along), we jumped in the van and went exploring down the other side in the midst of a brooding sky and imminent thunderstorm. I was in search of the West Fork of the Duchesne River, and its native cutthroats. It is one of the few waters in Utah designated flylures only. The road seemed to drop forever before we reached the river and the sky was so dark with rain clouds it seemed like dusk although we had a few hours of daylight left. I couldn't even see to tie on a fly and it was starting to rain so we headed back to our campsite. What we saw of the river looked very promising. This road parallels the Uinta Basin pipeline which pumps waxlike crude oil all the way to the Salt Lake refineries. It is completely buried except for an occasional checking station.
The next morning we hurriedly ate breakfast and retraced our steps down the other side of the summit. Pat had seen what she thought was a mine the night before and wanted to go exploring. We had to hike in and never did determine what all the concrete structures were, but in the process we discovered that the local creek had several beaver dams loaded with little fish. We just spooked them with our fishing attempts but a little more exploring probably would have produced some deeper dams with great fishing. You can see most of them from the road.
I really wanted to get to the Duchesne. The West Fork is touted for its cutthroats and the north fork which it joins above Hanna has rainbows and other varieties. A good road follows the West Fork all the way to its headwaters. We turned up it for a while but it initially wanders away from the river so I decided to go back to the main road, U35, which parallels the fork for a few miles before it joins the north fork. We didn't see another fisherman although access is so good here. The water was gin-clear and had a good flow. The lower Duchesne gets silted and drained for irrigating.
Everywhere I looked here was fishable water, and since this is hopper season, I tied on a #12 humpy with a yellow floss body. I immediately got a short strike rise and in a few more casts picked up a nice 12 inch cutthroat. That action seemed to put the other fish off for awhile so I moved upstream and proceeded to put my very best and only hopper pattern in the brush. I put on a pale morning dun pattern and returned to the original spot. After a few casts and short strikes the water boiled and a large fish flashed as it took my fly. This cutt was 16 inches and in beautiful shape. This river was gaining more and more respect from me. We then fished just downstream from the confluence of the two forks just above the town of Hanna. I had promised Pat a real ladies room (the only disadvantage of taking your wife along) so it was nice to have towns close by. I picked up a little rainbow that was rising and had another hit so hard while I wasn't looking that it made a bird's nest out of my tippet. Pat straightened out the tippet while I drove her into town. The river travels through lots of private property between Hanna and Tabiona but there are some access points near a few bridges. The water became much more discolored towards Tabiona due to the previous nights storm that muddied up several feeder streams. The water flow dropped very significantly for irrigating needs also, but there is plenty of fishable water above the towns to occupy one's interests all summer.
I had hooked fish on every stretch of river we fished, on dries, with or without a hatch or rising fish, so I felt pretty good about using this trip as an introduction to flyfishing for Pat.
She had several rises but had yet to hook a fish so I was hoping for similar action on Currant Creek or the Strawberry River as we completed our loop. We joined up with hwy. 40 just east of Fruitland. We headed for the Strawberry River at the Pinnacles turnoff just a few rniles to the west. The Nature Conservancy just purchased several miles of stream access in this area that was previously closed to fishing. Red Creek was flowing red and muddy due to the previous day's storms so we figured the Strawberry might be better below the dam, and since we got lost anyway, gave up on this area and headed for Current Creek. Utah Fishing needs to come up with a map on how to get to the Conservancy area, and we will.
Current Creek was also a little murky, and since Pat was thinking she would have to find a lake to catch a fish, I had to do some quick talking to sell her on the Strawberry River below the dam. She was being a great sport but I was catching all the fish on flies and she did bring a spinning rod and salmon eggs. But since the area I had in mind was a great spot for lunch, she agreed to give it a try, especially since Strawberry Res. was right there if needed. The spot below the dam was just as pretty as I remembered it. I had fished it a couple of years ago (see Utah Fishing, Vol. I no. 10). The water was very clear and cold. We soon found a seam where a few brookies were popping the surface. Pat's casting had improved in just a short time. Now she could aim her fly, control drag and watch for backcast problems with the trees and willows that were more abundant here. The stream is too small to wade.
I directed her cast between two rocks and wham, she had her fast fish, a nice little brookie. I didn't know whether to kiss her or shake her hand, so I kissed her hand and gave her a hug. I've been able to catch lots of nice fish this year but I think that was my favorite for it helps insure I'll have fishing partner for the future, if I can just find more bathrooms!!
On the way to our home in Utah County we drove down through Provo Canyon. It was toward evening by now and if we hadn't had a commitment that evening we could have fished the lower Provo on our way home. The hatch must have been good because there were 40 to 50 cars parked along my favorite stretches. I couldn't help but think of how lucky we are to live here. The scenery on the loop was truly magnificent and so varied, and so close to home yet far away. And with all the great fishing we had seen only one other fisherman the whole trip.
U-35 begins at the Hailstone Junction just north of Heber and proceeds past Francis and Woodland up over the southwest slope of the Uinta Mts. into the Uinta Basin. One can complete the loop by taking Hwy. 40 back into Heber. Several major fisheries are encountered in less than 150 miles from Salt Lake. Others not mentioned: Mill Hollow, Rock Creek, Grandaddy Basin and many small creeks too numerous to mention, with numerous camping options, and several other reservoirs a few miles from or within the loop.