The magic of autumn in Utah
Fast fishing, lively scenery and watchable wildlife galore
LAST WEEK, I finally got a chance to take advantage of some warm fall weather. I called a friend and asked him to join me for a late-season fall fishing trip. Ed, a recently retired fisheries biologist, simply asked, “What time?”
We didn’t our fishing jaunt until early afternoon, so we decided to stay close to home and launched the boat on Steinaker Reservoir. It was sunny and wind-free; the fall colors were present and we had the reservoir all to ourselves.
On the way out, Ed told me about a big brown trout he missed a couple weeks earlier, so of course, we geared up to catch some big browns. Over the last few years, Ed and I had been comparing notes and learned that early spring and late fall were by far the best times to fish for browns.
My largest brown from Steinaker to date was about three pounds, while Ed has landed several in the five-pound range. He said that the one he’d recently missed (because his net was too small) was over eight pounds.
I tend to accept his estimates, as he has spent the last 26 years weighing and measuring fish and this was one of his waters.
Our gear was simple: Ed used crankbaits in perch colors while I started with a purple one. He immediately started catching 15- to18-inch rainbows while my deeper diving lure caught moss.
As I traded out lures, we noticed a boat launching. It looked familiar and we soon realized a Division employee was joining us on the reservoir. Garn, another fisheries biologist who knows to fish during late fall, was also hoping to find Ed’s lost brown trout.
While I tried out two more lures in perch and silver colors, Ed retained his starter. We all caught fish.
Garn eventually landed the only brown trout of the day — an 18-incher — while Ed and I played with the rainbows. We didn’t stay out on the water for long — the early November weather got pretty chilly.
The sun was still shining as we drove home, but no regrets. In the couple of hours we were out, it was rare we went more than a few minutes without a strike or “fish on.”
Buoyed by that incredible day of fishing, I asked my wife if she’d like to spend the next day fishing, raking leaves or enjoying a drive on Diamond Mountain. She chose Diamond Mountain knowing that a “drive” with me usually means photographing wildlife, which translates to getting up early to be on location for the sunrise.
Of the three in the truck, only Taffy, my dog, was fully awake and alert when the sun greeted us the next day. As we drove the Diamond Rim, we could see deer, but they were pretty far away. It wasn’t long before I figured out why they weren’t as close to the roads as I would have liked.
I was expecting we’d have the mountain mostly to ourselves since the general season hunts concluded, but I forgot about all of the other activities: antlerless elk, bear, cougar and upland game hunts; fishing; trapping and wildlife watching all brought wildlife enthusiasts to the Mountain at sunrise.
The day was gorgeous, the weather was great, the scenery was interesting and colorful and there were plenty of deer for us to watch through binoculars. Fortunately, it’s a big area and we were able to find some wildlife close enough to photograph.
We decided to head through Crouse Canyon and Browns Park where we were visited by plenty of ravens, magpies, hawks, ducks and geese.
It was early afternoon when we stopped at Jarvies Ranch in Browns Park. The Ranch is a historical site managed by the BLM along the Green River. As I was filling Taffy’s water bottles, I remembered I tossed two rods from my Steinaker trip into the back of the truck.
One rod was equipped with a gold castmaster, the other with the deep-diving silver crankbait. The river in this area is fairly shallow but I tried the silver lure anyway.
I had a couple of strikes on the first cast before catching moss. My second and third casts must have landed in the moss beds. The fourth cast found some deeper water and I soon had a fish on.
Taffy immediately jumped into the water to offer assistance. After a bit of confusion and a lot of splashing, I released an 18-inch brown.
I took Taffy while my wife picked up the pole with the castmaster. She landed a 14-inch brown on her first cast. We fished for roughly 45 minutes and landed six brown trout.
While we were there, we saw two others interested in the fish of the Green: a pair of bald eagles. We stopped to watch the two birds, both adults, fly up river.
Hunger called so we made our way out of Browns Park through Clay Basin. After stopping several times to watch herds of deer and pronghorns, we bought hamburgers from the grill in Dutch John then took our picnic to an overlook of Flaming Gorge Reservoir.
The water was like glass, except for some odd patterns, like waves breaking over a reef — a reef that shouldn’t be in one of the deepest parts to the Reservoir. Binoculars revealed that it was several small flocks of ducks swimming in loose circles.
The sun was getting low as we left the Gorge for the drive home. On the way, we saw more deer and a cow elk standing along the edge of the forest. As we dropped down into the Ashley Valley, we caught the sunset over Red Fleet and reflections of bright orange clouds on the waters of Steinaker.
It was the perfect fall day, complete with great company, excellent scenery, wildlife watching, fishing and photography.