Flashy fish and aspen leaves
A look at why our aquatics program manager loves autumn fly fishing
I LOVE THE fall. It’s a wonderful time of year, often given a bad rap as the harbinger of winter. One must appreciate fall as its own distinct season and not anything else. This is especially true if you live in the Uintah Basin. I often wonder why anyone would want to live in a place so cold, and yet here I am along with my fellow Basinites. I like to think we’re a tough breed, designed for outdoor activities.
Many Basinites and Utahns tend to think hunting once the fall rolls around, but I must apologize to my colleagues in the wildlife section and redirect your thoughts to fall fishing.
Water temperatures are dropping after a long, hot summer and species like trout are easier to catch and release. Not that I wholeheartedly advocate catch and release; however, if you choose to practice C&R, the time to do it is anytime but the summer. In addition, brown and brook trout are gearing up for their spawns and beginning to sport amazing coloration. Air temperatures are comfortable, scenery is unparalleled, and while the fishing isn’t always off the hook, it’s almost always better than any alternative activity.
That’s why I called my friend Amy and asked if she’d like to hit the Strawberry River above the Pinnacles. Being an avid fisherwoman, Amy said yes without hesitation and we were on our way. The thing that makes the Strawberry River above the Pinnacles an amazing fishery is all of the habitat. It’s the same thing that makes it so blasted difficult to fish. Do you see how I’m setting you up for the disappointment of slow fishing? Often times it’s difficult to fish the Strawberry, but it’s so worth it. If you have the patience to detangle, unsnag and re-tie your gear, Strawberry is the place for you.
So that’s not the most overwhelmingly positive evaluation of a fishing spot, but those who have fished it know that it’s just true. And based on our electrofishing sampling from 2012, there are some really nice fish stacked into pools and under the pockets of large woody debris. You just have to find those places and then entice the fish with wonderful presentation.
We arrived before any other weekender anglers. That meant that we got to fish the honey hole that we sampled in 2012. It was cold, but not crazy cold, and the weather forecast said it would warm up quite nicely as the day progressed. That’s the great thing about fall. The grass was frosty, but the anticipation of feisty brown trout on the end of my line was more than enough to squash any concerns that my hands might freeze (you know, from catching and releasing all those fish).
Not having hook-and-line fished (we also use the term “fishing” while conducting sampling techniques like electrofishing or gill-netting) the Strawberry before, it took a few patterns to select the one. It was an iridescent caddis nymph with a small weight. Other flies, dry or wet, just weren’t delicious that day. But this one was money. Unfortunately, we weren’t overstocked with them; Amy only had two and we each eventually lost them due to the extravagant amount of fish habitat.
However, we did catch fish — three beautiful brown trout! I know without a doubt that there are bigger (much bigger) fish in that river. They’re all hanging out in that blasted fish habitat that makes it such a great fishery.
Depending on your skill level as an angler, you could catch 26- to 28-inch fish from the Strawberry River; however, those fish don’t grow to that size for nothing. They are very selective and only bite for those seasoned fly fisherman that have the perfect presentation.
Though our fishing jaunt wasn’t as successful as I hoped it would be, the day was amazingly perfect. At one point, the wind picked up and aspen leaves fell in the stream where about a dozen browns came to hang out. It was magical. This trip was a reminder that I need to get out and fly fish more: I could use the practice and the fresh air.
Anglers can fly fish at numerous spots on the Strawberry River and Duchesne River; there are also a number of great streams on the north and slope of the Uintas. For a few suggestions, you can contact the DWR Vernal office at 435-781-WILD.