Wildlife News

Beat the heat, fish the high country

There's a lot to do in the Uinta Mountains this time of year.

UINTA MOUNTAINS — Mid to late August is a great time to be in the high country. The valleys might still be 95 degrees or hotter, but the high country is starting to cool down. And that means fishing in the high country is starting to heat up.

Wildflowers are in bloom in the Uintas

Wildflowers are in bloom in the Uintas.

Photo by Ron Stewart

Mid to late August is also a great time to view wildlife. Young animals are now big enough to follow their parents. Everything from chipmunks to moose calves are willing to put on a show.

Fortunately, in August, mountains that offer several ways to beat the heat are just a short drive away. It doesn't matter what your excuse is: Fishing, wildlife watching, scenic driving, photography or scouting for a fall hunt, August is simply a great time to be up high where it's cooler.

The Uinta Mountains in northern and northeastern Utah are among the many mountain ranges in Utah that offer plenty of chances to "multitask."

The best time to view wildlife is early in the morning and in the evening, which are also the times of day when the light is best for wildlife and scenic photography. Pull out the camera and binoculars, and start to explore. And don't forget your fishing rod — after you get that perfect shot of the sun lighting up the mountains, elk calves playing in the meadow or that big bull moose, it's time to sample the fish.

"With more than 400 managed fisheries on the south slope of the Uintas, finding a place to fish is relatively simple," says Ron Stewart, conservation outreach manager for the Division of Wildlife Resources. "If the fish aren't biting at one water, other opportunities are just a short distance away."

Anglers can catch Colorado River cutthroat trout—the only trout native to eastern Utah — or a variety of introduced trout, including browns, brooks, rainbows, tigers and even a few golden trout. Mountain whitefish and grayling can also be found in waters on the south slope.

To catch fish, try using natural bait, or small, shiny lures.

"Unless you find a grasshopper to use," Stewart says, "it's hard to beat a worm when fishing mountain lakes and streams. Worms can be drifted down a stream or dropped into the deeper pools.

"Grasshoppers and most other natural baits, or fly fishing imitations, are usually drifted either on the surface or close to the bottom of the water you're fishing. Using a strike indicator can help you know if a fish is interested in your presentation."

Many fly anglers use a combo package: A large surface fly (such as a grasshopper), woolly bugger or flying ant with a nymph trailer (like a scud, shrimp, midge or egg). This setup supplies its own strike indicator. The larger presentation attracts the fish, and then the fish go after the nymph trailer.

Lures are also an excellent choice when fishing a mountain stream or lake.

"For lures and jigs," Stewart says, "think small and natural, or small and shiny. All too often, an angler will choose a big lure because it casts farther. This might be good when fishing a large reservoir or fishing for bass, but it might not work as well when fishing small mountain lakes and streams."

Stewart says he usually starts with a small spoon while his friend prefers a spinner. "This year, however, a small flatfish has worked better for me because it floats," he says. "The flow in some of the streams hasn't been high enough to keep my spoon off the bottom."

When choosing colors, choose colors that imitate natural bait — for example, a silver or gold flash imitates a small minnow — or go bright. Artificial baits in chartreuse, yellow, fluorescent pink and green work well.

If you're fishing with a lure on a stream or a river, flip the lure out and bring it back close to rocks, undercut banks and through the deepest parts of the pools. Try fishing upstream, downstream and across the current.

If you're fishing a lake or pond, try casting straight out, as well as along the shoreline. Sometimes, the fish are in just a few feet of water. If you can see underwater structures or a drop off, flip the lure so it either crosses or follows the outline of the structure or drop off.

Stewart suggests changing locations frequently. He also says you should alternate lures if your presentation doesn't seem to be working. Keep in mind that if the fish aren't biting, there's another lake or stream nearby. And if the fishing gets too slow, you can always grab your camera and photograph the wildflowers on the mountain.

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