Much of the lower stream is on private land, so ask for permission before fishing on any private land. The river can be divided into several distinct sections:
(1) The section upstream from Mill Meadow Reservoir contains an excellent population of wild brown trout. Splake, tiger, and rainbow trout are stocked in Mill Meadow and Forsyth reservoirs and can enter the river from the reservoirs. An occasional brook trout can also turn up. There are about 3.5 miles of fish-able water in this area on Forest Service land, upstream to Mamoit Spring. Above the spring the stream is much smaller and becomes de-watered directly below Johnson Reservoir in the winter when the outlet gates on the dam are shut. Most of the resident trout are under 15 inches, but some much larger fall spawning brown trout can move upstream out of Mill Meadow Reservoir. Also, the stream can be turbid in late summer when water is being released from Johnson Reservoir, but clears up at the end of the irrigation season.
(2) The river is completely de-watered below Mill Meadow Reservoir downstream to the Bicknell Bottoms. Numerous springs provide perennial flows in the Bicknell Bottoms, where State Wildlife Resources property includes the Kay E Bullock Waterfowl Management Area. Because of the springs, this area is a cold water marsh with some decent trout habitat in some areas. Fishing is allowed in the Waterfowl Management Area, but hiking through much of the marsh can be treacherous because of soft mud and dense cattails. Although there are some good-sized trout, the Bicknell Bottoms is not a typical trout stream and it is difficult to fish.
(3) Downstream from the Bicknell Bottoms the river enters a canyon and flows for about eight miles on private land from the Old Mill to the town of Torrey. The river contains decent numbers of rainbow and brown trout but permission must be obtained before fishing. Fishing guides and a local private ranch have provided services for fishermen.
(4) Further downstream, river access is available south of Torrey on SR 12. Here, the river can be fished downstream in a roadless canyon for about nine miles into Capitol Reef National Park. About two-thirds of this section is within the National Park. The river is often turbid, but can be excellent fishing when clear. The trout population can change from year to year depending on flash floods, but some big brown trout have been taken from this part of the river. Because of declining water quality, the trout population comes to an end at the confluence with Sulphur Creek near the park visitor center.
Fishing any of these areas can be good with natural baits, lures and flies. Prepared baits work well for rainbow trout, but are not recommended for use in most of the river because of the predominance of brown trout. Other nearby fisheries include Fish Lake, Johnson Reservoir, Mill Meadow Reservoir, Forsyth Reservoir, Sevenmile Creek, UM Creek, Pine Creek, Thousand Lake Mountain and Boulder Mountain.
Latest fishing report
The Quiet Fly Fisher fly shop reports good success with hare's ear nymphs. Call the shop at 435-616-2319 for up-to-date conditions and fishing reports. (Last update 02-07-18)
- Location: Wayne and Sevier counties
- Directions: On SR-24, drive 55 miles southeast of Richfield to Loa and Bicknell, then take side roads to the river
- Type: Rivers
- Size: Over 20 miles of stream
- Elevation: 5,400 to 8,000 feet
- Hours: No restrictions
- Likely catch: Brown Trout, Rainbow Trout
- Possible catch: Brook Trout, Cutthroat Trout, Splake, Tiger Trout
- Regulations: To see what statewide or special regulations apply to this waterbody, please read the current Fishing Guidebook.
- Site amenities: There are Forest Service campgrounds near Johnson Reservoir and Fish Lake. Lodges and stores at Fish Lake, and other services in towns of Loa, Bicknell and Torrey
- Handicap access: