Utah is world famous for its skiing and snowboarding, but less attention is paid to the other activities fed by the winter’s bounty. Each year The Greatest Snow on Earth melts, and that runoff feeds some of the best rivers and lakes for fly fishing you’ll find anywhere in the country.
Part of what makes fly fishing in Utah so special is variety. The distinct climate and geologic features around the state make for an incredible diversity of fisheries and experiences. Whether you’re in search of the solitude that comes fishing deep in the high alpine or just are just looking for a roadside spot to sneak in a few casts after work, you’ll find what you’re looking for in Utah.
Here are five of our favorite spots to go fly fishing in Utah. No matter the time of year, the fish are biting somewhere. As always, local fly shops are your best resource for insider knowledge and tips to help you reel in the most fish. We’ll see you on the water.
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The Provo and Weber Rivers originate in the Uinta Mountains just a few feet apart before separating and picking up different feeder creeks as they work their way towards Utah Lake and the Great Salt Lake respectively. Despite their similar origins, the two rivers have distinct characteristics and each offers up a great variety from fast-moving mountain streams to roadside fishing right near Salt Lake City and Provo.
The Provo River is renowned for its consistency and offers great fishing in places along its length 365 days a year. The upper Provo’s fast-moving water along the Mirror Lake Highway only sees about half the number of the anglers as downstream areas, while the lower Provo has top-notch fishing in a more urban setting and is floatable. The lower section’s proximity to population centers does mean it can get quite busy from time to time. Sundance Mountain Outfitters through Sundance Mountain Resort offer guided fly fishing and lessons.
The Weber can be somewhat less consistent than the Provo owing to farming irrigation along its path, but that doesn’t mean you won’t find amazing fishing. The upper Weber above Rockport Reservoir has deep pools full of brook, brown, rainbow and cutthroat trout, while the tailwaters below meander through the pastures of Wanship and Coalville. The lower Weber has comparatively fewer fish but is the spot to be when hunting huge, trophy-worthy brown trout.
What makes the Fremont River such a unique place to go fly fishing? It’s a trout river in the middle of the desert. The Fish Lake Plateau is just a few miles north of the sandstone domes and arches of Capitol Reef National Park, which makes for some truly stunning scenery.
The Fremont is home to a tailwater fishery below the Johnson Valley Reservoir that runs eight miles down to the Mill Meadow Reservoir. Among the deep pools and shaded river bends along that section, anglers can catch not only typical cutthroat and brook trout, but also the occasional tiger muskie. Below the Mill Meadow Reservoir between Bicknell Bottoms and the town of Torrey, nutrient-rich spring water cools the river and makes for prime big fish hunting.
Sometimes a big effort yields a big reward. Fishing Red Castle Lake certainly fits that description. It’s a solid 13-mile hike to reach upper Red Castle Lake, but those who are willing to put in the steps are rewarded to views of towering red rock pillars overlooking a vibrantly colored glacial lake at 11,300 feet in the High Uinta Wilderness Area.
Obviously, with such an arduous approach you’re adding an element of backpacking to your fly fishing, which has its virtues. “You’re unlikely to see anyone else fishing up there, and it’s chock-full of trout” said a veteran fly fisherman I spoke with who fishes Red Castle Lake yearly. “Ice is only off the lake for a few months, and if you hit that window the fish will eat anything. You could tie a pinecone to your line, and they’ll eat it.”
Hyperbolic descriptors of hungry fish aside, the surroundings alone make fishing Red Castle Lake worth the trip. Catching a few fish is the cherry on top.
Mirror Lake is the classic stillwater fishery in the Uinta Mountains. Named for the nearly perfect reflection of the surrounding mountains it provides, Mirror Lake is a gorgeous spot that’s conveniently located just a 45-minute drive from Park City.
While heading up or down the Mirror Lake Highway—UT-150 out of Kamas—you can stop and fish the upper reaches of the Provo River. When you’re ready to fish Mirror Lake, you can fish from the shore, wade in or hop in a kick boat and cruise around for some relaxing fishing in the middle of a gorgeous, natural lake. A path surrounding Mirror lake makes it easy to access from any location you choose.
Mirror Lake is regularly stocked with brook and rainbow trout, so despite the number of people who fish the area there are typically plenty of fish biting.
The Green River has a legendary reputation among fly fishing enthusiasts. With headwaters originating in Wyoming’s Wind River Range, the Green River in Utah flows from below the Flaming Gorge Dam. The cold, controlled flow makes for excellent year-round fishing from a drift boat without significant seasonal fluctuations.
With gin clear water and prolific hatches, the Green River is home to what several experienced anglers describe as the best fly fishing in the state. Section A of the river just below the dam is home to an enormous population of trout and is a big contributor to the Green’s reputation. The 500-foot cliffs looming above certainly don’t hurt. Section B has diverse fishing with deep holes resembling the section above as well as some desert mountain tributaries further down, while section C leaves the canyon and meanders snakes through a high desert plateau.
Hooked and want to know more on the types of fish found in Utah and where to catch them? Click here.