Generally when you think of fishing in alpine country, you imagine feisty little trout aggressively rising to whatever dry is reasonably presented, whether it be in crystal clear lakes, or meandering meadow streams. Escaping to the high mountains has always been one of our favorite things to do in the summer, and this type of fishing is always a blast. Here in Northern Utah we're blessed with easy access to the Uintas, which house over 1000 lakes, more than 500 of which have sport fish populations., along with over 400 miles of streams. You could easily spend a lifetime exploring and fishing these mountains, and along the way I'm sure you'd stumble upon a few good secrets. Another cool thing about fishing the Uintas is the access to species that you generally don't find lower down: plentiful native Cutthroat, Arctic Grayling, and of course, Brook Trout! After some close calls with some ridiculous Brookies this fall, we were pretty keen to get back up to the mountains and continue our pursuit of behemoth Brooks. So far this spring/summer our persistence has been rewarded and we've stumbled upon some other pretty cool secrets along the way.
Early Spring research led to late Spring/ early Summer trips to the mountains. The first destination was a lake known primarily for its Grayling, but that reportedly also has some solid Brook Trout if you can find them. We arrived and eagerly began fishing to Grayling, whose rises were dimpling the otherwise glass smooth water surface. The fish ranged in size from about 6 to 14 inches, and each time we brought one in I was amazed at the iridescent colors on their fins and flanks. After I'd had my fill, I decided it was time to try and target any Brookies that might be around. Stripping buggers had brought a few to reveal themselves, but none had committed to the take yet, so I put on a longish leader, a pair of nymphs, and a split shot. I cast out to some deeper pockets and began slowly retrieving. After surprisingly few casts, my line went tight and I set. A strong fish immediately bull-dogged toward the middle of the lake. After a couple of runs, a set of red fins broke the surface as the fish splashed toward shore, and I brought to hand a nice, plump and colorful Brook Trout. We continued fishing the lake for some time and picked up a few more Brookies, but the first was the fish of the day. We ended up continuing on to explore a nearby stream connected to the lake, and found it stacked with Grayling, likely staging to spawn. Luckily they weren't too preoccupied to rise readily to a dry, and we had fun catching a few more quality Grayling. It was definitely exciting and a sight to see.
The next destination was a lake with a wild Cutthroat population along with a few Brookies. I was pretty excited to check this spot out since I figured that our timing would align with the Cutty spawn. The lake has two inlets, both of which provide good spawning habitat. First, I checked out the smaller of the two, and as I suspected found it filled with Cutts getting ready to do their thing. They weren't however in full spawn mode yet and were SUPER spooky. A single movement from the bank sent them booking for cover under the numerous cut banks in the meadow grass. After initially spooking the majority of the fish, I patiently settled in and waited for them to return. When they did I was able catch a few small fish, who would race to take a fly before the larger fish I was actually casting at could. After catching a few of these little guys I finally got a perfect drift right in front of the larger fish and watched him casually eat. I love sight fishing, and it was so fun to watch each fish eat my fly in the crystal clear water. The next day we went over and checked out the other inlet. It happened to be one of the most incredible things I have ever seen. From 100 yards above the stream on the hillside I could already see constant splashing as fish thrashed around in shallow water. As we approached it became apparent that these fish were in the zone, and weren't nearly as spooky as the fish in the other stream. There were more Cutthroat packed into a smaller reach of stream than I had ever seen in my life. They were relentlessly chasing each other around, and were pretty entertaining to watch. After walking up and down the stream and admiring the scene I couldn't resist casting to some of the larger fish, and they were more than happy to hammer my fly, often turning and chasing it down in their aggression. It was also pretty easy to spot the white fin edges of a hand full of Brook Trout hanging out in the middle of the Cutts preparing themselves for an egg feast. After catching a few nice Cutts, I began casting to these brookies, and was able to stick a pair of them, both of which were thick and healthy. We were quickly satisfied, and already starting to feel a bit gluttonous, so we put our gear away, and watched as the fish returned to their positions and began to chase each other around again.
Our final destination was a high risk, high reward type of lake. The hike was steep and strenuous, and from what we'd heard, fish numbers aren't super high, but quality is. After we arrived and set up camp we began walking the shore and fishing...for hours...without success. We frustratedly watched as massive swirls broke the surface out near the middle of the lake beyond our casting range. It seemed that with the warming weather, the fish had retreated to the deeper parts of the lakes. In our first day, fishing all day, Josh managed one fish. But the second day we awoke refreshed and ready to seek redemption. Finally, after exploring the parts of the lake that we hadn't, we found a part of the shore where it was possible to wade out to a shelf that dropped quickly off to deeper water. As soon as we found this spot, drifting and slowly twitching a streamer in the deeper water quickly began to produce fish. And I mean FISH!! Having never caught a Brookie of this magnitude, I had no idea how strong a fish of this size could be. Rather than describe the details, I'll let a few pictures do the talking.
Though these fish undoubtedly left me satisfied. But anyone who spends time in the high country, and discovers its secrets knows that the second you're home, you're already thinking about going back. Good thing we have all summer!
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