I have to admit 2016 was a great year for me and trout on the fly. I wasted no time catching my first trout on New Years of 2016, a little Bonneville Cutthroat through a gap in a lake covered with ice. I caught nearly every trout species Utah has to offer and fished the majority of every day the year had to offer. I want to mention a few catches that stood out to me and always will. These trout were by no means the largest of the year but their location, difficulty, colors, or memory made an impact on me that I will never forget.
Lets start with one of my favorite trout of all times. This particular day I hiked to four different lakes with my fly rod, a bottle of water, a banana, my tripod and camera, and at least three boxes of flies. The first two lakes were slow, I caught some small brookies and tigers but I was on my way to the next lake that required one wild hike. With no trail from the direction I was coming, it involved wandering around the pines for a while, climbing around boulder fields for way too much time, and walking through lots of patches of stinging nettle while wearing sandals. Slightly exhausted, I finally reached the lake and peaked through the pines. I instantly saw a fish hitting the top on a dry fly feeding frenzy about 20 feet off shore. Having no idea what it was but knowing it was hungry I got very excited and was definitely started shaking as I rushed like crazy to take my four piece fly rod out of the case and put together. Knowing that time might run out for that trout to be hitting the top just off shore I quickly looked at the water and decided a size 20 Adams dry fly was going to do the trick. Sure enough second cast I got a hit.. brought him in and was absolutely in love with this trout. It was a Splake, but its dark almost black coloration, mean looking mouth, and very defined hump on its back made it so special to me. This is definitely one of my favorite trout of all time mainly because of the hard work I put into getting to that spot and the beauty of the location and the fish.
Next, I have to mention this beautiful Colorado Cutthroat that proves persistence is key. This particular lake has always been tricky for me to catch a fish. These cutthroat are tight lipped, and have an endless supply of bugs to feed on and I have always had a hard time getting one to take my fly. I have been skunked here many times, and I hate to admit that because it doesn’t happen very often for me.. but this lake is different. I’ve seen 6-8 pound cutthroat swimming around in there and I’ve literally had dreams of catching them, more than once. This particular day I hiked in around 6 am this past July and it was pouring rain. There were bugs everywhere, the sky was overcast, the rain stopped at first light and I was really hoping I’d catch one of those cutties from my dreams. I walked around the perimeter of the lake twice before I saw any action. There was a single fish hitting the top dead center in the lake, farther away then even my best cast could ever reach. Being that my legs were torn up from these little devils, I tied on a size 18 mosquito on 3X. I casted literally 100 times, and I was always a foot or two away from the lane that the fish was feeding off the top. It was cold, I was near 10,000 feet of elevation, and I wanted that fish. So I finally gave in, stumbled around rocks and walked as far into the lake as I could before it dropped off. I didn’t hike in with waders and I was wearing long pants. I casted about 10 more times with all the force in my body to get that fly in that Cutt’s face. Finally, I did. Placed it 6 inches in front of his feeding lane and sure enough I got the hit. Set the hook, saw the beautiful red belly on him and nearly had a heart attack bringing him in hoping something awful wouldn’t happen because I wanted him so bad. Got him in, and am still blown away by his colors, as well as all the detail on his fins and tail. I love this trout, and I’ve caught fish at this lake since but this one will always be my favorite because of the losing streak I was on with these trout, and how going on a quick swim into the lake made everything come together.
This next fish changed my luck on what started out to be a very bad day. It was early July, and I hiked in to check a trial camera that I set up for my deer hunt, as well as fly fish some nearby lakes. I checked my trail cams and was having some serious malfunctions with my SD cards, thinking that they didn’t get any pictures for the past month. Later in the week I realized the format was just not compatible with my SD card reader and I was able to recover a lot of pictures off the trail cam. Thinking I had nothing to show for that month of having the camera up I was pretty bummed. I hiked to a lake and fished for a while. Caught some decent tigers and then watched this chunky tiger take my zebra midge from under a log that I was fishing on. I brought it in, took some pics of it, and went to release it off the same log I was standing on when I caught it. I had my camera around my neck hoping to get a video of the release. I stepped on a mossy part of the log and fell directly into the lake. I had the tiger in one had and my camera in the other, somehow I kept both safe and in my hands. It was a miracle, I looked down and the water was well past my waste and my camera was hanging about 3 inches above the water level that I fell into. I climbed back onto the log, released the tiger trout, and also by some miracle still got my release video. It was a very weird day filled with what seemed like bad luck until I caught this plump tiger trout. Oh, and I even got stung by a bee on my way out. Never a dull moment fly fishing in the backcountry.
Alright so lets talk about 2017. I’ve already caught one of my favorite fish of all times, this large and healthy winter Brookie on an olive wooly bugger. This lake was 90% covered in ice but casting a wooly bugger and stripping it in-between the ice layer and open water section proved to be successful.
This Brook Trout is pretty large and rare for this lake, at least in my experience. There are mostly rainbows here, so this was the greatest surprise. Some of my goals for 2017 include targeting bonefish on the fly, tarpon, as well as maybe some smaller sharks on the flats in the Florida Keys. I also really have some Arctic Char on my mind, I’m going to do my best to travel somewhere to get one this year. Besides that I plan on fishing and guiding all summer here in Utah and hopefully catch a lot more chubby trout on the fly.
Thanks for reading,