You know that one stretch of stream, river, or lake that you know super well? The one that you could outfish anyone on, the one that you know all of the smallest seams as well as you know the biggest runs and pools. You may be acquaintances with a few of the local trout, even have it out for that one huge boy who has broken you off one time too many. Your own home water is somewhere that every fisherman needs, if you don’t have one, you should get one. My home water is an overlooked section of the Provo River in the city of Provo. It may not be too pretty, but it’s mine. I know that section better than I know many of my friends, it’s somewhere that I can go and just find peace. It’s always there, never the same, but it’s still the same water you’ve always known.
My home water seems to change every few months, for most of the year it’s a trout fishery with a few whitefish. But with the largest freshwater lake in Utah only a few miles downstream, you get some migratory fish that come up to spawn. One word to describe it is random, some years tons of white bass swim up, some years tons of carp, others, tons of June Sucker. You can never really predict the time of year they’ll come up. My section can really surprise you! One such time was when there was one long month of crazy runoff, it being a tailwater, they let runoff go all at the same time. It also being an urban fishery, there’s a ton of crazy stuff both seen and unseen floating by. Literally overnight the water level goes up 2 feet, vertically! Then fishing gets super hard, but she can throw a surprise in for you at any time.
It was about a week or two into hard runoff, I was fishing with Spencer Higa, the famed guide from Utah. I had no confidence whatsoever that I was going to catch anything. About 20 minutes in I set the hook and had something tear upstream nearly taking me into my backing. The water was super murky, so I had no idea what it was, only that it was huge! It got off, but then a few minutes later I again set the hook, this time on a 9 inch brownie. Again a few minutes later I set the hook, this time something huge tore upstream, he would tear upstream, go towards the middle and use the heavy current to swing downstream, about five minutes later I found myself barely holding on in the middle of the river in 3 ½’ of heavy current trying to net the fish, I saw him and realized it was the endangered June sucker. I sunk the net under him and realized that I was in the middle of the river and had to get to the other side. I struggled over to the bank, took out my rainbow warrior. Snapped a few pictures and released the fish. That is one of the reasons I love the Provo. Just when you need something to boost your confidence, it comes along and throws in a little surprise for you. That day I had a few more on, not landed, but just to have that boosted my moral through dreaded runoff. The June Sucker typically stay till the beginning of June, and as fast as they arrive, they leave. I was gone for 5 days for vacation, when I left, the river was thick in them, when I came back, and there was none to be found.
In late June, I had another surprise thrown at me. It was an amazing day of fishing, I took my cousin out to learn the art of fly fishing. It was later in the afternoon, when I made a cast in a slower seam when my indicator stopped. I set the hook and felt slow, strong headshakes. It wasn’t too long before I realized, I had a carp on, and it was huge. About 30-40 mins into the fight (I was using my 5 wt. with a trout setup) he started tiring, then he took a mad dash downstream to shallower water. I managed to get ahead of him, and when he was in shallow water, dashing downstream, I furiously put my net just in front of his head. And then after about a 45 minute fight, I had the biggest carp I’d ever seen or caught in my net. The net looked very strained, the same net that fit 18-20” trout without problem could hardly even hold the head of this fish. He was anywhere from 33-38”, I couldn’t really tell. After some pics, he was released to fight another day.
That day was not yet over, we fished on. I then stuck my PB brown at 21 ½”, beating my old PB by half an inch. That was one of the best days I’ve ever had on the water. One of my favorite things about my stretch is the migratory species from Utah Lake, just like my previous stories, they change it up. In a trout water you can get a taste of warm water fly fishing, without going somewhere else. June sucker, carp and white bass are the ones that come up commonly, although I’ve seen yellow perch, bluegill and pike. The white bass and carp come up at roughly the same time.
Last summer after about two months of amazing trout fishing in a slower section I came across a huge school of hundreds of 7-14” white bass. I tied on a black Wooly Bugger, and started catching fish after fish after fish! I fished this school and another smaller one for about two weeks. Then all of a sudden, after catching a few white bass, a giant school of carp came out of nowhere. Then, over the course of a week, the river flooded with them. But that most definitely didn’t make them easy to catch. That year, I caught a total of one carp, they are so smart. This year, I’ve had plenty of luck, catching a few every time I go out. Most of the carp in Utah Lake are common, by my estimates, about 99% with a very small population of Mirror Carp. Out of the thousands, I had the delight of catching a grand total of two mirror carp, both on the fly, both this summer, and both sight fished to. The first thing I do when I see a school of carp is look for any irregular ones, AKA mirror carp. I waded up close enough to see them clearly. Then, I saw it, it was about 23” long and maybe 4-5 lbs. He moved towards the middle of the river, I then made an iffy cast, it landed about 2 feet to the left. I let it drift by, so I didn’t spook him. Then I made another cast, this one perfect, he refused it. Then I made another perfect cast, no hesitation this time, he slurped up my zebra midge, and after a good fight I sunk the net around him. Such satisfaction was felt when I caught my first mirror carp, not the biggest mirror, but it wasn’t the smallest either.
The story of the second is a story of revenge. I waded up to a shallower section where a pod of carp would probably be. After about a minute I saw him. Fully scaled, lighter than the other carp, and slightly bigger, about 8-10 lbs. I made a few perfect casts, getting refusal after refusal, I even switched up my two fly rig. Even that didn’t do the trick. Then he spooked, bolting away after realizing what is going on. I came back the next day, and there he was. Two perfect casts later I had a big mirror on, he fought hard. Harder than most other carp, and I didn’t want to take any risks, it being a mirror and it being so rare. I let him fight, and was rewarded when he finally came to the net. After a few pictures he was released, the victory was made so much sweeter by the fact that this fish got away from me once, but it didn’t happen again. Home water is not just a stretch of water that you fish and know well, its part of who you are. It attaches itself to your heart, mind and soul. It’s not monotone fishery, it’s a personality, one we all need in our lives. I have mine, do you have yours?