General Fly Fishing Info – Hatches
The fishing in Capitol Reef is something of an anomaly. To the casual observer, familiar with other high-desert locations, there would seem to be little in the way of fishing here. Fortunately, we are quite lucky to have several mountains in the region over 10,000 feet in elevation. The Boulder Mountains, Fish Lake National Forest, and Thousand Lakes provide cool, clear creeks and lakes, borne of the late mountain snow provide ample run-off year round to sustain a number of fisheries.
These incredible high mountain lakes coupled with off-the-beaten-path small stream fishing for trophy trout makes Southern Utah a fly-fishing destination that you must experience. Capitol Reef Backcountry Outfitters has been fishing these waters for years and would love to show you some of our favorite spots. Regardless of age or ability level, we have secret fly fishing locations to meet the demands of any fisherman.
The Boulder Mountains are also home to the state Brook Trout (7 lb 8 oz) and Tiger Trout (10 lb 12 oz)
Fish Lake is home to the state record Splake Trout (17 lb 4 oz).
One of the many things that make this area a destination for anglers is that there are several species of trout in Utah, and it is not uncommon them to catch up to five different species in a day!
Aquatic Insect Hatches
Blue Winged Olives (BWO)
Drunella lata this species is best known for the summer morning action it creates or after a good rain in the afternoon when the sun comes back out. It is prolific but the emergence is often sporadic and sparse, which means it is often upstaged by blizzards of tiny Tricos mayflies and other more concentrated hatches.
Pale Morning Dun (PMD)
Ephemerella Dorothea This is one of the most challenging mayfly hatches on waters across the country. Ephemerella Dorothea infrequens (formerly Ephemerella infrequens) is one of the two main Pale Morning Dun hatches of the West. The Western subspecies: Entomologists sometimes further divide a species into distinct groups called subspecies, which have two lower-case words on the end of their scientific name instead of one. The latter is the sub-species name. For example, Maccaffertium mexicanum and Maccaffertium mexicanum integrum are two different subspecies of Maccaffertium mexicanum) Is more difficult to predict because of the higher local variation in climate. Hatches generally occur in July or August, but Caucci and Nastasi note in Hatches II that they can extend into October on stable spring creeks. Despite the wide range of emergence dates, this hatch is usually prevalent on a given stretch of water for less than a week. Fred Arbona writes in Mayflies, the Angler, and the Trout that they may appear during the last few weeks of June.
Tricorythodes hatches here are unbelievable and will occur anytime between July and September. They can occur on many freestone streams but they are most prevalent on spring creeks. The key is that it must be warm and there needs to be plenty of vegetation nearby. Tricos are very tiny. Your trico imitation should be between a size 20 and 26. The biggest challenge in fishing the trico hatch is that this hatch is usually pretty dense. With all those tricos on the stream, it can be quite a challenge to not only see your imitation on the water but also to get it exactly into the feeding lane of your targeted trout. You will undoubtedly need perfect placement and also timing as trout feeding on tricos can be quite selective since they are so plentiful and usually will not travel far from their feeding lanes. If you’ve never fished a Trico hatch, you don’t know what you’re missing!
Chironomidae Midges are the most important aquatic insects in some places, especially fertile spring creeks where they are extremely abundant and the current is so slow that it’s efficient for trout to surface feed on very tiny insects.
Some midges are large, up to hook size 14, but the majority is a size 22 or smaller. The number of genera and species is hopelessly huge for angler entomologists to ever learn, and the identifying characteristics often require slide-mounting tiny parts under high-powered microscopes. Even the most Latin-minded fisherman must slip back to the basics–size and color–to describe his local midge hatches. Midges rise to the surface as pupae and struggle slowly through the surface film while the pupa’s body dangles vertically below. This is the most common stage for trout to take, though the adults may be useful at times too.
Midge pupae account for much of the mystifying midsummer spring creek action on evenings when no bugs seem to be in the air or on the water, yet trout are rising everywhere and ignoring one’s flies. Recognizing a midge hatch is far from a guarantee of fish, however. Suitable imitation is not easy. Despite the tiny size of midges, trout can be very selective to their size and color. Remember that a difference of a single hook size in the tiny sizes is a very large percentage difference and very noticeable by the trout. Netting some of the real insects before choosing a fly is surely a good idea, but it’s easier said than done.
Trichoptera In many species, the pupae become very active just before emergence and drift along the bottom of the river, sometimes for hours. It is a deep nymph fisherman’s dream. Sometimes they drift similarly just below the surface for a long time before trying to break through. Most caddis pupae are good swimmers, and they use their legs as paddles rather than wiggling their bodies to move. When they hatch they skate across the surface so the most productive way to fish them is to throw across or down stream and skate your fly back. The takes are usually violent and tons of fun!
The best Stoneflies for the angler are the gigantic Pteronarcys californica “Salmonflies” of western legend.
Stonefly adults are usually only important when laying their eggs after mating. Some drop their eggs from above the water but many either flutter along the surface or land on the water and create a commotion capable of drawing savage strikes from large trout during midday. They are one reason for the success of the Stimulator dry fly in large sizes.
Although there are also plenty of small species, most of the largest insects in Southern Utah’s trout streams are likely to be stonefly nymphs Arcynopteryx. They are poor swimmers, so they occasionally slip into the drift.
Behavioral drift: The nymphs and larvae of many aquatic insects sometimes release their grip on the bottom and drift downstream for a while with synchronized timing. This phenomenon increases their vulnerability to trout just like emergence, but it is invisible to the angler above the surface. In many species it occurs daily, most often just after dusk or just before dawn, they are prime targets for trout. This makes stonefly nymph imitations popular and successful searching patterns.
Searching pattern: Any artificial fly pattern used when trout that aren’t feeding selectively on anything in particular. A searching pattern may be an attractor or an imitation of something specific that the fish might favor even though it’s not currently hatching.) during non-hatch periods. When the emergence of an especially abundant species is near, its nymphs may be so active and concentrated that trout feed on them selectively near the emergence sites. This is more common in the West where the cool, swift rivers draining the Rockies hold remarkable stonefly populations.
These imitations provide outstanding fishing in many situations, even when the fish have not seen real hoppers. Their large, low-floating, buggy bodies have a universal appeal which makes them excellent searching patterns (Searching pattern: Any artificial fly pattern used when trout that aren’t feeding selectively on anything in particular. A searching pattern may be an attractor or an imitation of something specific that the fish might favor even though it’s not currently hatching.). Their buoyancy also makes them handy for the trick of using a large dry fly as an indicator for a nymph tied to its hook shank below.
Formicidae are one of the best-known terrestrial (Terrestrial: Insects which live on land and are fed on by trout only when they incidentally fall into the water are known as “terrestrials” to fly anglers, and they’re very (important in late summer.) food sources for trout. Wingless ants often stumble by accident into the water, making them a very common “occasional” item on the trout’s menu. Imitations of these unlucky critters make excellent searching patterns.
Searching pattern: Any artificial fly pattern used when trout that aren’t feeding selectively on anything in particular. A searching pattern may be an attractor or an imitation of something specific that the fish might favor even though it’s not currently hatching. (in mid to late summer)
The real fun with ants, however, comes from the mating swarms of winged species. They are spotty and hard to predict, but when they happen to fall over the water they can draw more trout activity than all but the best hatches of huge mayflies.
Acrididae are the most exciting terrestrial (Terrestrial: Insects which live on land and are fed on by trout only when they incidentally fall into the water are known as “terrestrials” to fly anglers, and they’re very important in late summer.) insects for the trout angler. Sometimes on hot summer days large trout lie along the banks waiting for them. Trout may rise to hopper flies at any time of year, but they are best on meadow streams in late August when the fish actually are on the lookout for them, however trout have a hard time resisting hoppers even in the spring and mid-summer months. Grasshopper imitations should not settle on the water with the gentle, dainty touch of a high-floating mayfly pattern. The proper hopper fisherman takes pride in the splat his fly makes as it touches down.
Three lessons valuable in fishing them: the gentle twitch of the fly, bouncing the fly off bankside grass, and dapping or swimming the fly on a short line. All of these tricks are suggest of the natural in the water
The easiest way to catch a big fish on a fly is on a streamer, a wet fly that imitates a small baitfish that larger fish feed on. If you can cast 20 feet, you can catch fish in streams and rivers on a streamer. You can even strip line off the reel and into the water and let the fly drift in the current and catch fish. The line swims the fly, making it look like a swimming baitfish.
Cast a streamer such as a Woolly Bugger into moving water and you can expect a strike from a hungry fish. To improve the action, attach a split-shot to the leader just ahead of the fly and give the rod tip a bounce now and then as the streamer drifts downstream. The bounce of the tip causes the fly to jig up and down like a wounded minnow, and all gamefish are hunters for wounded baitfish.