There is not much fishing in the desert, there is even less trout fishing for that matter. But that dose not mean that it’s non existent, you just have to know where to go and when to go there. If the mountains are tall enough they will hold snow. That snow fills large deep reservoirs, the depths of these reservoirs hide large rainbows. In the spring when the ice sheet leaves the lake the rainbows leave the depths to scour the shallows in search of invertebrates.
When people talk about fly fishing in Utah the conversation is usually directed around Flaming Gorge, the Green River, and the Provo River. For good reason each one of these is a amazing fishery that offer some great fly fishing, but as far as fishing ice-out in Utah I would look below I-70. This amazing high alpine paradise is set in between Capitol Reef National Park to the North, and Bryce Canyon National Park to the South. Stunning aspen groves surround rock formations that have stood longer than the trees. Hidden in all this beauty is a system of lakes and reserviors that most people don’t know exist and fish even less. Especially in early spring when the ice sheet is leaving the lake.
I’m not going to tell you what specific lakes hold the best trout fishing below I-70. I mean what kind of fisherman would I be if I gave away all of my favorite spots. I will tell you if you google great trout fishing below I-70 you’ll find what your looking for. After you’ve found the lake or lakes that you want to fish, Look up the phone number for the lakes marina’s or camping reservations and give them a call and ask if the ice is melting off yet, how much the ice has melted off, and if they have heard any fishing reports. 9 times out of 10 the people who manage these places are locals that will be glad to let you know when the ice will be off and answer any other questions you might have. They may even share a few tips on the areas of those lake that produce better than others.
Now you have found the where and have gotten your in on the when here are some tips that will put a couple of those ice off fatties in your net. The best tip I can give you when it comes to fishing ice off is dress warm. It’s early spring in the high alpine dessert so along with great fishing your also going to have temps in the high thirty’s if your lucky and wind chills of 20 degrees if your luck is more on the average side. So layer up, bring more than one pair of gloves, and a towel. Keeping your hands dry is the key to keeping them warm. This is easier said then done when your having to constantly unhook tubby rainbows that put a good bend in even the stiffest of 6wt’s.
When it comes to catching these fatties my go to flies are going to be purple, black, red, orange, and green marabou leeches, mohair leeches, and wooly buggers sizes 4-16. Attach about 16in of tippet off the bend of your leech or bugger pattern and tie on your favorite scud or midge pattern in size 12-18 for a truly deadly combination. I either suspend my flies 3-8 feet below a strike indicator, or use a clear intermediate line and crawl my flies across the bottom. If your feeling spunky tie on your favorite large streamer, the rainbow and cutthroat trout will be aggressive while they prepare to spawn. A purple and red Portuguese Breakfast or a Green Bastard are my go to streamers for these pre-spawn fatty’s.