For me, writing this piece was like walking through the hallways of my old high school. I lived in Salt Lake City for a year and it was there where I truly fell in love with fly fishing.
Utah is one of the most beautiful states in the country. It’s famous for its world class skiing, national parks, and that big pool of salty water. But for fishermen, it has so much more to offer.
There are over 1,000 lakes, dozens of rivers, and countless streams throughout the state filled with fish. It is truly more water than any man can fish in one lifetime, but if you want to try, you should start with these 26 places.
Best Places to Fly Fish in Utah
1. The Green River
It would be impossible to talk about fly fishing in Utah without mentioning its most famous location- The Green River.
The Green River begins in the mountains of Wyoming and eventually enters into the Colorado River as its largest tributary. The northern sections in Wyoming are a world famous freestone stream filled with rainbow, cutthroat, and brown trout. Fishing here is fantastic, but can sometimes be shutdown due to spring runoff. So if you decide to make the trip up to Wyoming, be sure to first check with local guides.
The river continues south though, until it reaches the Flaming Gorge Reservoir. Here, the water is dammed beneath towering walls of beautiful red stone. This place is designated a National Recreation Area (though many argue it should be a natural park), and it’s worth visiting for its beauty as well as its fishing (which we’ll talk more about later). But what interests us is below the dam.
Where to Fly Fish on The Green River
The Green River below the Flaming Gorge is one of the most famous tailwater fisheries in the world. The constant flow of cool water from the dam provides crystal clear water and nutrients for the trout populations below.
Fishing on the Green River below Flaming Gorge is most commonly described in one way: “it’s like fishing in an aquarium.” The countless deep pools are filled with fish, and the water is so clear that you’ll often be looking straight at them. Fishing here is truly an experience unlike anything else in the world.
Here you will have the chance to catch 30”+ brown trout and 10 pound rainbow trout, while enjoying a day filled with bringing in their smaller peers. The dry fly fishing here is world famous, and if you time your trip during one of the famous cicada hatches, you’ll have the time of your life.
Fishing the Green River is best enjoyed from a boat. I highly recommend getting a guide for the trip, as you’ll catch more fish and be able to enjoy more of the gorgeous river. Also, there are a few sections of the river where the rapids get to be quite dangerous, so I don’t recommend going out on your own unless you have extensive white water experience.
You can effectively fish the Green River from the shore, though, if getting a boat is not an option for you. It will just require a little bit of hiking. The land surrounding the river is BLM land and there are trails beginning at the dam. If you’re fishing in the summer, this is where I recommend you start, as there can be more inner tube and boat traffic further down.
Recommended Flies for The Green River
- Chernobyl Ant in dark colors size #2-16
- Tan or black Fat Albert size #4-14
- BWOs, Adams, Gnats size #20-24
- Zebra Midges, Soft Hackles, and Pheasant Tails size #16-22
2. Middle Provo
The Provo River is Salt Lake City’s most famous fishery. Though the river is not technically within the city limits, you can get to the Provo in about 30 minutes from SLC International Airport. The river is divided into three distinct sections, and each section is its own fishery.
The Middle section of the Provo River is a tail water fishery that flows out of the Jordanelle Reservoir, through the town of Heber, and into Deer Creek Reservoir. On the Middle you will almost exclusively catch brown trout, and any other bycatch will almost certainly be a Mountain Whitefish.
But what the Middle lacks in variety it makes up for with both quantity and quality. The brown trout on the Middle are incredibly numerous while maintaining an average size of about 18 inches and trophy fish reaching 25 inches. Not bad for a shallow river that’s only 15 feet wide in some parts.
Where to Fish on the Middle Provo
This entire section is publicly accessible through a series of easy to find access points maintained by the Utah Division of Wildlife and the Provo River Reclamation Project. Just take I-80 East from Salt Lake, then 189 South until you get to Jordanelle- you’ll see the river.
From there, you can park at any of these places, and walk to the river.
Recommended Flies for the Middle Provo
- Size 20-24 scuds, zebra midges, and pheasant tails fished right off the bottom. If you don’t know what a Provo River Bounce Rig is, look it up.
- Wooly buggers, articulated streamers, sex dungeons stripped across current
- Purple BWOs in the spring size 14-18 (trust me)
- Brown hoppers size 6 from June to September
3. The Lower Provo
The Provo River flows through the Heber Valley (where we just talked about) and enters into the Deer Creek Reservoir. Its outflow is the Lower Provo River, and it carves through the beautiful Provo Canyon, past Mt. Timpanogos, and into Utah Lake.
This section is, in my opinion, more scenic than the Middle, with the towering canyon walls surrounding you and the snow capped mountains in the near distance. The fishing on this section is similar to the Middle in terms of what the fish are eating and how you should target them but with one notable difference.
Do you want to really dig into Fly Fishing in UTAH? I highly recommend the book Flyfisher’s Guide to UTAH (Amazon link) A great read for planning your next trip or exploring some new water.
The Lower has the same big browns as the middle, but it also holds large numbers of 18 to 20 inch rainbow trout. So here is where you will find quantity, quality, and variety. The river is a similar size here, with widths of 30-50 feet in most places but the Lower is slightly deeper ranging from 2-6 feet. That means it’s easily accessible on foot, but if you really want to you can take a small raft all the way down.
Where To Fish on the Lower Provo
Access to the Lower Provo is slightly more difficult than the Middle because this section of the river is in the steep Provo Canyon and not the flat Heber Valley. And in some sections of the river, the banks back up into people’s back yards. So be careful where you’re walking out of the river.
But it’s still quite accessible, especially if you know where you’re going. Here are some of my favorite access points.
In the summertime this section of the river can be crowded with float tubers. I’ve seen fishermen be discouraged by this fact, and leave the river. But the fish are used to it by now, so don’t let it make you shy away. Just don’t snag a tourist.
Recommended Flies for the Lower Provo
- Size 20-24 scuds, zebra midges, and sowbugs fished right off the bottom just like on the middle. I would especially focus on scuds and sowbugs
- Wooly buggers, articulated streamers, sex dungeons stripped across current. White colors on bright days, dark colors on dark.
- Purple BWOs in the spring size 14-18
- Brown hoppers size 6 from June to September
- Red and tan San Juans especially after it rains.
4. Ostler Lake
The Uintas Mountains aren’t Utah’s most famous, but I’d take it to my grave that they’re the most beautiful. Their peaks go up 12,000 feet and are covered in deep snow for most of the year. But when the snow melts it reveals a plethora of lakes and streams full of hungry trout.
One of my favorite spots in the Uintas- and I can’t believe I’m sharing it with you- is Ostler Lake.
This small body of water is filled with mostly Cutthroat and Tiger Trout, with a few Brookies mixed in. The water is crystal clear and I commonly saw 20” tigers cruising the shore. They’re eager to take a fly, especially right after the ice off, but catching them isn’t the hard part.
Where To Fish on Ostler Lake
The difficulty with fishing Ostler Lake is getting there. This is not somewhere you can just wet a line after work, fishing Ostler is a serious time commitment.
To start, you have to drive to the Christmas Meadows Trailhead in the middle of Ashley National Forrest. From there, it’s a 6 mile hike to Ostler Lake with 2,000 feet of elevation gain. Unless you’re in killer shape, you’ll need to make this an overnight backpacking trip if you plan to do serious fishing.
The first 3 or so miles on the way is relatively easy, but there’s a steep stretch that will test even the most trained outdoorsman. Seriously, don’t try to do this in a day unless you run ultra-marathons or can magically fly or something.
While you’re up there you can also fish Amethyst Lake and the Ostler Fork for small brookies. The views will be worth it.
Recommended Flied for Ostler Lake
The fish up here will seriously eat just about anything, especially at the beginning of the season.
- Small wooly buggers. White is the local favorite, but I don’t think it matters.
- Local dragonfly patterns in blue.
- Caddis, BWO, Adams, and any other dry fly size 12-18
- Terrestrial patterns (I will say I don’t have great luck with hoppers here)
If you need help selecting flies for Ostler Lake or anywhere else, checkout this FREE Downloadable Hatch Chart.
5. Weber River
The Weber River is another Blue Ribbon Trout fishery located conveniently near Salt Lake City. It is as productive as the Provo, but gets much less attention from out of towners. Access to the Weber isn’t as good as the Middle or Lower Provo and you may accidentally find yourself trespassing onto private land if you aren’t careful.
The Weber holds mostly brown trout at around 16-18 inches with a ton of powerful mountain whitefish as well. I also swear I spooked a 30 inch carp in the river once, but nobody believes me.
In most spots the river is about 25-50 feet wide and up to 6 or 7 feet in the deepest pools. The water gets extremely low and slow in the winter making it unfishable, but come springtime its hot.
The best places to fish the Weber are around Coalville where there are plenty of clearly marked access points.
6. Logan River
Unlike the previous rivers we’ve mentioned, the Logan River is free flowing. Located near the Idaho boarder, the Logan River holds a healthy population of wildly reproducing brown and cutthroat trout. It is a small river, ranging from just 15- 30 feet wide, but the fish don’t seem to mind at all.
As it is a Blue Ribbon trout fishery, there is no bait allowed. But the fish on the Logan do see their fair share of flies; so don’t think that this fishing will be easy. Stop into a local fly shop on your way and be sure to match the hatch.
7. Duchesne River
The Duchesne River is fed by runoff and snowmelt from the Uintas Mountains to the North. On the lower reaches of the river are naturally reproducing populations on brown and rainbow trout, and the upper elevations hold wild cutthroats.
Land surrounding the Duchesne is owned both privately and by local Indian tribes, but Utah has access easements established for fishermen to get to the river. You aren’t allowed to park on the side of Highway 35 to get to the river, but there are several clearly marked public access points.
This is another local favorite, so I’ll avoid sharing too much specific information. You’ll have to go there and learn for yourself.
8. Ogden River
The upper stretches of the Ogden River have great fishing for brown, cutthroat, and rainbow trout. Unfortunately though, much of this land is privately owned. There are some Forrest Service Campgrounds that can give you access, but you may be better off fishing down river.
In the “city section” of the river you’ll be in a tailwater fishery below the Pineview Resevoir. High elevations in this section hold brown and rainbow trout, and smallmouth, carp, and even tiger muskie show up there further down you go.
Don’t let the urban environment fool you- the Ogden River has been reclaimed and transformed into a true blue ribbon trout fishery.
9. The East Fork of the Sevier River
The Sevier river is over 380 miles long and is entirely within the state of Utah. That makes it the longest northward flowing river in a single state. But that’s enough geography.
The fishy part of the Sevier is in Southern Utah in Kingston Canyon and Black Canyon. The Utah Department of Wild Resources has been reclaiming and restoring this area since the early 90s to transform the East Fork into a Blue Ribbon trout fishery.
This is a desert fishery filled with good sized brown trout, rainbows, and an occasional brookie. But it often gets overlooked even though it’s conveniently located near Bryce Canyon.
10. Strawberry Reservoir
The Berry is considered by many to be the best Stillwater fishery in Utah. Located in a beautiful mountain valley, the water is surrounded by aspens and conifers teeming with wildlife.
Most fishermen will spend their days reeling in cutthroat and rainbow trout, but Strawberry also provides the unique opportunity to land a Kokanee salmon and even smallmouth bass.
The best time to fish Strawberry Reservoir is right after the spring ice off when the fish are hungry after a long, cold winter. Fish are not picky about flies during this time, and even the biggest, most particular fish are looking for a quick meal.
11. Flaming Gorge
Another one of Utah’s most famous stillwater fisheries is the Flaming Gorge. As we talked about earlier, Falming Gorge is filled by the Green River that feeds it with cold mountain water.
Flaming Gorge is filled with rainbow trout and that is the most commonly caught fish there. But it’s also home to a healthy population of kokanee salmon, as well as good numbers of Lake Trout and a few smallmouth bass. Every year there are 30 pound trout pulled from this lake on fire.
A boat will give you the best access to the whole fishery, but you can effectively fish from the shore as well. The land surrounding Flaming Gorge is publicly owned.
12. Freemont River
The Freemont River is another desert trout fishery that’s located just west of Capitol Reef National Park. Most fish caught on the Freemont will be wild brown trout, but the occasional splake, tiger, or rainbow has been known to enter from the reservoirs.
This is a great location to combine with family road trips to national parks, but I’d argue it’s a worthy destination in its own right. Parts of the river aren’t typical trout waters, but there are healthy populations of fish making the challenge worthwhile.
13. Utah Lake
If you talk to a local about fly fishing on Utah Lake, he may think you’re crazy. Sure the lake has a decent population of bass, walleye, and catfish, but are you really going to waste your time chasing all that when you could be on the Provo?
But, while the bass fishing does deserve respect, I’m mentioning Utah Lake on this list because it’s one of the best carp fishing destinations in the country. If you’ve never caught a carp on a fly rod, you’ve got to give it a try. It’s like hooking into a semi truck.
14. Pineview Reservoir
Pineveiw is another warm, still water fishery that most people neglect. It is full of crappie, bass, perch, and Tiger Muskie.
Tiger Muskies are a sterile hybrid strain of fish- a cross between a northern pike and a Muskellunge. The result is an ultra aggressive, powerful, large apex predator. And Pineview Reservoir is full of them.
Catching a Tiger Muskie with a fly rod is a huge challenge in itself, but doing it from the shore will be almost impossible. Your best bet will be to get on a boat, and rip your streamers by any near shore structure you can find.
15. Lower Barker Reservoir
There are dozens of alpine lakes around Boulder Mountain in southern Utah. These lakes have long held a reputation for holding some of the biggest brook trout in the state. But in the 90s, due to changing weather and poor fishing practices, these populations began to suffer.
Lower Barker Reservoir is a testament to Utah’s division of Wildlife Resource’s effort’s to reclaim Boulder Mountain’s fisheries as trophy waters. Barker holds high numbers of tiger trout and splake that are specifically managed to trophy class fish.
Fishing in this area will require some food, water, and hiking boots, but your efforts will be rewarded. Casting from the shore is possible, but a small float tube will really open up possibilities.
16. Deer Creek Lake
On the other side of Boulder Mountain is Deer Creek Lake. This is another highly managed trout fishery in the area that is successfully producing trophy fish every year.
This lake provides more variety than Lower Barker, with trophy class Tiger trout, brook trout, and Colorado River Cutthroat trout as well. Fishing here will be quite similar to other Stillwater fishing in Utah: streamers and nymphs work well most of the time, especially when fished near the bottom. Dry fly fishing will be mostly limited to the summer months and during hatches.
17. Big Cottonwood Canyon Creek
Big Cottonwood Canyon is world famous for Brighton and Solitude ski resorts, it’s beautiful hiking trails, and it’s incredible views. But as a fisherman, I was always more interested in that thin blue line going through the map of the canyon.
Big Cottonwood Creek, it turned out, is a badass small stream fishery. And it’s literally in the city limits. The river holds solid numbers of cutthroat and brook trout all about 6 to 12 inches. You won’t be catching monsters here, but these fish will put a solid bend in a 3 weight rod.
18. Fish Lake
Fish Lake is located in south-central Utah on the 8,800 foot fish lake hightop plateau. This place is one of the best trophy brook and lake trout fisheries in the state, and some may even argue, in the country. 30-pound fish are caught here every year.
The best way to fish Fish Lake is definitely from a boat, as during the warm months the aquatic vegetation strangles the shore. But wade fisherman can get out farm enough to catch fish in some spots.
Fly fishing for lake trout will be nearly impossible, as they hangout deep out in the lake, but splake and brookies are best targeted with streamers fished in the middle to upper water column.
19. Bear River UT
Bear River is a high country mountain river that holds some seriously thick trout. They just take some effort to get to.
This river runs out of the Northern side of the Uintas Mountains, through Wyoming and Idaho, then back into Utah before pouring into the Great Salt Lake. The Bear holds browns, rainbows, and cutthroat trout in the lower end and brook trout in the upper.
Trophy cutthroat are caught on the Bear River every year in the lower section and this section is especially productive dry fly fishing. Don’t tell any of the locals I told you about this place though- for some reason it’s not too well known.
20. Blacksmith Fork River
The Blacksmith Fork River is North of Salt Lake City, near the town of Logan and the Logan River. This is a heavily preassured trout fishery due to its proximity to the city and the population of healthy wild brown and cutthroat trout it holds.
It is a small stream, about 30 feet across at it’s widest points, making it perfect for wading. The canyon walls around it make for a nice backdrop as well. You’ll find this river to fish similarly to other in the area. And public access is clearly marked.
21. Big Dog Lake
Big Dog Lake takes us back into the isolated backcoutry of the Uintas and on another grueling hike. This one is a cool 16 mile round trip up from 8,000 feet to 10,000 feet and back again. For a lot of people, this won’t be worth it. But for the eager, a prize awaits at the top.
The Arctic Grayling.
Utah’s Uintas Mountains are home to the southernmost arctic grayling population in the world. And these feisty mini sailfish are a blast to catch. If you’re willing to work for them, Big Dog Lake holds some of the biggest grayling in the state. The record fish was caught there in 1998.
22. Lake Powell
Lake Powell is one of the most popular recreation spots in the country. It’s noted for its boating, wakeboarding, jet skiing, and other water sports. It’s not so well known for its fishing.
But Lake Powell has great striped bass fishing year round, and in the fall and summer these fish move to the surface. This migration makes the fish a prime target for a fly fisherman. You’ll need a boat to get to them, but renting one will be worth it.
There are also largemouth, smallmouth, crappie, and bluegill in the lake.
23. The Strawberry River
Another awesome small stream fishery in Central Utah is the Strawberry River. Less well known than it deserves to be, the Strawberry is a local favorite directly because of that fact.
It’s far from population centers, in the middle of the desert, and chock a block full of big brown trout and bear lake cutthroat trout. Fishing here is a truly unique Utah fly fishing experience.
24. Lower Fish Creek
Lower Fish Creek is a section of the Price River that runs into Scofield Reservoir near the town of Colton in Central Utah. This is high desert country that most don’t expect to find a trout stream in, so this fishery is not too often frequented.
That makes it a perfect place to fish.
Fly fishermen can enjoy solitude from sun up to sun down on Lower Fish Creek, a rare luxury in the state due to the large number of fishermen. Like most trout rivers in Utah, it is just 15-30 feet wide, 1 to 6 feet deep in the pools, and contains mostly brown trout.
25. Huntington Creek
Continuing the trend of undervalued central Utah desert trout streams is Hunting Creek. Located on the Eastern slopes of the La Sal mountains, Hunting Creek is a small sized trout stream with some surprisingly large brown trout.
I won’t point you right to them, but if you lookup Utah’s DWR latest shocking surveys, you’ll see some big fish. At fisheries like these the fly choice is secondary to a stealthy approach. So worry less about your fly choice and more about not spooking fish.
This is a blue ribbon trout fishery, but you probably won’t see anyone else out there. Enjoy.
26. Beaver River
A lot of Beaver River is on private property, which totally sucks because the public access gets you to awesome fishing. Most of this land will be found on the south end of the river and is owned by the BLM.
In the past, the Beaver River would dry up every summer and have to be restocked. But recent efforts by the Utah DWR have transformed the Beaver River into a trophy trout stream. Rainbow and Brown trout in the Beaver River routinely surpass 20 inches.
Recommended Gear for Fly Fishing in Utah
Fly fishing in Utah is mostly done on medium sized trout streams, so your classic 9 foot 5 weight will be perfect. If you decide to venture on the small streams, a 7.5 foot 3 weight will be ideal. And if you’re throwing streamers on the Green or on alpine Stillwater, a 6 weight may be your best bet.
Though there are plenty of streams to wade, a drift boat or a float tube will open up more water.
Official References for Fly Fishing in Utah
Department of Wildlife UTAH https://wildlife.utah.gov/fishing-in-utah.html