Mention Park City to anyone in the Rocky Mountains, and they’ll almost always think of world-class skiing – and for good reason. The 2002 Winter Olympics were hosted in this area to take advantage of the greatest snow on earth. When it’s not covered in snow, though, Park City is a phenomenal fly fishing destination.
With the Uinta Mountains in the backyard, and the Provo River flowing out the front door, Park City deserves some credit as one of the best fly fishing towns in all of America.
These fishing destinations aren’t listed in any particular order. Each offers fantastic fishing, and you’ll want to pick a waterbody based on the fishing experience you’re searching for.
1. Lower Provo River – An All-Around Trout Fishery
The Lower Provo River (which flows from Deer Creek Reservoir downstream to the Olmstead Diversion Dam) is a true all-around trout river. The fish here love to snack on nymphs, and you’ll pick fish up on scuds, sow bugs, and zebra midges year-round.
Prolific hatches of blue-winged olives, pale morning duns, and caddis, though, bring plenty of the river’s big fish to the surface. And the Lower Provo has a lot of big fish. While the average size has gone down in recent years, you’ll still find plenty of hefty trout swimming around.
The Lower Provo is home to a good population of brown trout, with some rainbow trout mixed in. If you spend a lot of time nymphing, you’ll catch a few mountain whitefish, too.
Where to Fly Fish on the Lower Provo
The Lower Provo has a ton of access points along US Highway 89, but you’ll find some of the best fishing near the turnoff to head up to Sundance Mountain Resort. There’s ample parking, the river is wide and easy to wade, and most importantly, there’s plenty of fishing ready to be caught.
Recommended Flies for the Lower Provo River
The Lower Provo’s resident trout have a reputation for being picky. In reality, they see so many flies that they’re looking for something unique, but still within the realm of being a possible meal. Aside from blue-winged olives in the spring and fall, and caddis for the summer, you should always have:
- Green and tan sow bugs in sizes 14-20. If you tie these up yourself, you’ll have much more success than with flies from a fly shop bin.
- Black and red zebra midges, sizes 16-20. Midges hatch year-round on the Lower Provo, so a box of zebra midges is an absolute must here.
2. Middle Provo River – A Nymphing Paradise
The Middle Provo River flows from Jordanelle Reservoir into Deer Creek Reservoir. This river is much wider, bigger water than the Lower Provo. It’s characterized by long slicks, interspersed with riffles and rapids that are an absolute dream for the Euro nymphing enthusiasts out there.
The Middle also has a great Green Drake hatch, and I know a few anglers from California who make a trip out here each year just to fish the Green Drakes on the Middle.
The river itself is incredibly pretty, but it flows mostly through developed areas. There are a few patches of private land to be aware of, but they’re posted well enough that you shouldn’t accidentally trespass.
I’ve found that the fish are, on average, a bit smaller on the Middle than on the Lower Provo. So if size is your object, I’d suggest looking elsewhere. However, since the Middle Provo River is bigger water, it’s a lot easier to find your own room. I’ve never had to fight for elbow room while fishing the Middle; fishing on the Lower can get pretty crowded at times.
The fish here are almost exclusively brown trout, with the exception of a few mountain whitefish.
Where to Fly Fish on the Middle Provo River
Folks all have their favorite stretches of this water, but I really like the combination of pools and riffles found immediately below Jordanelle Reservoir. This water is ideal for nymph fishing, and my friends Lance Egan, Devin Olsen, and Gilbert Rowley filmed portions of their popular “Modern Nymphing” videos here.
Recommended Flies for the Middle Provo River
Midges and caddis seem to dominate the food base here, so you’d be remiss to head out without any in your box. The patterns don’t need to be anything terribly fancy – your presentation does most of the work on the Middle Provo.
- Griffiths gnats in sizes 16-20 are great for when trout are feeding on top.
- Hare’s Ears in sizes 14-20 are fantastic for fishing the beginning of a mayfly hatch.
- And the venerable Frenchie, developed by Lance Egan himself, earned its stripes on the Middle Provo. Fish it in sizes 14-20 as well.
3. Weber River – Diversity You Won’t Believe
The Weber River stretches from the Uinta Mountains and ends north of Salt Lake City, as a tributary to the Bear River. With more room than the Provo River, the Weber gets a lot of angling pressure, but it’s spread out. If one section has too many people a 15-20 minute drive will open up a lot of water.
The Weber has tons of small tributaries, and in these small streams you’ll find native, wild Bonneville cutthroat trout. The Weber was instrumental in being the source of the brood stock of Bonneville cutthroat that the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources used to start cutthroat restoration work back in the 80s.
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Your opportunities on this river are incredibly diverse. From the small tributaries that hold gorgeous high-mountain cutthroat, to the main forks of the river that house big rainbow and brown trout, the Weber offers a variety of fishing experiences for any angler.
You’ll most likely catch brown trout, though rainbows are prevalent in some sections. Whitefish are common the closer you fish the Weber to the town of Morgan. Cutthroat are found intermittently throughout, but most densely in the tributaries.
Where to Fly Fish on the Weber River
Finding a good spot on the Weber depends entirely on what you want to experience. If you don’t mind fishing next to an interstate, the canyon section along I84 is ideal for big brown trout. The headwaters, near the towns of Oakley and Coalville, are often quiet and secluded. However, much of the Weber flows on private property.
That’s why I recommend this stretch of the river. You get to fish through gorgeous country, without worrying about trespassing.
Recommended Flies for the Weber River
The Weber is a classic Western river. It’s full of mayflies, midges, caddis, and stoneflies. As such, I’d recommend having the following on hand when fishing the Weber.
- San Juan Worms in sizes 4-8 (the color doesn’t really matter) are a must on the Weber. These fish don’t pass up the chance at a good solid meal.
- Black bunny leeches in sizes 2-6 also produce a lot of fish for me here, especially on the big pools along I84.
4. Uinta Mountains – A Backcountry Dream
If I could only fish one range of mountains for the rest of my life, I’d have a hell of time choosing between the Uinta Mountains and the Wind River Mountains in Wyoming. The Uintas offer some of the most unspoiled, stunning backcountry terrain in the world.
From tiny streams and creeks to large rivers, ponds, and lakes, the Uintas has it all. If you want to backpack 20 miles away from the crowds, or you don’t mind fishing roadside lakes, you’ll find what you’re looking for beneath Utah’s highest peaks.
The Uintas just might offer the most diversity of species in Utah, too. You’ll find plenty of rainbow trout, browns, brookies, cutthroat, tiger, splake, kokanee salmon, arctic grayling, golden trout, mountain whitefish, and even tiger muskie in these high-mountain lakes, ponds, and streams. Brook and rainbow trout are the most prevalent, though you won’t have a hard time finding cutthroat or tiger trout, either.
If you’re up for roadside fishing, then any of the lakes along the Mirror Lake Highway are going to interest you. Mirror Lake, Moosehorn, and Teapot are arguably the most scenic, though there are plenty of others to explore, as well.
If you want to find a good backcountry adventure, the Grandaddy Lakes Basin offers great access for hikes long and short.
5. Strawberry Reservoir – Big Water for Big Fish
Strawberry arguably receives more angling pressure than any other waterbody in the state of Utah. It’s heavily stocked with Bear Lake cutthroat trout, rainbow trout, and kokanee salmon. It’s just over an hour from Park City, which is part of why it’s so popular.
Most of the fishing is done from a boat, though shore fishing produces success during fall and spring. Sight fishing for cruising cutthroat trout is usually the most effective method for bank fishing during other times of the year.
Guide Tip: When fly fishing from a boat, try to anticipate holding areas. Often times I find myself casting just before the best holding water, only to not be ready for the high probability water.
This is one of the lakes in Utah where you have a good chance at landing a true monster fish. Cutthroat regularly eclipse the 25-inch mark in this lake, and the state record cutthroat was caught here almost 100 years ago. And if any water in the state is going to produce a cutthroat trout bigger than 25 pounds, it’d be the Berry.
6. Starvation Reservoir – Desert Fishing at its Best
Starvation is a unique reservoir located about an hour and a half from Park City. It’s surrounded by dusty rock cliffs, and the deep blue waters are cool throughout the year. The reservoir used to have a great rainbow trout population, though that’s since been supplanted by kokanee salmon.
One fish that’s stayed present – and big – in Starvation is brown trout. While Starvation hasn’t ever produced browns in the class of what Flaming Gorge did back in the 80s, it still pumps out a few 10-pound specimens each year. The trick is to fish deep, with big flies, and plenty of patience.
You’ll also find plenty of walleye, black crappie, bluegill, and a few yellow perch.
7. Uinta River – Classic Rocky Mountain River Fishing
The Uinta is one of the biggest rivers on the South Slope of the Uinta Mountains, second only in volume to the Duchesne River. It’s a classic Rocky Mountain river that runs high until mid-June, then tapers off and provides fast, easy fishing for tons of pan-sized trout.
The lower part of the Uinta is dominated by brown and rainbow trout, but the higher up you go, the more brook and cutthroat trout you’ll find. Most of the rivers have a large population of sculpin – a tiny baitfish that brown trout love to chomp on. Every now and then, a really big fish will come out and surprise you. Once, years ago, while on a river just one canyon over from the Uinta, I netted a brown that pushed the scales at just over seven pounds.
The Uinta is one of the few rivers in the state where I think it’s probable that you can have a true 100-fish day. It’s definitely worth your time to fish it.
Recommended Gear for Fly Fishing in the Park City Area
Aside from any of the lake fishing, a 9’ 5wt rod should do the trick for all the streams and rivers. You might want a lighter, shorter rod if you venture up into the Uintas, but if you only have room for one, the venerable 9’ 5wt will do the job.
I’d highly recommend a pair of good sturdy wading boots that you can hike in. During the summer, it gets pretty hot in Park City. I prefer wet-wading as much as possible, so wet-wading socks are a must.
Don’t forget polarized sunglasses, a good net, and some sort of hat. Up in these higher elevations, you need both a hat and sunscreen to protect you from the UV rays of the sun.
And as far as flies go – don’t overthink it. Aside from the Provo River, you’re fishing mostly free-flowing water with trout that aren’t as educated as what you’ll find on the Snake River or Henry’s Fork. Classic Western flies will do the trick for just about anywhere in and around Park City.
Resources for Fly Fishing in Park City
If you want more information on the waters in and around Park City, then take a look at the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources Fishing Map. This will give you intimate details on streams, rivers, and lakes in the area, as well as up-to-date fishing reports.
There is a lot of private water to fish near Park City. If you want to fly fish some of that water – and you’re willing to pay – then you can probably get into larger fish with few to no other crowds. Wasatch Guide Service has a lot of access to a lot of water, so they’re a place to definitely check out.
Popular Fly Shops in Park City
- Fish Heads Fly Shop is located in Heber, just south of Park City, and has a great, friendly atmosphere. It’s one of my favorite fly shops in the West, and they always have great reports on how the Middle and Lower Provo River is fishing.
- Trout Bum 2 Fly Shop is another great place to stop in and pick the brains of local guides.
- Park City Fly Shop is worth a visit as well.
- And so is the Park City Fly Fishing Company.