You’ve finally made it to the perfect pool, there’s a caddis hatch happening and fish are leaping from the water to get every bite that they can manage. You’ve been able to sneak up on the pool and the fish have know idea that you’re there. It’s so perfect it’s probably a scene from one of your favorite movies.
You let out some line and it’s perfect cast to the head of the pool. Fish are still gulping everywhere and you’ve lost focus for a split second. In that split second your line is split across two different currents, one moving faster than the other. Now your fly is dragging across the surface, it’s so bad that the wake left behind the fly looks like it’s water skiing across the pool. Fish seem not to notice, they’re still slurping up caddis on the surface as if it had never happened before. Yet, they’re not interested in the waterskiing caddis that you’ve got at the end of your line. And nothing is going to change until you focus on your fly and keep it from dragging through the varying currents of the pool.
After focusing a little bit more you've mended your line so that you can get a longer drift through the pool. Unfortunately the sun has gone down a little more and it’s a little more difficult to see your fly amid all of the other hatching caddis on the water. There are fish still eating but you have no idea if they’re trying to take your fly or not. Making sure that you have a clear eye on your fly would make it a lot easier in knowing whether it was taken by a fish or still drifting aimlessly in the current.
I’ve read before that if you can see your fly in one out of a hundred casts you don’t have a problem seeing your fly, i.e., the fly is not too small for your eyes to focus on it, rather it may be an issue with casting. If you can improve your casting and consistently get your fly into the same ten inch area with every cast you will increase your opportunity of seeing your fly when it is in the water.
Keeping your drift drag free and always having an eye on your fly will improve the amount of fish you bring to hand. As always, Good Luck and Guid Luck!
From the North Slope of the Uinta Mountains flows the Bear River which winds it way from the Uintas of Utah into Wyoming through Idaho and back into Utah, finally ending at the Great Salt Lake. The Bear River is the largest tributary to the Great Salt Lake and the largest river in the North America that does not flow to the sea. This large river, though, is made up of many, many smaller tributaries. It is formed by the confluence of the Hayden and Stillwater Forks. The Stillwater Fork is a beautiful example of a high mountain freestone.
The Stillwater Fork flows from the High Uinta Wilderness before forming the Bear River. Most of its lower stretches are easily accessed from the road However, to get to the best fishing, and a little more solgy70itude, getting into the backcountry is going to be your best bet.
To get to the Stillwater Fork, travel East on Highway 150 from Kamas City, Utah for about 46 miles. Enjoy the ride along the Mirror Lake Scenic Byway, Highway 150, its beautiful and gives you amazing access to many places to fish. After 45 miles you will see a sign for the Stillwater Fork Campground. This campground will take you to the confluence of the Stillwater and Hayden Forks, the beginning of the Bear River. If you continue on Highway 150 for another mile or so you’ll come to the road for the Christmas Meadows Campground and Trailhead. This long road follows along the Stillwater Fork and ends at the Christmas Meadows Trailhead. The trail follows close the river as well, giving you many places to get to the river. If you are coming from Evanston, Wyoming, head South on Highway 150 for about 32 miles which will bring you to the road for Christmas Meadows. Another mile or so on Highway 150 will take you to the Stillwater Fork Campground.
We can't speak for the Stillwater Fork Campground but if you plan on camping near the Stillwater Fork we would recommend the Christmas Meadows Campground. The layout of the campground gives enough room for every site that you don't feel crowded. Amid towering pines and the river not more than 100 yards away, we couldn’t recommend it more.
The Stillwater Fork is a beautiful river. Much of its lower stretches, before forming the Bear River, the Stillwater Fork runs very much like a spring creek even though it runs from the mountain tops. There is a reason that this fork is known as the Stillwater, it meanders and runs smooth. The further upstream that you travel the more like a mountain freestone it becomes but it never becomes a truly rugged river like many of her Uinta cousins.
Our standard rod for the Stillwater is our 7'6" 3 wt but a 9' 5 wt would be just as welcome on this river. There are plenty of opportunities to really get the line out and cast, something that a 5 wt is going to be better at than the 3 wt. The fish, however, are built more for your 3 wt rod. That's not to say that there are not monsters in the Stillwater that have migrated up from the Bear and have claimed a territory for themselves on this smaller river.
The further upstream that you travel the less frequently you will run into competition on the river. The stream itself doesn't receive a lot of pressure, but you would be amazed how trampled the path along the river is close to the campgrounds. Rainbows and Brook trout are the game fish that you will most likely hook into while fishing the river, but there is a population of Bonneville Cutthroat and if you catch one of these beauties take some time and admire Utah’s State Fish.
The fishing here, especially in the lower stretches, is more reminiscent of the bigger rivers of Utah, the Weber and Provo, rather than small mountain freestones. Standard mayfly, caddis, stonefly, and midge patterns work well throughout the course of the year. During the late summer and fall you will want to try ants, hoppers and beetles. More than anything though, if nothing is happening on the surface you will want to tie on a nymph and fish below the surface. Unlike other mountain streams, it is difficult to coax the fish up to a dry fly if a hatch is not occurring.
While fishing, be prepared, and a bit cautious, you never know what you might run into. Moose call the Stillwater home and for being as large as they are, are more than capable of hiding in the willows until you stumble upon them. The largest Bull Moose that we've ever stumbled upon was in the willows between the Christmas Meadows Campground and the river and made us more than cautious on that fishing trip. Remember, the further in the backcountry that you travel the more secluded you are. Bear, Mountain Lions, snakes, etc call those mountain home. Be prepared and enjoy the seclusion that comes with the wilderness.
The Stillwater Fork, headwaters to the Bear River, claims a beautiful mountain range home. Take some time and encourage yourself to become a little more like this river, steady and still in the shadows of impressive odds. As always, Good Luck and Guid Luck!
Small streams and rivers, especially mountain streams, are considered difficult to fish by those who spend most of their time on big waters because the holding water seems to disappear visually. What appears, on a big stream, to be water moving too fast or that drops too much that it can't hold fish is the bread and butter of small water fishing. Most people will look at that water and completely discount it and move around it to calmer waters. On small waters though that is damn-near impossible, calmer waters are few and far between and generally don't offer much of a run, maybe twenty feet at the most.
On small waters it is key to look for every single holding water between every single boulder and run of white water. It's simple, fish, like most creatures, are looking for the easiest, safest place to live. Calm water is the honey hole for fish, it takes less energy to fight the current and calm water tends to run deeper, giving fish a better opportunity to get away from predators. Now, the idea of calm water is relative, a slow meandering bend in a large river is definitely more calm than a two foot pool between two runs of white water. But the principle is the same, fish are going to be where it is easier to survive, i.e. eat and stay safe.
We're going to let you in on a little secret, once you have adjusted your thinking to fishing small waters, you will inherently catch more fish on small waters than you could on big rivers. Why? Because the holding water is going to do just that, hold fish a lot more readily than holding water on a big river. Think about that meandering bend on your favorite big river. That is a beautiful piece of water that no doubt holds fish, probably a few good fights in that bend. Let's say there are ten fish holding in that bend and the bend runs roughly fifty feet, that's a fish every five feet. Now, let's say that bend runs five feet deep and let's say the ideal zone away from the bank is within three feet. That means every fish has seventy five cubic feet to avoid your fly that runs maybe a half inch long. Now, take a hole on a small river. The holding water is holding two fish, it is three feet long, three feet deep, and two feet wide. Effectively, each fish lives in nine cubic feet of water. This is substantially less water to fish than it is on a big river. The chances of getting your fly in front of the fish becomes significantly greater on small waters than in big waters. Inherently, you will have a greater likelihood of getting fish to hit your fly in these small waters.
The key is to look at the water and see every piece of holding water. It may literally be a small piece of calm water that breaks between two pieces of white water. If you're lucky you may get a deep plunge pool that runs deep and long. You'll find both on small waters, but if you skip the small holding water and fish only the deep or long runs you will miss out on a lot of fishing opportunities. As always, Good Luck and Guid Luck!
Growing up along the Provo River in Utah, I've seen countless numbers of Fly Fishermen search for the Tug. It's in the small streams that the dream is realized.