Desert Trout

Fly fishing in Utah can be a unique experience.  Much of the state is arid desert, with lots of sand, sandstone, and sagebrush.  With extremely hot summer temperatures, and barren surroundings, these desert regions wouldn’t seem like a good place to go fishing.  However, a combination of cold mountain snow-melt and cold water springs can create creeks that support trout year round.

When the topography and location is right, you can end up with decent fishing opportunities in the middle of rather inhospitable deserts.  A small creek can provide a flowing ribbon-like oasis through the desert, bringing cool water and trout to an otherwise hot and dry landscape.

Doesn’t look very much like trout country

Fishing in the desert can be challenging.  In this country, fishable water is the exception, so you may have to do a bit of exploring to find water that actually holds trout.  Often, you won’t find any fish at all.  I look at desert fishing as “hiking with a fly rod” and figure that if I actually do end up finding fish, it’s a bonus.

When conditions are right, however, desert fishing can be a lot of fun.  The soft pink desert sand and the grandeur of soaring sandstone cliffs contrasts heavily with the strip of green along the path of a desert creek, and imbues the experience with an added sense of beauty.

Besides the hit or miss difficulties of locating places that actually will sustain trout, desert fishing can provide technical challenges as well.  The water levels are often quite low, and the trout very skittish.  Long casts and delicate presentation may be necessary so as not to spook the fish.  However, vegetation on these small streams can be pretty heavy and brush often extends well over the banks, creating a real casting nightmare.  Quite often, I’ve found myself in a situation where I can see fish holding in shallow water, but I can’t cast to them because of all of the vegetation covering their holding spots.  Trying to get close more often than not leads to the fish scattering in fear at my approach.

Low water, spooky fish, stealth is essential. Luckily, there is actually room to cast here.
Desert brown trout.
Nice open area for casting. We pulled some beautiful brown trout from this creek.

One of the real benefits of fishing in desert areas is solitude.  Not too many people get excited about the prospects of hiking several miles into inhospitable areas carrying a fishing pole not knowing if there will even be any fish.  Most folks would rather just fish the Provo (again.)  That’s fine with me.  I enjoy the challenge and exploratory nature of desert fishing, and not having to share the water with other fishermen is a bonus.


A spring creek creates this beautiful fishing spot beneath soaring sandstone cliffs
When conditions are right, desert trout can grow healthy and big.

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