Cache Valley may not be the Mecca of fly fishing, but we certainly could sit at the crossroads. To our north is the Big Hole River of Montana, as well as the Snake and Henry’s Fork of Idaho. To the east is the Green River of Wyoming and Utah. The valley is the drainage points for the Logan River, Blacksmith Fork, and the Bear River. Between our front door and these distant rivers are hundreds of well known, lesser known, and unknown streams that beckon anglers to put on their waders, uncase their rods, and search for trout ready to take a fly.
Determining where to fly fish this summer is a bit more complicated given the coronavirus. As more westerners invoke semi-staycations, there will be more anglers camping near your favorite rivers. A way to avoid some of the pressure is to go early in the season when the water is still high, as it is currently in the Logan River. When rivers are pushing lots of water, the fish will be more trusting as they have not yet felt the sting of a hook. Care needs to be taken when wading at high flows because a misplaced step can be a health risk in an unforgiving river. As streams drop to baseflow, it takes other techniques to be successful. Experience that lets you cast a little closer to overhanging vegetation or float a fly without drag will bring success at that time of the year.
Another way to add variety to this fishing season is to journey to less fished streams. A trick that can help you find new places to wet a fly is perusing state angling guidebooks. Almost every river with special regulations will have a good fish population as will many of the nearby streams. Some of the listed streams will be well known – others will not.
One trip you could take over the next several weeks is to a river with a salmonfly hatch. There are scattered hatches of these large stoneflies in nearby rivers such as the Blacksmith Fork, but big hatches for big fish occur in well known rivers. This includes the Big Hole River in Montana, where these insects hatch from now until late June, and the Snake River, where these bugs emerge in the weeks surrounding July 4th.
Angling on one of these streams during the peak of the hatch can be amazing and infuriating at the same time. It can be amazing to watch these two-inch-long insects crash into the water and be engulfed by hefty trout. Not being able to coax them into striking what your casting is infuriating. The lessons to be learned in these situations is that information gained at local fly shops can be valuable, and it often takes a wide variety of flies imitating the same bug to find one that will bring success.
On the vast majority of rivers, however, summer is a time when you can simplify what you have in your fly box. All the region’s rivers have mayfly hatches that range in colors from nearly black, through blues and into yellows. These flies can be matched with parachute fly patterns in assorted colors on size 12 to 18 hooks. For nymph fishing, having pheasant tails, gold ribbed hare’s ears, and Copper Johns tied on the same range of hook sizes will cover most situations. Even with my predilection to carry far too many flies, I use a combination of these imitations greater than 75% of the time.
Another type of fly that can be handy are searching patterns. For dry flies this means having stimulators in several colors and for nymphs it means having a few prince nymphs and frenchies in the vest. These flies are productive when you need some variety in size or color to entice a few more strikes.
The quickest way to learn new techniques is with books and videos. Videos are great if all you are trying to do is replicate a technique. The pattern of watching the video then practicing can quickly improve your skills. The advantage of books is they allow you to follow the cadence of the author, then pause to think about how the meaning of those words should be put into practice. Reading books won’t help you improve your techniques as fast as videos, but they will help you better understand what and when certain techniques should be used.
This summer, the region’s rivers may be a bit more crowded. But if you take your time, devote some effort finding new places to fish, and spend time on the river with family or friends, there is no better way to practice social distancing.