Early season fly-Fishing in Utah on the Provo River, Weber River and other fly-fishing streams as they emerge from winters cold offers great dry fly, nymph and soft hackle fly-fishing opportunities. Given the time of year to get the most out of the early season days you need to be prepared.
As Western Rivers Flyfisher’s head streams guide and staff member when I’m getting ready to do a fly-fishing guide trip or a day on the water to enjoy myself I need to prepare a little differently than during the heat of summer. Weather this time of year is tricky and the fly-fishing can be as well. In order to make the most of my time and my clients time on the water I need to be prepared; dress appropriately and have the right equipment, from rods and reels to accessories to optimize time on the water.
Spring weather in Utah comes in many forms. It could be blue sky one minute, snowing or raining the next. First and foremost if I’m to enjoy the day, dressing properly has a lot to do with being comfortable, and getting the most out of what ever may come my way. To achieve that what I start with gets my first attention, and base layers are key.
First and foremost, I’ve tried all kinds of long underwear when fly-fishing when the weather is variable. Through trials and tribulations I’ve come to find the Patagonia Cap 3 is my preferred under wader wear. Check it out here. Over all for layering I’ve found Capilene by Patagonia to have the most affective and comfortable moisture management system. Staying warm and dry is what is critical to comfort. Early season spring mornings can still hover below freezing, with temperatures reaching the mid 50’s in the afternoons. Add some hiking around in the afternoon with a back full of gear and I can get rather hot. For these changing conditions I prefer Capilene 3 as my favorite layering piece.
As a fly-fishing guide my clothing is as important as my rods and reel. Over the top of my insulation I prefer a piece of outerwear that is super light, very packable, windproof and offers great warmth when you need it most. This is critical for those cold morning hours that can quickly transition into a balmy afternoon. As a guide having versatile outer layer to start those cold mornings out, yet one that has little bulk and can easily be packed out is an important consideration. My perfect piece, in fact the shop staff’s preferred jacket for outerwear is the Patagonia Nano Puff Jacket.
Under my waders, for winter, spring and fall I wear Patagonia’s Shelled Insulator Pant because of their versatility. For starters they are a great cold weather pant even when you are not fishing; warm, fairly wind resistant and comfortable. Under your waders, with the R1 inner liner, they have superior wicking capabilities, are warm and soft. Another nice feature is the adjustable ankle cuffs. These prevent the pants from riding up your leg when you first put your waders on. They look a little funny if you leave them that way while cruising your favorite watering hole after a long day on the river, but you’ll get over that. For fly-fishing, walking the dog, taking your kids to a soccer game on a cool spring morning, these pants are the bomb.
Often long underwear and socks for most that fly-fish are an after thought. Can’t believe the number of anglers who still wear jeans under their $400.00 pair or breathable waders? Yet, similar to good under wader wear a good quality sock is as valuable and critical to me being comfortable as the other layers I wear when fly-fishing. My sock of choice is the Simms Heavyweight Wading Socks. They offer superior warmth and hold up to many hard fished days on the river, even when I don’t get a chance to wash them.
Finally, head and hand considerations. I never leave home in the early spring months with out gloves or a light weight beanie. I prefer to use a beanie with a wind stopper agent. I don’t really care which one since none of them look that good, but they sure are warm on those cold windy days. I’m a little more particular about my gloves. First and foremost they need to keep me warm when they are wet like the Simms Wool Fingerless Gloves. With all the fancy gloves out there these have become my preferred glove for this time of year. Wool fingerless gloves have been around for decades and still for my demanding needs are as good as they get.
Ah, waders. It’s a love hate relationship. As a fly-fishing guide I’m not easy on waders. First my waders need to be dependable, especially as a fly-fishing guide, but for you they should be equally as important and critical to your fly-fishing experience. Personally two companies make good dependable waders these days: Patagonia and Simms. These companies are the driving force behind good fly-fishing waders today. With that said my choice is the Simms G4Z. They hold up better than any wader I’ve worn due to their 5 layer Gore construction. I’ve tested a lot of waders and this pair of Simms passes my discriminating test every time!
Fly-fishing the early season can result in some nasty days on the water. Spring storms come in a variety of forms; wet and cold, cold and snowy or just down right windy and cold. Any of these conditions can make you downright miserable; winter, spring or fall here in Utah and the west. For those days when you are going to get weather a good wading jacket is a must have. I have tested many in this category and have to say that I prefer the Simms Guide Jacket; durable and comfortable with the water shedding abilities I’m looking for in a wading jacket for those days when the heavens really part.
Like waders, fishing wading boots are another perishable item. Eventually they wear out and if you’re guiding and don’t have a good durable set of wading boots in the heat of the season you’ll be wishing you did. For me, the new Patagonia Rock Grip Aluminum Bar Boots are where it’s at as far as durability and the ultimate traction in a wading boot. Even without the bar system, Patagonia wading boots design makes them the most stable and best boot on the market. I have found this new Rock Grip wading boot takes posi-traction to a whole new level. After many years on the water and having worn many good wading boots this new innovative wading boot by Patagonia offers me that stability I need to help my clients be safe and enjoy their day. Check out the latest in new wading boots here.
Now let’s get into some of the fun stuff, fly rods. I love a good fly rod and I’m fortunate to have a few in my quiver. When fly-fishing in the spring you need to be ready for just about any situation on the river. There is an abundance of insect activity and variety of hatches. One minute you may be casting tiny midge patterns, the next, early season caddis or stoneflies. Whether it’s fishing with dry flies, small streamers, nymphs or swinging soft hackles you need a fly rod that is versatile. There are a lot of tough choices these days, but my favorite go to rod for fly-fishing this time of year is theScott G2 885-4pc fly rod. It’s an 8’8” inch 5 weight that comes in 4 pieces that easily can do it all. If all you do is fly-fish from a boat or just fish nymphs you may want to consider the G2 905-4pc, but for those who mix it up, this rod is tough to beat; light, super smooth, powerful without being too stiff, and very good looking. I find it a challenge not to want to fish this Scott Fly Rod all the time, I like it that much. Not a common length for most, but its length is just one of the reason it is so versatile.
Fly reels are another of my prized possession and I’m as picky about them as the fly rods they go on. Like rods there are many good options when it comes to fly reels. Most reels these days regardless of price will do a decent job, yet a fly reel for me needs to do more than that. I want a reel that will perform flawlessly regardless of the conditions, but fly-fishing in the cold presents some of the most challenging. Regardless of the weather a fly reel must perform. My time on the water is important, so is my client’s time. There’s nothing worse than hooking that trout of a lifetime only to have your fly reel go south on you. As a guide I see it happen more times than I care to. I’m looking for a reel that can hold up to the elements and not fail in critical moments, especially when it cold out. Hands down Hatch Fly Reels are my first choice; machined to perfection, flawless performers, and they are beautiful. The simply make me want to go fish, and that’s exactly what any good piece of fly-fishing equipment should do for you.
There are a few fly-fishing accessory items that I can’t live without just about any time of the year. My newest is the Abel Nipper. It was a gift from my boss, but had he not given me one I would have bucked up. These beautifully machined nippers are super sharp, cut effortlessly and have a great presence in your hand. Most nippers I just chuck when they get dull, and by mid season that’s usually the case with most of the cheap nippers I’ve used. A great feature with the Abel Nipper is they have replaceable cutters. Although at half a C-note they are a rather expensive pair of nippers, they are worth it.
Another must item that is always with me is a Buff face mask. From a practical standpoint they are a must. Most importantly with skin cancer on the rise and my constant exposure to the sun they help protect me from the suns harmful UV rays. It would be a rare day when I’m not on the water wearing a Buff.
The beauty of fly-fishing is it can be very personal; from the way you choose to fish, to the equipment you use to where you choose to cast your flies. That’s what I like about it and I love sharing that with those I am fortunate to guide or meet in the shop. Although what I choose to use may not be for you, what I do know is the equipment, clothing and accessories I prefer has been put through the rigors and in most instances tested more than most will fish in a lifetime.
Remember the key to having success and fun during the spring fishing months is to layer and dress for weather. Be flexible in your fishing tactics and be willing to fish the conditions presented. This is a great time to fish Utah’s small streams. I hope you find my suggestions helpful. If you have questions regarding some of my suggestion or other fly-fishing matters, or would like to book a day on the water with me, drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org or better yet stop in, coffee is always on. Tight lines and happy fishing!