Rivers and small streams get my full attention from Labor Day weekend through October. I enjoy fishing moving water most of the year, but with fall just around the corner and the brook and brown trout spawns on the current and 60-day horizon, my focus shifts to finding “gems” in the form of small streams that hold spawning fish for the next few months.
Many of my friends don’t seem to understand what I mean by “small streams,” so let’s take a quick look at a few specific streams around the state that produce fish this time of year.
Thistle Creek, Diamond Fork, and upper Hobble Creek are three streams that hold wonderful fish. Although I don’t generally target those streams for much of the year, any one of them offers fine opportunities to catch very willing trout whether with a fly rod or a spinning rod and reel.
Daniels Creek (Daniels Canyon) and the upper Provo River near Woodland, are other wonderful streams this time of year. And, (if those weren’t enough) literally hundreds of small streams in the Uinta Mountains from west to east, also provide stellar opportunities right now and through late October and beyond.
I approach these small rivers and streams in a very straight forward manner. I don’t bother with a fly rod (due to tight casting positions) but stick to a small spinning rod and reel. My line is six-pound-test in either fluorocarbon or monofilament, a small safety pin swivel tied on the end of the line, and a plethora of interchangeable tiny spinners in brown trout, rainbow, silver or gold colors that slide (one at a time) onto the safety pin swivel before making a cast.
Next, I move up or down stream looking for small holes, deeper sections just below water falls, rapids, log falls, or cascades. I cast either upstream and reel down, or downstream and slowly reel up. As brook trout ready for the spawn, their bellies turn bright orange, become very aggressive, and are beautiful to see.
You can generally only catch two to three fish in each “hole,” so, I keep moving, looking for better, deeper spots and cover ground at a pace of several hundred yards every 30 minutes or so.
If one lure stops working, I quickly change color or size and continue fishing. The beauty of fishing while the brook trout are getting ready to spawn is that the fish become very aggressive and “all” the fish in a hole may come up and take a whack at your lure.
Most of the fish caught in small rivers and streams in the early fall are between eight and 13 inches in length, so I rarely keep fish and make sure they get back in the water as quickly as possible.
In the Uinta Mountains (where fishing pressure is light), it doesn’t matter what time of day you fish. The trout will bite from morning until dark and will eagerly and aggressively attack your lures.
Going barbless is a great way to fish this time of year. We must be barbless in Yellowstone National Park, so I don’t generally keep two spinner boxes, one with and one without barbs. Barbless fishing allows you to quickly release your fish and not injure them in the process.
Just last Saturday, while babysitting several grandchildren in Shelley, Idaho, we packed a picnic lunch and headed to the Bechler area of Yellowstone National Park and fished a section of the Falls River near Cave Falls. Following the exact advice from above, my son, Don Jr. and I fished tiny rainbow-colored spinners and caught 10 to 13-inch rainbows almost at will.
While we fished, hundreds of active fish came to the surface for small flies, but our spinners still caught fish and we marveled at how excited the fish were to strike a lure.
Give small streams a try this fall and see if you become “hooked” just like the fish waiting for your lure. Good luck.