All content © Robert Williamson

All content © Robert Williamson

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Fall Day on the Ogden River

I've fished the Ogden River my whole life. Over the years, I have had many fishing partners tell me that they hate wading the Ogden because it is too much work, the boulders are in the way, and the rocks are slippery. I use to just hide a wry grin. I have loved the workouts this river gives. I admit it is one slippery river and one must be careful when stepping on the rocks--submerged and exposed.

I know I'm getting older. I can feel the stress in my back after a few hours of fishing--something I don't remember at all in my youth. I have to use readers to tie on a tippet and thread the tippet through the eye of the fly. But other than that, I feel like I get around good and I do try to be a little more careful. Today, after about two casts, I slipped on a mossy rock and went down hard. I laid there for a few minutes and then sat up. I bruised the front of my left leg and tweaked my back pretty good. The desire to make it a good day had me back on my feet and casting. I could nurse my pain when I was back home. All those wry smiles I used to hide from my partners came back to haunt me. Age has a way of teaching wisdom.

I didn't get a chance to fish the Ogden River during my favorite times this year. I love the early spring Blue-winged Olive hatches and my favorite, the stonefly hatch, but this year with all the snow melt runoff the river was just too high and fast. Even late summer when conditions were better, I was off chasing fish in other canyons and states. Twenty years ago, I would spend two or three evenings in Ogden Canyon and most Saturdays. It's close to home and I can usually be rigged and fishing within 30 minutes from home. I haven't been spending that kind of time with the Ogden River lately. I sometimes wonder why.

Fall brown taken on a cicada pattern.
 With my regular season fishing coming to an end (I'm getting where I don't fish much in the winter months). I decided to take advantage of one last good fall day. I decided to stay close to home and give my old friend a try. It was a little overcast when I left home. Overcast days can be perfect for Blue-winged Olive hatches. When I got to the river I noticed a few fluttering around. Most of the fish I spotted feeding were taking emergers just below the surface. Every once in a while I would see a head pop out and a dun disappear. The BWO duns were very small (maybe a size 22 or 24). I had a few size 18 tied up and they looked like giants compared to the ones on the water.
Ogden River brown trout.

I've always had good luck on the Ogden with large attractor dry flies in the fall. One year I nailed a bunch of fish on a fall afternoon using a looped foam cicada. I tie this pattern with a black foam body and then vary the color of the head. My favorite colors for the head are orange, red, and lime green. All three colors have been successful but I like the orange head the best. That was my choice today. Even though I saw a few risers to the Blue-winged mayflies, I decided to throw something I could see in the pocket water. I caught a couple and missed a couple.

When I hit a good stretch of smooth water, I decided to tie on the BWO pattern. It was bigger than the naturals, but I was able to catch several fish. All of the sudden I was getting regular hits on almost every cast, and fish were rising pretty consistently. I had at least 15 hits in this stretch but could not hook them. I finally brought in my fly and noticed there was no hook on the fly. I've had points break off before but this Chain-stitched mayfly didn't have a hook period. I don't know how this happened, and I've never had it happen before, but the hook was completely gone. I tied on another BWO and one the first catch caught a fish, then another, and another. I turned to my wife and said, "see, it works a lot better when you actually have a hook."

Rainbow trout.

I was having decent action but soon put the fish down in the smooth stretch. I tied the cicada back on and proceeded to work up river through some swifter currents. I took a couple of small browns and then nailed a fat rainbow about fourteen inches long. It was the first rainbow I've caught on the Ogden in a long time. I caught three of these fat bows during the few hours I fished. I wondered if these were planters that had migrated up into the canyon a ways. I know the DWR plants rainbows down near the river parkway. They were actually a nice diversion from the steady catch of browns.
Switching pattern.

Brown trout caught on a Chain-stitched Blue-winged Olive mayfly.

Decent brown caught on a BWO.
 In all it was a nice afternoon. It was nice of my wife to tag along and take the photographs. I caught some nice fish and the action was fast enough to keep me moving. Some of the fish looked like they were getting ready for the spawn. The last section I fished before I got out looked like the trout were building a redd. I spooked a couple of really nice trout near the end of the cleared gravel. They were big and they were fast. They tore out of the shallows with some real speed. I'm almost positive they were preparing to spawn. 
Brown like this are abundant on the Ogden River.

I noticed that the Blue-winged Olives stopped hatching and the skies had cleared to blue. I decided to call it an afternoon. I hiked up the steep bank and then walked back to the car with my wife. We were home in about 25 minutes. We talked about how we sometimes drive for a few hours to fish and how the fishing in the Ogden was just as good as the other places we try. Maybe I need to spend some more time there. I'll think about it. It is a workout. The boulders are big and slippery. I'll have to think about it. Right now, I'm going to take another pain pill for my tweaked back and go to bed. Goodnight!

Sunday, October 23, 2011


It's late Fall, or what is often referred to as Indian Summer. The temperature is ten degrees warmer than normal. The aspen leaves are that dark, golden color before they turn brown and tumble to the ground. Pine squirrels run across the forest floor checking fallen cones for nuts to cache before deep snow buries the mountain.

With each wind, a rustling sound like someone searching the bottom of a paper sack for the last morsel of lunch drifts through the quiet. It's a perfect day for a hike.

From the trail head we gradually climb up a rocky side hill toward a small ridge sparsely covered with sage, quakies, and pine. As we climb out of the Tony Grove parking lot a wooden sign marks a split in the trail. The trail to the left takes you to Naomi Peak. The trail to the right takes you to White Pine Lake. White Pine Lake is our destination. We've already hiked a few tenths of a mile and the sign tells us we have 3.8 miles to go.

Best friends.

We are lured to this area with autumn colors and as a fly fisherman with rumor of a small lake filled with palette-splashed brook trout. At the sign we glance back to take in the view of Tony Grove Lake. The scene is nice. I try to block out the cars and trucks, and asphalt in the parking lot and look upward at the gray rocky cliffs dressed in a shallow coating of early season snow.

Small colorful brook trout.

Autumn brookie

The trail takes us through a couple of clearings, then through areas of pine and aspen. The afternoon sun has melted the frozen trail and we slip and slide through muddy stretches. We end up on a ridge overlooking another canyon. A climb down through a few frozen switchbacks puts us in the bottom of the canyon. We stop to rest and I can hear the gurgle of a small creek. If my map is right, this is Bunchcreek. Somewhere near this creek is another trail that runs approximately seven miles down to Highway 89, the main road in Logan Canyon. Toward the headwaters of this creek is the lake we are seeking. I investigate the creek water and search for any sign of small trout. I see places where trout could survive but never spot any. My attention is then turned to finding the lake. The lake is well hidden and at no point on the trail have we been able to get a glimpse of it. This adds to the excitement. Finally, as we cross a couple of footbridges, and crest a small hill, we look toward the base of two mountain peaks named Gog and Magog and see White Pine Lake.The shadow side of the peaks is covered with a foot of snow while the opposite side has a warm inviting look. The water is fresh and clean; it takes on the color of the green moss bottom. From different angles mirrored images of tall pines shoot across the surface. With each little breeze the images are erased and then reappear with stillness. This is a popular summer and fall destination. Boy Scouts like to hike in for overnight camps. As we were going in we passed a troop of Boy Scouts going out and a couple of people on horseback. When we arrived at the lake we lucked out and had it to ourselves for an hour. I noticed a few fish rise and rigged my rod, line, leader and fly as quick as I could. I made several casts into the area of the rising fish and hooked up with a nice 11-inch brookie. The colors on the fish matched the colors of the fall foliage. I was impressed with the beauty. The dark worm-like mottled back, the bright orange-red belly, the blue and crimson dots, and the brilliant white on the leading edge of the fins made for a very handsome trout.

Notice the snow in the background.

Most of the brookies were about 10 inches.

I can't claim that the fishing was fast but it was fun. I found that my best tactic was to spot a cruising fish and then cast to it. Most of the cruisers would turn and come for the fly. I was using a dry fly and twitching it slightly to get the brookie's attention. It was like fishing in slow motion for me. I'm so used to the quicker rises of fish on moving waters. Watching and waiting for the trout to get to my fly was fun.

Casting to cruising trout.

A beautiful setting.
With the shortness of the fall day, we decided to start our hike out to beat the setting sun. A little stiffer breeze was blowing and fast moving, small cumulus clouds were starting to appear above the mountain peaks. On our way out we passed a few groups of backpackers just going in. This is definitely a great place for an overnighter. As we hiked out I dreamed of hiking back in and staying overnight. The idea of a fresh trout dinner, a warm campfire, and a star-filled night danced through my mind.

Can't wait to do this again.

The muddy section of the trail had mostly dried out with the afternoon sun. I smiled as I hiked and talked with my daughter and wife. Our hike was topped off when three deer jumped out of the brush and across the trail in front of my daughter. She waved for us to stop and then slowly approach her. The three deer stood off the trail about 30 yards and stared at us as we stared at them.

Eventually, we made it back to Tony Grove and the parking lot. A stiff wind was now blowing over the ridge. Our timing was perfect. A few days later I mentioned to my wife and daughter that I loved being outdoors and that I always have a feeling similar to a home sickness after a day outside in areas I love. My heart flipped when my daughter said she often feels the same thing when we leave grandpa's summer home in Bear Lake. I believe there are places in nature that provide a measure of serenity and peace--maybe even an unexplainable healing both to the body and the spirit. As I write this my eyes are moist as I think back on spending a wonderful day with two of the people I love so much. Nature is bringing us closer together.

My daughter, her dog Ottus, and the penguin.

First vew of the lake.

White Pine Lake

Sunday, October 2, 2011


First fish of the day.
Fun size for a 3-weight rod.
Small and fiesty.

Blending colors.

Saturday, September 17, 2011


Today my wife and I decided to hit a local small creek. It was a spontaneous decision for the most part. We talked about maybe going but nothing was planned until we decided to go. Even with the decision to go, we were not sure where we were going. I had an idea or two in the back of my brain, but it wasn't until I was in the car and driving that I decided on the location.

Isolated thunderstorms had me second guessing my decision, but by the time we arrived at the stream, the skies were clearing. I put my fly rod together, tied on a hopper, and started fishing. I missed a decent brown in the first spot I tried and then hooked up with a good little trout on the next hole.

It was so fun. I didn't worry about putting on waders. I left the chest pack in the trunk of the car. I didn't even take a fly box or floatant or tippet. I greased the hopper at the car and then walked down to the nearest opening and began to cast. I didn't even put on my sunglasses or hat. Of course, with a little overcast, they were not critical. After hooking about 4 or 5 trout and missing about that many, I was good for the rest of the evening.
It's nice to have a few trout creeks within an hour drive from home or less.

I stuck a fly in the trees behind me with a backcast and had to break it off. We went to the car to get another fly. As we were standing in the quiet, I could hear the wind coming. I've heard this before. You can hear wind before you feel it on your skin and hair. My wife wasn't sure what it was. She thought an animal was coming through the trees. Just before the wisp of wind got to us, we could hear the raindrops hanging on the leaves start to drop. The wind was shaking them loose and it sounded like a small sprinkle from a storm. To be honest, it was giving my wife a bit of an eerie feeling. She had never experienced those sounds or those feelings. Those are the types of things you can hear and feel as you spend time outdoors. I didn't explain what was happening until hours after the experience.

Typical feisty brown
 My wife had discovered, a while back, that she had some pioneer relatives buried in a cemetery in a small town in Cache Valley. Here is the "strange" part of this whole experience. Remember, I mentioned that we left for this trip without full knowledge of where we were going until we were heading down the freeway. For some reason, I just decided to go to this particular stream. As we passed one of the small, country towns on our way to the canyon, my wife read the town sign and said, "Hey I have some pioneer relatives buried in this town cemetery." I responded with a "hm mm." I had fishing on my mind. As I was fishing and my wife was looking at wildflowers, she was also thinking about those ancestors in that cemetery. She was trying to remember their names. She remembered their last name but couldn't remember their first names. It wasn't until I had caught two fish when two names came to her. She mentioned to me that their names were Henry and Jane. Again, I shrugged it off and continued to fish.

Normally, I will fish until I can't see, but the last area I wanted to fish had a truck parked in it. We decided to head home. As we entered the small town where my wife's ancestors were buried we decided to drive up to the cemetery and look for their graves. We looked up on the hillside as we slowly drove looking for the cemetery but not seeing one. I finally said, "Lets turn up this road and look for someone in their yard and ask them where the cemetery is." (I know, brave and unusual thing for a guy to do--asking someone for directions.) I turned up the road and noticed a guy with a small child about three blocks up the road and a couple blocks to the north. We drove up to him and asked about the cemetery. "Your on the right road. Just drive to the next two stop signs and then you will see a road angling up to the cemetery," he said. We thanked him and drove according to his directions. I know things happen that are coincidences, I really do, but as we drove up the angled road I asked my wife what the chances were that we just happened to drive up that particular road, and turn on the road to talk to that gentleman, and find that we were on the road to the cemetery? This strange story isn't quite done yet. As we entered the cemetery, it was bigger than what we expected. What are the chances of finding the graves, I thought. I stopped the car and said, "Usually a cemetery will have a directory somewhere." Just as I said it we looked to the right of the car and there was the directory. At first my wife couldn't find the names she was looking for. I went over and looked and missed them the first time through. We thought maybe there was an older cemetery for people from the 1800s. Then I noticed some of the names were out of alphabetical order. I looked closer and we found the names. As coincidence would have it, we were parked right on the row of graves were the ancestors were located. We walked down and found the graves. After a couple of digital photos of the graves, we were on the road and headed home. Everything that happened on this evening could be considered coincidence, but in a small corner of our hearts and minds, we feel that it just might be more than that. Later in the week, I penned a short poem to capsulize the evening.

A simplified approach

You can hear the wind
long before you feel it.
It sounds like a person
crashing through the brush.
Sometimes, it helps you hear
the rain again, hours after
a storm has passed.
It shakes the drops resting on leaves,
sends them tumbling to the forest floor.
Henry and Jane buried in Paradise Cemetery
move around on the wind.
You can feel them too,
but you have to practice pausing.

Friday, August 19, 2011


First little brown of the day.
It's the same old story: the biggest fish of the day gets away. When it's your fish, you can be pretty disappointed. The thought of holding that fish and snapping a few photos can stay with you for days--sometimes weeks--maybe even years, at least until the next outing where it will be replaced with the next "one that got a way" story. When it's your fishing partner's fish, it can be easy to shrug away, unless you are the one who caused them to lose it. When you cause your buddy to lose the nicest fish of the day, the feeling of disappointment is worse.I keep telling myself that it wasn't that big. But the fact remains, it was the biggest fish of the day, and it was hooked and played right as we had decided it was time to leave for home. A 12 to 14 inch trout in this small creek is a fine catch. One pushing 16 inches is a great catch.
"I've got a nice one on!" Mark yelled. I looked up to see a bending rod and could here the thrashing water. Mark's line shot upstream then quickly reversed and came ripping downstream. Then the trout rolled and spun it's way to the surface.
"That is a nice one!" I exclaimed. "Play it down to this cut bank and I'll help you land it."
I knelt down on the bank and reached out to grab Mark's leader. Now, I've been fly fishing for over 30 years. I know you should always use the rod to dampen the shock placed on a tippet from a fighting trout. The flex of the rod can be the difference of landing and losing a fish--but excitement can still cause one to lose common knowledge and that's what happened. I reached out, grabbed the leader, started to lift, and then felt the trout flip and twist. Before I could get my hand under the trout to release the stress on the leader, the tippet broke and the trout was gone.
Hungry Bonneville cutthroat.
Deep stream-side grass.
There would be no picture of the "big" one. No fly fisherman posing. No silly congratulatory handshake, backslapping, or macho talk you see the professional guides doing with their clients. As in many cases of fly fishing trips, all we have is a fish story: two guys who know the truth and readers who get the "story" in printed words. I feel bad about it--I really do. Yet, life moves on and there will be other adventures--other fish--and more stories.

Typical Cutthroat.
The smaller creeks are teeming with trout. Teeming is such a pleasant sounding word. I like its meanings. It has an association with water. Think of flow copiously, pour, rain, stream (down), pelt (down), come down (in buckets), and rain cats and dogs. Then a similar meaning: abundant, swarming with (or in this case swimming with), prolific, abound, crawl with, overflow with, overrun with, and lousy with. When the stars line up and most times even when they don't, it is fairly easy for a competent fly angler to catch a passel of trout on these small creeks.
Hopper hungry Brown trout.
On this trip Mark and I were able to jump spots, which means we took turns hitting the best holes. A mix of brown and cutthroat were caught. It was such a wet year. All the stream side grasses were high and green. It seems like everything is a month behind this year. I noticed my raspberries came on a month later as well as some of the other vegetables in my garden. I noticed that the hoppers in the grass were small for this time of year. It will be fun to go back in a couple of weeks when the hoppers have matured and the grasses have browned with the late summer heat.
Beautiful Bonneville. My favorite trout.
I would imagine, by then, the brown trout will be getting aggressive and starting to stage for the spawn. I want to take Mark back to this creek then, because I know the bigger trout will be out and feeding heavily to fatten up for the spawn and to put on weight for the lean winter months to come. I think I will give Mark the best water. I owe him the chance to get the biggest fish of the day again. This time, I'll be smarter and either carry a net, or let him play the trout from his fly rod until he can get it to his hand.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Torrents of Spring

I don't remember shoveling a lot of snow this past winter, yet the Utah mountains received over 150 percent of normal snowpack. Most of it is still in the mountains. Spring storms were cold enough to add to the snowpack when in most years April is when it starts to melt. Rain showers through much of March and April have brought the rivers to flood stage. Rivers like the Blacksmith Fork are at flood stage naturally, while others are experiencing high waters from frantic releases from reservoirs.

This wet season has taken away many of my early season fishing adventures. The peaceful slow flows and warm afternoons have been replaced with turbulent, off color flows, and wind and wet. The opportunity to fish one of my favorite early season hatches, the baetis or Blue-winged Olive, is gone. Missing this hatch and not being able to get near the water has added to the feeling of cabin fever. The few times the weather has been good enough for me to get in the yard and mow the lawn, or piddle in the garden, are not much of a cure.

I'm hoping the sun comes out. I'm hoping for some heat. I know that's not the scenario those who live along the rivers want, but I do. I want to get that snow out of the mountains. I want the run-off to blow out and then subside so I can fish. My plan is to hit some of the small creeks right after they drop from peaking. At the right time, they will be very fishable, and the water will be high enough that the larger trout might just come out to play. That's the plan. Until then, I'm going to try to enjoy the other outdoor opportunities the second driest state has to offer.

Thursday, March 31, 2011


They get together in fly shops
worn and washed up like
driftwood on the banks of
the rivers they've strolled.

They talk of huge stoneflies,
and how they hit the hatch
prime-time perfect one year,
and how big trout went crazy.

Someone says, "It just isn't the same
anymore; not as many bugs,
and the trout are smaller."

Heads nod in agreement
as another voice cracks,
"I remember when..."

Out on a river, migrating nymphs
invade the banks like an alien army.
Split shucks shimmer and dry,

as clumsy adults clamber
up willows and rocks,
trading water for earth, again.

Friday, March 4, 2011


I've made it through the two months I dislike, and March is here. Even when it snows in March, I know it will melt soon. We have a lot of snow pack this year so the rivers and streams will be blown out with run-off.

One of my favorite times to fish the small creeks and streams is right after the run-off drops to a reasonable level. The water is still high enough that the larger trout are a little more comfortable in moving around. The water is clear and very fishable a this time. I have my eye on a couple of waters already.

The other thing that is fun to do is fish tail waters below the dams before they start releasing flows. Some very good Blue-winged Olive hatches can be found at this time.

Spring is almost here. Life as I know it will soon awaken. See you outside.