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Spring gives birth to fishing euphoria

It was an angler’s fantasy playground in Sandy last weekend.

Hundreds of exhibitors at the International Sportsman’s Expo offered angling trips from catching peacock bass in the depths of the Amazon to netting Arctic char 300 miles north of the Arctic Circle.

While the world offers expensive, exotic locals for wetting a line, local and cheaper alternatives exist within short driving distances. And springtime is the birth of the season.

"There’s something about a good spring day," said Jack Dennis, a well-known fly-fishing instructor and guru. "It’s fresh and new, there are flowers blooming and leaves budding. It’s like a new life and a rebirth."

Dennis, who owns a fly-fishing shop in Jackson Hole, Wyo., has created countless instructional manuals and videos regarding casting, fly-tying, and fishing tips. He can often be seen on cable fishing programs and he travels the country conducting seminars.

The spring offers a contrast to fishing in the fall, when Dennis says, winter looms beyond each cast.

"In the fall, the fishing’s very good, but there’s always the sense that it’ll soon be over," Dennis said. "If I have a bad day in the spring, I can have a better day later in the year. In the fall, if I have a bad day, it’s over."

Not only is spring one of Dennis’s favorite times to wet a line, but it’s one of the most productive times of the year as well, when the fish "sort of break out" of their latent, winter stage.

"For one thing, there’s less people than in the summer," Dennis said. "In the winter, there’s a dormant period where water temperatures are low."

A fish’s metabolism is slower during the colder months. As a result, fish don’t eat as often. When the temperature starts to rise it spawns a flurry of subterranean bustle.

"When the temperature goes up, it brings with it a lot of insect activity, namely, soft blue winged olive mayflies," Dennis said.

With an increased amount of aquatic bugs to choose from and a rising metabolism, spring fishing can be hot.

"Throughout the winter, they are feeding on caddis and other food that’s not too exciting," Dennis said. "Now it gets exciting with a lot of mayflies and stoneflies."

Mayflies and stoneflies are mostly known with fly-fisherman for catching trout. However, spring doesn’t just mean hooking up with cold-water salmonids.

"I really like to fish for carp in the spring," Dennis said. "It’s really good early. As soon as it gets warm, the carp are schooled up and you can get some really big carp."

Carp can be caught in most of Utah’s lakes. Nearby, people can peruse the banks of Jordanelle and Deer Creek reservoirs for monster carp patrolling the shorelines.

However, many of the lakes throughout Utah are still thawing from winter.

"It’s the tail end of ice fishing," said Gary Moulton, general manager of Fish Lake Resorts Associates, who had a booth at the International Sportsman’s Expo. "In another two or three weeks we’ll be in limbo."

The "limbo" Moulton refers to is waiting for the ice to fully melt before it is safe for anglers to go out.

Jerry Sarafolean, the director of public relations for the Park City High School Football Club, who also works with Old Moe Guide Service for the Green River and Flaming Gorge, saw a few challenge that "limbo" period. Recently, he observed a group lose their four-wheelers through the ice in Flaming Gorge because they ventured out during unsafe conditions.

Once the ice melts on Flaming Gorge, though, it will present ideal conditions to catch a trophy fish.

"The prime time to catch them is at the end of April through mid-June," Sarafolean said.

Old Moe Guide Service focuses on catching large mackinaw in the 30-pound range. Last year, Sarafolean said, the biggest fish caught was 40 pounds.

Sarafolean says to cook large fish, make sure to skin them first.

"Before you eat them, you have to skin them or else it will stink up your whole house," Sarafolean said.

Moulton said Fish Lake had a great winter season catching "both splake and quite a few lake trout." But, the methods of catching the fish will change once the ice is gone, as it will be for all of Utah’s fisheries.

"When the ice comes off, we use top water plugs and anything that looks like a shad," Moulton said.

Spencer Higa, the director of adventure operations for Falcon’s Ledge, based out of Altamont, Utah, says the best time to fish in Northern Utah is in about two months.

"There’s still ice in the lakes and the rivers are still a little cold," Higa said. "The best time will be after runoff is over, probably in June."

Higa, however, said rivers like the Provo and Weber are just about ready. Those rivers are tailwater fisheries with the water flow controlled by a dam and won’t be as impacted by spring runoff.

"The BWOs (blue winged olives) on the Provo will soon start hatching," Higa said. "When they start, the fish will rise up in a line and just start pop-pop-pop on the surface."

Right now, however, Higa predicts there will be more midge activity on the surface than BWOs.

While there is more midge activity on the surface, mayflies are abundant underneath. Anglers fishing local rivers should make sure to carry enough of both mayfly and midge patterns.

"My favorite mayfly nymph is a dark pheasant tail," Higa said. "You can also use copper johns and hair’s ears."

Shad Atkinson, a fisherman from Sandy who threw out some line in the Provo Canyon on Saturday, said the BWOs weren’t hatching in abundance yet.

"There was a few flying around but there were a ton of midges everywhere," Atkinson said. "I hooked up with a brown earlier in the day with a small black midge pattern and another with a prince nymph, but I didn’t see any fish rising until later. At the end of the day I caught a few fish on a dryfly midge pattern. I think there’s still a couple weeks before the BWOs come out in full force."

Until the hatches come out strong, Higa said anglers should use a dry-dropper technique, which means to tie on a dryfly and suspend a sinking nymph below. Many times the fish will hit the flies just below the surface. A dropper could be any emerging pattern or even a "floating pheasant tail," Higa said.

"You could use a dry-dropper until you see more bugs coming off the water," Higa said.

Atkinson fished on Saturday because he knew it would be a warm day and hoped he would get into the first BWO hatch of the year. Even though the BWOs didn’t come out in droves, he wasn’t disappointed.

"It felt really good to get out. I haven’t fished since September, and it was very rejuvenating."


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