Salt Lake City’s Hidden Fishing Gem

With the majority of Utah’s angler focus being on the Provo and the Green River in search of big browns, secret gems like Salt Lake City’s Big Cottonwood Canyon are subject to minimal angling traffic with the possibility of catching exquisite trout. Although the fish are not as big as the hogs in the more popular rivers, they do have some of the most beautiful patterns I have ever seen. The main stream that runs down the middle of the canyon is called Big Cottonwood Creek which is home to Rainbow Trout, Brook Trout, German Brown and the native fish the Bonneville Cutthroat trout.

The most convenient thing about this stream is that it’s about a 10-20 minute drive from just about anywhere in the Salt Lake Valley. It is the perfect place for my girlfriend and I to go fish for a day if we want to be close to home.Although most of the fish we have seen or caught in the canyon are less than 13 inches, larger trout can be found in deeper holes hidden all the way up the canyon. Luckily the stream has a variety of places to cast your line, from deep dams to flat, windy and slow moving waters along with fast moving stretches thick with foliage.

It is very unlikely to run into other people in the lower half of the canyon – at the very top, Silver Lake by Brighton Ski Resort see’s the most traffic. According to a forest service employee, they stock the lake twice a month during the summer to accommodate the fishing demands (mostly large families or groups). Along the stream nymphing is always a promising strategy year round. The fish are very intrigued by smaller nymphs with darker color patterns usually with a beaded head to get them closer to the bottom of the stream. In the summer months dry flies work well also. Parachute adams, drakes and mayflies tend to work best during the early summer. As summer moved on and got warmer we introduced medium sized hoppers and black ants successfully. Streamer wise we have had success with small black or brown wooly buggers in the deeper more slow moving waters. When late fall and winter arrive it’s back to nymphing
and the colder it gets the smaller the nymph the better.

Waders are needed year round in this stream. The water that flows out of it is used for drinking water for the residents of the valley. You could receive a ticket if you do not obey this law. Also the rocks in the river are extra slippery due to moss and the swift current so be careful when you are hiking around.

With the stream being so close to the residential valley it is an easy escape for anyone who needs to get out of the city rush and go fishing. You save yourself the hassle of commuting to the bigger rivers and you have the opportunity to catch some beautiful species of trout. Aside from the fishing you are surrounded by monstrous mountains blanketed with wide varieties of trees and foliage. There are even apple trees and berry bushes next to the river at some points where you can pick and enjoy some of the earth’s most flavorful fruits. Even if it’s just to go sit by the river and watch the water and be surrounded by the surreal beauty of the mountains, the tranquility and peacefulness of Big Cottonwood Canyon is worth a visit.

Contributed by Landon Hale of