Many Options on Manti Mountain
by Hartt Wixom
Let the world’s trout anglers clamor to Montana or Yellowstone Park. One can find faster trout fishing right here in the Beehive State. Manti Mountain, for example.
This central Utah plateau, a little over three hours north of Dixie, has dozens of hot trout lakes and streams. Three of my favorite flat waters are Scofield, Electric and Boulger reservoirs. The inlets are also especially good fishing in early summer when the cutthroat trout begin spawning. Catch it right and 16-18 inchers are entirely possible. I found many lakes by myself but of great help to find others, including some with grayling, was Brad Bradley, Manti, retired state conservation officer.
More lakes I like include Bench Pond for rainbows and Mammoth Reservoir (sometimes called Huntington) for tiger trout. The latter (brown x brook trout hybrid) can grow to three pounds or more here, although there are not as many as when originally stocked five years ago due to heavy fishing and a liberal limit of four per day. I’ve taken many good rainbows from Millers Flat but it is admittedly a temperamental fishery dependent upon the latest insect hatches. Some bait anglers swear by Cleveland and Gooseberry reservoirs.
That’s only the northeast Manti. Farther south you have the tiger trout of Duck Fork Reservoir and Willow Lake, the brook trout of Ferron and Spinner reservoirs, plus smaller brookie lakes in the same drainages. Joes Valley Reservoir often produces the largest trout on the mountain but a boat is recommended because of its size. In the western shadow of the mountain is Nine-mile Reservoir on U. S. 89 which gave up a 9-lb. tiger trout in 2009.
Then, there is the west slope. Dozens of lakes can be found at the top of Twelve-mile and Six-mile, Manti and Ephraim canyons. A few I’ve found worth the time are Yearns, Logger Fork, Snow, Community and Deep. Emery and Emerald are out of the way but can offer hungry pansize brook trout. Dry flies such as Adams and elk hair caddis, sizes 16-18, work well on these waters.
The outlet stream from Electric, Huntington River, is a sleeper. Some ignore this one because it flows right alongside the pavement of Utah 31. Nevertheless, it has brown trout which feed heavily on dry flies drifted with the current, or nymphs twitched against it. From the Flood Canyon area upstream it is flies only but there is no better way of enticing them. Other worthy streams are Ferron Creek, Left Fork of Huntington below Millers Flat (also accessed from Utah 31) and about any creek which runs year around. Try to fish where others haven’t, in and around snags, trees, cutbanks, where fish seek cover.
Other flies which work are a bead head nymph or large black woolly bugger, a strange mixture, for they look nothing alike. Yet, the fish feed heavily on both at times. In late summer’s grasshopper season, try an elk hair caddis or other ‘hopper look-alike. Note that some inlet streams do not open until the second Saturday in July (check the 2010 Fishing Guide) to protect spawning cutthroats.
Manti has many access roads. They are more easily negotiated than those on Boulder Mountain, passable in most cases with pickup truck, although four wheel drive is useful in wet weather. A map of the Manti-LaSal National Forest (Ferron Region) shows them all. Forest campgrounds are scattered across the entire region. I like to pull my hardtop trailer to those on the west slope.
Major access routes are in the canyons mentioned, but add Ferron Canyon for the Duck Fork area, and Fairview for Scofield, Electric, Boulger and Bench. The rainbows in Bench are difficult to catch unless working the surface. Watch for rising fish, then toss a small yellow or green pattern. You will normally need to make long casts but be careful of soft mud when wading out. Same thing on Boulger.
Take raincoats and warm clothing, as well as binoculars and camera. One caution: local tourism brochures feature the wonderful view from north-south Skyline Drive but it can be precarious in wet weather, with drop-offs on both sides.