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Strawberry Reservoir: Ripe for All Kinds of Anglers

Written by Matcha

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Strawberry Reservoir   |  Cortney Boice, Blue Halo

Affectionately referred to as “The Berry” by local anglers, Strawberry Reservoir is widely considered to be the top stillwater fishery in Utah — and likely one of the best in the country. 

Although it’s just a 1.5-hour drive from Salt Lake City, traveling to the Berry is an experience that feels quite removed from the hustle and bustle of the urban area and its nearby fisheries. The reservoir is so large that even on crowded days, anglers can find some solitude simply by moving to a different area of the lake.

Setting the Scene

Most visitors to Strawberry Reservoir will be arriving from the west, and will be treated to some spectacular views along the way. If you’re approaching via Salt Lake City and I-80, the backside of the Wasatch and the Park City resorts will be readily visible to the east. A little farther down the road, keep an eye out for the origin of the famous Middle Provo River (Read: Provo River fishing guide) under Jordanelle Reservoir (another great fishing destination), and watch it begin to meander through the beautiful Heber Valley among healthy stands of cottonwoods. With the broad east face of Mount Timpanogos looming in the background, it’s a fairly dramatic setting to kick off a trip to the Berry.

After leaving the charming town of Heber, you will begin the second half of your trip on Victory Canyon Road (Highway 40), which winds through a densely wooded canyon before emerging onto the high desert terrain around the reservoir. Sitting at 7,000 feet, the area is high enough to be subject to deep snow packs and long winters, meaning that things don’t thaw out until the middle of May. Summers are short but sweet in this part of the state. 

Strawberry is the lifeblood of many highly productive Uinta Basin streams. Locating the reservoir on a map and tracking down its inlets and outlets will point any exploratory angler towards some of the best, low-trafficked bodies of water in Utah. Bustling populations of rainbow, cutthroat, and land-locked kokanee salmon patrol the deeps and cruise the banks, feeding on crawfish, large scuds, damsel flies, leeches, and a variety of stillwater mayflies.

Ice Off

Two words to keep an ear out for: ice off. While grabbing some flies at your local shop, if you happen to overhear someone mention ice off, you’ll know it’s time to get out on the water, stat. More than likely, the person is referring to the retreating ice sheet on Strawberry Reservoir and the conglomeration of large cutthroat and rainbow trout heading toward the banks in search of warmer water and a fresh meal. These hungry beasts respond to nearly everything you throw at them in the first few weeks of ice-off. As a result, anglers take some of the biggest fish of the year during the first few warm months of the year using a variety of flies. Wooly buggers and articulated streamers in rust, black, white and olive fished on a sinking line could potentially produce a fish in the 2-5 pound range. Try a few top water options like mouse patterns and poppers for some great action as well.

Fishing on Strawberry Reservoir

Photo: Cortney Boice, Blue Halo

Onward to Summer and Fall

As the season progresses, mayfly patterns and other smaller dry flies begin to become more of a factor. A good tactic during this period is to head out at first light and look for fishing gulping insects off the calm surface of the lake before the wind comes up and makes it harder to discern where they’re feeding. During the true heat of summer (July and August), the fish will move deeper to find cooler water and sinking lines will once again be most productive method for getting into fish. Wooly bugger, damselfly, and scud patterns seem to be the most consistent producers for the sinking line program, the latter two work especially well along the edges of weed beds.

Once the temperatures start to drop in September, the fish cruise back into the shallows for a couple months before winter settles in. Although the most popular method to fish Strawberry Reservoir is by boat, spring and fall can have some excellent fishing conditions for wade anglers.

Family Adventure

Strawberry can be fished, water-skied and enjoyed by powerboat, float tube, dingy, pontoon or whatever other craft you may have in your arsenal. Bring the whole family and camp out at one of the three campgrounds to make a weekend out of it. And don't forget the crayfish trap! Crayfish boils are not only delicious, but the pursuit of the crustaceans will keep the kids occupied while you get in some fishing.

Big fish that are willing to take a fly, options for the whole family and an un-crowded angling experience are all part of the package at Strawberry Reservoir.

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