Catchable rainbow are planted on regular basis in Uinta lakes.

Always a favorite with anglers at this stage in the fishing season is the Uinta Mountains. The high-country setting offers more than 1,000 natural lakes, with more than 400 of these waters holding game fish and more than 400 miles of streams and rivers. Some are easily accessible, within a couple of dozen steps of a parking area, while others require a long hike, a sure-footed horse or lama and overnight camping to reach.

What helps to make this area so popular at this time are the opportunities for every level of fisherman, from the avid angler to the youngster out for his or her first experience. To that end, the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources plants the more accessible lakes on a routine basis with catchable trout. To help fishermen catch more fish it posts an up-to-date schedule of plants on Utah Division of Wildlife Resources under the fishing heading.

It’s a good time to hit the Uinta steams because levels are low and fish are concentrated.

There are, of course, other reasons to fish the Uintas at this time, among them the colors — leaves going from mountain green to shades of red, orange, brown and yellow and accented by the always uniform pines. This, too, is a time when the crowds start to dwindle, the mosquitoes and flies are gone and the water levels are stable.

Best of all this is a time when fish are eager to eat in preparation for winter. This makes ant and beetle patterns in black, brown or rust colors a good choice for fly fishermen, along with the popular Griffith gnat and elk hair caddis. Woolly Buggers in black, brown and dark olive offer a slightly larger meal to hungry fish.

Best fishing is mornings and evenings when fish come to the surface to feed. Those who chose to fish in the middle of the day will need to go a little deeper. Lures, such as the Jake’s Spin-A-Lure, a fly and bubble and natural and commercial baits work well for spin casters. Available fish in the lakes range from cutthroat, brook and rainbow to tiger trout.

If the fly, lure or bait aren’t working, change size and color. That’s the secret.

Float tubes are a good way to get access to where fish are feeding.

Before venturing too far off the main highway, buy a map or guide book on the Uintas and become somewhat familiar with the area. This is rugged country. And always be aware of the fact that the weather can change quickly from calm to stormy so be prepared.

Take note of this, too. The kokanee salmon are running, and it is definitely a sight to see. Kokanee spend most of their three years of life with silver coloring. When the run begins, however, they turn a smooth-skinned red color with a greenish head. The females keep their shapely bodies, but the males develop a large hump on the back and a hook on the lower jaw.

They’ll swim into the tributaries of Strawberry Reservoir in their new, bright dress, where males and females will pair up and spawn. After the spawn they will die, hopefully leaving behind many more offspring. During the spawn the DWR will strip females of their eggs and males of their sperm in order to improve survival. In the wild roughly 20 percent of the eggs hatch, where as the survival rate in hatcheries is around 80 percent.

There is a boardwalk along sections of the Strawberry River near the U.S. Forest Service visitor center and reservoir that allows guests to see the red salmon in their spawning ritual. On Sept. 24 (this Saturday), the Strawberry Valley Wildlife Festival will be held at the center. This is the best opportunity to see the salmon and the egg-taking process. Hours are 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

HOW TO GO Directions to Uinta Mountains: Follow state route 150 east from Kamas. Start running into roadside lakes about 25 miles from Kamas. Roads to some of the popular lakes, such as Butterfly, have been closed for the season. Access is still good to many roadside lakes including Mirror, Pass, Teapot, Washington, Moosehorn and Lillie. Fees are required for camping, hiking and fishing. Always pack rain gear and extra clothing.

Directions to Strawberry: Take state route 40 southeast of Heber City for about 20 miles. The visitor center is just off the highway on the road to Strawberry Marina. The festival is free. Great family outing.

UINTA FACTS & FIGURES - More than 1,000 natural lakes with more than 400 holding populations of game fish. Also more than 400 miles of rivers and streams. - Uinta Mountains receive more than 2.5 million visitors annually. - Highway 150 is better known as the Mirror Lake Scenic Byway. - Watchable wildlife include elk, moose, deer, small mammals and birds. Rarely seen are bears and big horn sheep. - The highway climbs from around 7,000 to nearly 12,000 feet. - Several hiking, horseback and ATV trails. - Things to be aware of are lightning, hypothermia, sunburn, blisters, moose and black bears. - Species of fish include cutthroat, rainbow, brook, splake, golden and tiger trout. - Uintas are a subrange of the Rocky Mountains and are unusual in that they are the highest in the U.S. running east and west. - The Uintas are approximately 100 miles east of Salt Lake City.