Sun Lakes Fly Fishing Club

George Abernathy, Founder, Sun Lakes Fly Fishing Club

After three fly fishing trips to Lake Panguitch, several members in the Sun Lakes Fly Fishing Club agreed that at least one or more trips to this fishery will be on our 2021 calendar.

Panguitch Lake is located in southwest Utah, and the drive there from Sun Lakes takes roughly seven and a half hours. Some of the state’s largest rainbow trout are fished from the lake each year, and aptly so. “Panguitch” comes from the Paiute word meaning “big fish.”

After discovering the lake in May, Brad Smith and Dan Rheinauer, both club members, went on their first trip in June. After telling me that they both landed 20 to 25 16-inch to 21-inch rainbow and tiger trout each day, except on the third day when Brad landed 45 fish, I immediately got excited.

Brad went again in August with his wife and daughter and came back with a similar story, which was all I needed to go on the next planned trip in September.

Dan Rheinauer, Sonny Williams, guest Mike Lyons, and I arrived late afternoon on Tuesday and launched our one-man inflatable boats. Between the gusting winds and encountering a tremendous amount of algae in the water, we all got skunked. It wasn’t a big deal, because every fly fisher gets skunked from time to time, and there were two more days to fish.

The second day, most of us did better by landing five to seven fish that ranged from 15 to 19 inches. All of these fish were fatties and real fighters. Pound for pound, they fought better than any trout we’ve ever landed, and the tug of war really intensified when they wrapped themselves around three- to four-foot high reeds.

Unbeknownst to me, on Thursday, I would experience the feeling that both Brad and Dan felt on their first trip in June. The morning started out about the same, with multiple fish being caught by most of us. The trick was to find an area that could be fished near exposed reeds that wasn’t saturated with algae. After rowing and kicking (most fishers wear swim fins in addition to using oars), halfway across the lake, I found an open area fairly near the shore that was surrounded by reeds and contained a limited amount of algae. I got a hit on my first cast, and from then on, it was nonstop for the next two and a half hours. It was totally crazy! By the time I stopped, I landed 30 to 35 fish that ranged from 14 to 18 inches and weighed upwards of three pounds. I’m not sure what these fish were dieting on, but they were by far some of the best fighters and acrobatic trout I ever landed. In all my years of fishing, I’ve never experienced catching like this! A trip is already on the calendar for next June when fishing is supposed to be at its best, and if we’re lucky, we’ll have another great “Panguitch” opportunity.