I have a different take on a hatch chart. Instead of thinking about what insect is supposed to be hatching at a given time of year, how about an actual catch chart?
I looked back at our fishing notes and tallied all the fish we caught by month and the flies or nymphs we used to catch them.
I analyzed our fishing data in a “semi-scientific” way. I say semi-scientific for several reasons, but mainly because we already have a bias when we walk to the river at a specific place or time. We choose flies based on past knowledge and what we expect to work at a particular place and time.
We adapt to what we see happening on the river, but a true controlled scientific study would have us fishing each fly and technique every month of the year for a specified time.
We would also have to consider all sorts of water flow and temperature data as well as other weather and sunlight parameters such as temperature, time of day, wind speed, wind direction, cloud cover, Sun angles, Sun in face or Sun at back etc., etc., etc.
But we fish for fun and while a real scientific experiment would be very interesting, it wouldn’t be much fun to fish for a specified amount of time with a fly that was not working just to collect data.
Provo River Fishing Data
We fished the middle Provo River 73 times between August 2013 and August 2016 and caught 702 fish (three years data for every month except June – August should have had four years, but we didn’t fish in Aug. 2014).
I fished 47 times with Jim O’Neal, a well know Provo River fishing guide and my personal fishing buddy/fishing coach. I fished alone 15 times and fished with other friends 11 times and 73 fishing trips yielded 112 fishing trip/fly combinations.
Like most people, we look for rising trout and love to catch them on top with dry flies when the hatch and the fish cooperate, but many times we fish nymphs under the water because sometimes that’s the only way to consistently catch fish.
Occasionally, we nymph using a dropper attached to a dry fly (dry-dropper), sometimes we fish with a weighted nymph or an in-line weighted rig, but most of the time we use the Provo River Bounce Rig.
Jim makes all his own flies to match the insects in the Provo River and we normally don’t fish with many store-bought flies. I am learning to tie my own flies, but still occasionally buy flies.
All the flies we used to catch fish (rainbow trout, brown trout and mountain whitefish) on the Middle Provo River have been combined into the groupings shown in Table 1.
Table 1 Fishing Techniques, Flies & Fish Caught – Middle Provo River 2013 – 2016
The Nymph patterns we used were egg patterns, sow bugs, our Provo River version of the San Juan worm, various forms of midge larvae, and Green Drake or Caddis larvae.
The Dry Fly patterns are versions of Caddis, or mayflies (Blue-wing Olive (BWO), Pale Morning Dun (PMD) and Green Drakes). These can be various colors, sizes and can be typical flies, emergers or shucks.
We also fish streamers, soft hackles and ants (the ants always seem to be black), by retrieving or swinging them.
Since a normal hatch chart shows the times of year a particular hatch normally occurs, I will do the same but with the actual flies we used and the results.
Table 2 is fishing effort (total trips with each fly pattern) by month.
Table 2 Fishing Effort – Month/Fly Combinations – Middle Provo River 2013 – 2016
You can see that all months are not represented equally. We fished from five to 21 times each month except we only fished twice in June. We fished other places in June and I visited family in June the last two years, but I’m not sure how it happened that we fished only twice in June 2014, 2015 and 2016.
We had the most fishing trips in August even though we did not fish the middle Provo at all in August 2014.
The Mule Deer and Elk hunting seasons also influence the number of times we fish in September and October.
You can see our use of various flies follows the normal hatch (or lack of hatch) patterns, but sow bugs and midges (larvae and flies) could be fished in the middle Provo all year long.
Table 2 also shows that except for the Palmer and Green Drake, every other fly was used between five and 18 times. We nymphed 58 times, fished dry flies 40 times and retrieved or swung streamers, soft hackles or black ants 17 times.
Table 3 Total Fish Caught – Month/Fly Combinations – Middle Provo River 2013 – 2016
Looking at the raw numbers, the most productive fly for the middle Provo for us has been the egg patterns, followed by sow bugs and caddis dry flies.
We almost always fish egg patterns and sow bugs using the Provo River Bounce rig, either with two eggs or with one egg on top and a sow bug on the bottom hook.
We start fishing the egg patterns in November and keep using them until they stop working in February. By that time, the trout and whitefish start hitting sow bugs and then as the water flow increases in the spring, they also start hitting worms.
As for fishing with dry flies, we try to fish a few midges early in the year when fish are rising, but fishing such small midges is very technical and the fish seem to really be keyed into an exact search patterns. In other words, it’s tough. Jim has some success, but for me, not so much.
Again, by the raw numbers, our best dry flies are caddis, BWOs and PMDs, but the big Green Drakes are fun while they last.
The Blue-wing olives start to hatch in Feb. and Mar., but I was able to catch fish on PMDs in April one year because those were the only dry flies I had. So what does that say about “matching the hatch”? PMDs normally hatch in August.
Various caddis start hatching in May and continue on and off until October, especially in the evenings.
The Green Drakes hatch in June and we catch fish with them on top and as nymphs depending upon different sections of the river or even the pool below where they are hatching.
Now that you’ve seen the raw numbers, let’s analyze the data a little. Since fishing effort is not equal for each fly or for each month, we need to standardize the effort. It is easy to calculate the number of fish each fly was expected to catch based on the total effort and the total number of fish caught.
We fished egg patterns nine times in January (from Table 2), so we divide 9 by the total effort (112) and then multiply that by the total number of fish caught (702). The number of fish we expected to catch is 56.4. We then take the actual number of fish caught (142 from Table 3) and divide by the number expected (56.4) and we get 2.52. Multiply by 100 and we get 252% (see Table 4).
Table 4 Percentage Fish Caught vs. Expected by Month/Fly Combinations – Middle Provo River 2013 – 2016
If we expect to catch 25 fish with a particular fly in a particular month and we actually catch 25 fish, then that is 100% of what we expect.
If we caught at least 25% more fish than expected (>125%), the cell is colored green in Table 4. If we caught between 75% and 125% of the number expected, the cells are white and values 25% less fish than expected (<75%) are colored red (red/orange) in Table 4.
Very large and small percentages are meaningful and a Chi Square test actually shows these fly/month combinations to be significantly different, with the green cells being more likely to catch fish than the red cells, but I won’t bore you with the statistical details. Nothing new anyway, we fully expect different flies to catch more or less fish during different times of the year.
Trout Flies to use Each Month to Catch the Most Fish on the Middle Provo River
So, how do you use Table 4 to catch more fish on the Middle Provo River? It depends on when and where you are fishing.
I say if you are successful, continue to fish the way you normally fish, but keep it mind the results we had if things are slow. If you don’t normally carry eggs, sow bugs or P.R./S.J.worms or streamers, consider adding a few to your fly box depending on the time of year.
I also notice many people fish the exact same places, so change things up and try fishing a few different places. The middle Provo gets very crowded sometimes, but a short walk from one of the fishing access areas will almost always let you find an undisturbed section to fish.
For January, our most successful flies were Egg Patterns and Sow Bugs. In February, we were most successful with BWOs and in March, Sow bugs were most successful.
Overall, the absolute best fly was Egg Patterns, but I wouldn’t use them except in cold weather and the absolute best months were the coldest months (Nov. – Jan). Don’t let the cold temperatures keep you from fishing. It was 9°F when we got out of the truck on one of our best fishing days last January.
In my opinion, the best chance to catch fish is to “bounce” egg patterns in January, November and December. It is ridiculous how well it works when you find the right place.
Bounce sow bugs (see example of our sow bug) and cast BWOs when you see the first fish rising in February. Go back to bouncing sow bugs and worms in March and April unless fish are rising.
In May, I would continue to bounce sow bugs until I found the “Mother’s Day” caddis hatch. Once you find the hatch, remember to follow it up upstream over the next few weeks.
We have little data for June, but we caught fish on green drake, caddis and midge larvae. In July we did best with worms and streamers.
According to Table 4, fishing the Provo in August doesn’t look too good, but we have biased our data because we put in lots of effort fishing a particular type of dry caddis in the evenings; we call “skittering”. It is a blast to watch fish come out of the water to grab Jim’s skitter bug. Lots of action, but we don’t always hook lots of fish. The fish in the Provo River are well educated, so perhaps they are getting wise to our skitter bugs.
In October, we’ve been most successful with caddis on top and and sow bugs under the water. In Nov. and Dec., go back to egg patterns, but again, you have to find areas where fish are spawning.
Additional Notes on Fishing Data from the Middle Provo River
First, my notes are not perfect. We don’t use a ticker to count every fish and Jim definitely tries many different flies that don’t get recorded in my notes (especially if they don’t catch fish), but I think this is a fair representation of how we’ve fished the middle Provo River over the last three years and the success (or lack thereof) we had.
All fishing days were not created equal as we fished only an hour or so on some days and from morning to past dark on others. Some flies may have been cast many times during a day and others for only a few minutes.
Our 73 fishing trips averaged 9.1 fish per trip. We recorded at least 50 fish on one outing, 30 fish on two trips, at least 20 fish seven times and at least 15 fish 22 times. There were seven trips where I didn’t catch any fish, but those were mostly quick trips just to see if fish were rising and I didn’t fish very long or try many techniques.
Over the same time period on the Middle Provo River, we landed one 20 inch fish, on 9 trips we caught fish at least 19 inches long, 18 trips had fish of at least 18 inches, 34 trips had fish of at least 17 inches and on 55 trips we caught fish at least 16 inches, so we caught at least one 16 inch fish on 55 of 73 fishing trips.
Each year, we fish the entire river from just below the Jordanelle dam to where the river flows under the Charleston Bridge into Deer Creek Reservoir. Some days we fish a relatively small area and other days we have fished the entire way from River Road down to the Legacy Bridge at Midway Lane. Other days, we fish from the Legacy Bridge down to or even past the railroad tracks (see Angler Access and River map below).