Provo River Fishing Outlook
March 2018

emerging mayfly on water

Emerging Mayfly – Things to come.

One of the things I like to do before we fish, is to look at the notes we made in past years for this same time of year.

After a while, you know what to expect as far as hatches based on the time of year, but there are difference from year to year caused by various factors such as weather or in our case on the Provo River, the temperature and the amount of water released from the dam.

My Fishing Log sometimes reveal thing we had forgotten and it is always fun to reminisce about particularity good days and to remember the lessons from the tough days.

So the question I asked my notes this week is:

What flies and techniques caught fish on the Middle Provo River between late February and Mid March?

We have records for 10 fishing trips on the middle Provo River (2014 – 2018) during that time frame and my notes say we caught 140 fish.

Catch Chart for Middle Provo River between Feb. 16 and Mar. 16 (2014 – 2018)

Technique Fly Fish Pcent
bounce or inline
sow bug 27 19.3%
egg pattern 18 12.9%
midge nymph 15 10.7%
P.R. worm 12  8.6%
BWO nymph  9  6.4%
Total under
81 57.9%
dry or
BWO shuck 22 15.7%
midge shuck 21 15.0%
BWO  9  6.4%
noseeum (midge)
 4  2.9%
midge nymph  3  2.1%
Total Top 59  42.1%

Our per fish average for those 10 trips is 14.0 fish per trip. Not bad, but keep in mind we spend a lot of time taking video and many times only our clients are actually doing all the fishing.

There are days Jim and I could catch 40 fish if we wanted, but the goal was to teach a client a new technique or to learn where the hatch had progressed on the river or what else were fish biting at other places. Sometimes our goal was to get specific things on video and many times, we (Jim says I should say me) just don’t feel the need to catch 40 fish.

Anyway of those 140 fish, we caught 81 fishing under the water with the bounce rig or an in-line rig and we caught 59 fish on top either fishing dry flies or as dry-droppers.

During the last half of Feb. and the first half of March, The sow bugs are starting to turn on and the egg patterns are starting to turn off.

Midges are always hatching on the Provo River, and the Buffalo Midges and the blue-wing olive hatches usually start this time of year, so the fish start looking for them.

Also notice that worms (Provo River worms) can almost always be used to catch fish on the Provo River, especially after a snow melt, a rain or when high water is causing banks to collapse.

I’ve started using the term “shuck” to indicate an emerger or an empty shuck since everyone is familiar with the Phil’s “mothershucker” and the term “noseeum” for Jim’s version of Phil’s noseeum. Jim ties all his own flies, all the flies our clients use and most of the flies I use as well.

I want to make sure you understand these data show fish caught by technique and by fly, but does not show the effort that went into each technique/fly combination. Other techniques and flies were also tried, such as swinging a soft hackles or a steamer, but if we didn’t catch a fish or if it didn’t get into my notes, we don’t have that information.

I especially have a hard time keeping up with all the flies that Jim tries, especially if he doesn’t remember to tell me he caught fish on them.

Note for the beginners about the flies: The nymphs we use for fly fishing come in several forms to mimic the various life stages of the insect larvae that trout eat.

We use nymphs to mimic midge or Blue-wing-Olive (BWO) nymphs this time of year and we use shucks (e.g. midge and BWO shucks) to mimic emerging flies and we use dry flies like the BWO or  “noseeum” to mimic the adult forms of midges or BWOs depending upon the size and color.

Nymphs are always in the water, so fish can always eat them. When nymphs emerge (also called a hatch), they usually do so in mass and thousands of larvae float to the surface (many are pulled to the surface by gases built up under their shell caseings as they mature). When they hatch in mass, fish really pay attention to them.

The nymphs then burst through the water’s surface tension to get on top of the water and then almost immediately split open their shells (exoskeletons) and emerge as adult midges or mayflies to complete their reproductive cycle.

Many mayflies have a second molt a day or two later, that is why you will see the terms “duns”(first) and “spinners” (second).

Some species of mayflies and caddis don’t risk emerging in open water and crawl up on vegetation to emerge.

Fish will feed on the nymphs and emergers under the water and sometimes just below the surface as they are trying to reach and get through the surface and escape. Fish will also feed on nymphs as they try to split out of their shells and even on empty shell casings.

Flies to Use in Early March on the Provo River

So what should you have in your fly box the first few weeks of March for the Middle Provo?

Our Catch Chart only has nine different flies in it.

  • sow bug
  • egg pattern
  • BWO shuck
  • midge shuck
  • midge nymph
  • P.R. worm
  • BWO nymph
  • BWO fly
  • noseeum fly
  • midge nymph

Sow bugs and egg patterns caught a third of our fish in previous trips this time of year.

Midge and BWO shucks caught almost another third of the fish, so if you only had these four flies, you will probably catch fish either under the water or on top of the water (assuming you fish them properly).

You should always have a couple of Provo River worms in your fly box (If you are still wondering, some people call these San Juan worms).

So from the Chart, that only leaves the nymph and dry fly versions for both midges and BWOs for this time of year (other flies to come later). And remember you can fish nymphs any way you want (bounce or inline nymphing or as a dry-dropper).

Note: we also fished one day on the Lower Provo River during this time frame, but all fish were caught on sow bugs.

I originally posted the year long Provo River “Catch Chart” in 2016 (read Provo River catch chart here), but will update the chart soon to add all our 2016 and 2017 data.

See you on the river.

Want to Fish with us? Want to learn to use the Provo River Bounce Rig? Tell us what you want to learn how to do. Click Here to Learn More.

This Provo River Fishing Outlook Report is provided by Jim O’Neal &

Watch our fly fishing videos here at Jim’s YouTube site.

Our new video this week is fishing the Provo River in late February. At the end of the video, Jim shows his fly box, so you can see all the flies we used.

Winter Fly Fishing Provo River

You should Keep a Fishing Log

If you don’t keep a fishing log or notes about your days in the field or on the water, I suggest you take a few minutes at the end of each day and write something down or put it in your computer or other device. I actually put our fishing notes and my hunting notes in a database so I can ask all sorts of questions later.

When I was young, I remember one of my favorite family traditions was reading the notes of past fishing trips at my Granddad’s old fishing cabin on the N.C. coast. My Grandad and the old fishing cabin are both gone now, but my aunt still has those notes.

The notes were just simple note scribbled on an old note pad that would say something like this:

  “Oct. 10, 1979 – Roy and me (my grandparents) caught 42 spots and croakers plus I caught two flounders on rising tide near channel marker #10. Fish quit when tide started falling”.

We still get a kick out of looking through those old notes, remembering and talking about all the good times there.

Check out the best fly box we’ve ever used. It’s Magnetic! Simply drop your wet flies on the magnetic pad and never lose another fly to the wind!

Photo of emerging mayfly courtesy of sighmanb at flicker

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