Provo River Fishing Report and Outlook April

brown trout provo river

This is Mike with a nice fish he caught by himself the day after his first fly fishing lesson  – I think he gets it…

With the Covid-19 Virus self distance order in effect, Jim has been holed up down in Salt Lake County.

Since I live close to the river in Wasatch County, I am still able to get out and fish, but have been lax on taking the time to write up a fishing report.

Jim and I have shut down our guiding/teaching business until the pandemic is over because it’s nearly impossible to give proper instruction and stay 6 feet apart at the same time.

And we always demonstrate techniques and constantly pass rods back and forth, making it impossible to be sure cork handles don’t carry the virus.

That said, it’s still fun to help interested anglers I see on the river, though now we have to stay 10 feet apart and across the wind to be safe.

In addition to my own fishing, I get reports from lots of folks we have guided and taught over the years. Lately, I have been getting very detailed reports from one of our newer students (Mike) who has turned into quite a good fisherman especially considering he is relatively new to fly fishing.

He is the perfect example of a person that struggled to catch fish until he learned a few proper techniques (everyone wants to know our secret places and secret flies, but fly fishing is mostly technique).

Mike has been a very good student and based on all the pics and the fish counts he has been sending to me, it’s a good thing he is a catch and release fisherman or he would clean out the “dad gum” river…

Anyway, since Mike is willing to write detailed reports, I will start posting them along with my 2 cents and our historic catch data on a regular basis again.

In the last week, I fished the Middle Provo, Mike fished the Lower Provo on Saturday (4th) and we fished together on the 9th on the Middle Provo. Mike fished the Middle again by himself on Saturday the 11th.

Lower Provo River Fishing Report

Mike’s Fishing report for 4/4/2020

Fished the lower Provo today around 9:30 AM. Weather was low 40s partly cloudy with slight wind. Began fishing a bounce rig with size 20 sow bugs and midge pupae at a seam where a faster current was starting to slow down. Fish were biting sow bugs and midge pupae equally until about noon where the fish seemed to key on sow bugs almost exclusively. Meanwhile, temperature warmed to the mid 50s, low 60s range and intermittent Baetis hatches started. Interestingly, no fish were seen jumping and the risers seemed to be taking emergers. Those fishing on top did not seem to have any success.

As the hatch picked up momentum, browns and rainbows did not take my sow bugs from 1 pm to 3 pm and only focused on midge pupae. Between 3 pm- 5 pm fish were caught on both sow bugs and midge pupae with a slight preference towards sow bugs though could be coincidence.

I left at 5:30 or so but fishing was still hot underneath. Caught a couple rainbows that seemed…overweight…and put up a great fight. Today, I was accustomed to takes at least one on every 5 casts and got the attention of other anglers who were not doing as consistent. It was a blast. Many rainbows on that part of the river today.

Based on the number of photos sent, Mike caught at least 14 fish.

Mike’s Fishing report for 4/9/2020 – Middle Provo

Fished the lower part of the middle Provo River yesterday North of Charleston, Utah starting around 9:30 AM. Weather started out very sunny, temperature around low 40s with intermittent, gentle winds blowing north accompanied by a noticeable midge hatch at certain pools. No rising trout to be seen in the area I was fishing. Began nymphing at one hole where a couple browns took both size 20 sow bugs and midge nymphs on a Provo River bounce rig. No discernible preference between the two that time of day. My instructor, Dan joined me and began fishing a bounce rig with what I recall to be a vaguely similar fly selection and similar results at the middle of the same hole (yes, but with DIY flies).

Moving on to later in the morning, the temperature rose to about high 40s, low 50s, still sunny and no consistent direction of wind. Many swallows and herons seem flying about but unsure what it meant. Combination of browns and whitefish hit on mostly sow bugs at a different hole while nymphing on bounce rigs. Temperature picked up to mid 50s in the early afternoon with a slide breeze blowing southwards.

Though fewer fish were caught nymphing between 1:30 and 3:00, it was uncertain if the fishing consistency had actually changed as there was a lot of experimentation going on at the time with rig length, depth, casting location, etc. There were small bursts of midge hatches in this area but few fish seen rising. Moving onto a different hole partially occupied by a swan, the wind picked up changing intermittently between north and south-bound gusts bringing the temperature down to what felt like the 40s. At “the swan” hole, we saw a few rising trout that seemed a little more sheepish to take dries. Browns took midge pupae, and whitefish took the sow bugs; no definitive correlation.

Moving onto the last hole in the early evening (about 6:30 pm), temperature lowered to around low 40s, light upstream breeze. There were rising trout at a particular pool seeming to feed on midges. We were able to get below them and with the wind at our backs, were able to cast almost directly upstream to them. Happened to catch my first (intended) fish on a dry fly (black mothershucker) with some excellent instruction from Dan. The concentration of the rising trout in that pool seemed to eb and flow between 6:30 and 7 pm but was difficult to pinpoint any correlation. Overall, dynamite day of fishing. Landed 15 fish total and Dan (assuming I was counting correctly) landed about 8 though he fished quite a bit less than I did.

Mike’s Fishing report for 4/11/2020 – Middle Provo

Fished the lower part of the middle provo starting around 8:00 AM. Plan was to hop from different holes working my way upstream gradually throughout the morning as I did on April 9 with good success. Weather was mostly sunny, felt very cold (high 30s, low 40s) with frost on the ground and almost no wind. I began fishing the same bounce rig I used two days before which had sow bug and midge pupae patterns. From what I could tell, despite several good drifts and the rig appearing to do everything it was supposed to, I did not detect what could be definitively categorized as a hit.

There was also a significant midge hatch occurring at about 8:50 AM lasting at least until 9:30 AM when I decided to switch holes. Some observations of the river, though I do not know how directly impactful they were to the fishing: 1) the current at certain holes appeared faster and water level higher relative to two days before 2) the water appeared more clear in the morning with the absence of wind creating ripples on the surface.

Moving upstream around 9:30 AM, tried a few good drifts at other holes with no hits, so decided to move straight to the topmost hole on my list that day hoping fishing would be more productive further upstream (just a hunch). Trying the sow bug and midge on the bounce rig with as much focus on technique still yielded no definitive hits even after a handful of minor adjustments. Weather was starting to get warmer (low 50s) with strong sunlight and little wind. I decided to make a rare change for
me – I changed flies (mostly). Added a third tag to my rig and used more colorful larger patterns (some flies called “rainbow warrior” and “pheasant tail” I believe) and kept one sow bug on because…. I just can’t bring myself to fish a bounce rig without one.

First couple of casts in a seam where a faster current meets a slower current and caught my first brown of the morning. Lo and behold, it took the sow bug. Second fish shortly after- sow bug. Switched the shiny flies out for a midge pupae again and a neat, tan-colored nymph tied for me by a friend. Fishing the same hole around 11 AM yielded a productive stretch where three browns were caught on three casts in a row. Lasted until about noon. Two were caught on my friend’s tan nymph and the third, a sow bug, of course.

The weather around noon alternated between cloudy, bright sun and strong wind gusts blowing southward. Deciding I wanted to see if things had also become more productive downstream (chalking the slowness of the morning up to time of day and probably a hundred other variables), I moved down to a hole that was partially occupied by a swan a couple days before.

Caught a very strong whitefish within a few minutes that fought me quite a ways down river. Some of the dry fly fishermen stopped to watch for a bit as the fight lasted what seemed like at least five minutes. Felt like pulling a bowling ball out of the current. My guess is it took the tan fly as that tag had been ripped out among the now coiled mess that was my rig.

At this point it was a little after 1 PM, and I had to head home for some other commitments. Unsure if fishing picked up in the afternoon but I did observe a couple other anglers catching two browns in a short span of time at one of the holes I was trying in the morning. I couldn’t mistake from a hundred feet away, they were using a bounce rig from their casting form and the bouncing rhythm of their thingamabobber. Wish I could stop to talk to them about observations but best to keep distance these days and I had to hurry home anyways. Fun day on the middle Provo.

Other Observations and Reports

I had other very good reports from the Lower Provo very similar to Mike’s… This time of year use sow bugs and flies that mimics the midge larvae when nymphing. If you see fish rising, match the hatch. Be prepared with Blue-winged Olives (BWOs)

I also had a report about stone flies on the Middle Provo. This is a little early, but look for them in rocky areas. There are a few each year on the Middle Provo. They will not be found in areas with lots of silt. Best place to try stone flies is above and below the Legacy Bridge.

I fished the Middle Provo by myself one day earlier this week and ran into a couple of guys that let me tag along with them (social distancing of course). We did well pulling about a dozen nice browns and some big whitefish out of one hole. They were using store bought flies like rainbow warriors and pheasant tails… I caught all my fish on brown thread midges.

I saw these guys again on Thursday and they were doing well with the same flies (they were also doing a better job of adjusting the bounce rig better and mending). Proving again, fly fishing it is mostly about technique.

Historic Catch Data – Fly fishing Provo River

This report was prepared on April 12, so the dates include that date plus 10 days prior to and after for a total of 21 days (April 2 – April 22). I have data from 2014 – 2020.

During this time I have kept records for 215 fish in 25 total fishing trips; 8 trips to the Lower Provo, 12 to the Middle Provo and also made trips to Diamond Fork, Hobble Creek and the Strawberry River.

Catch Chart for Middle Provo River between Apr. 2 and Apr. 22 (2014 – 2020)

Technique Fly Fish Pcent
nymphing
bounce

inline
or Czech
midge larvae 35 34.3%
P.R. worm
24 23.5%
sow bug 24 23.5%
BWO nymph   8   7.8%
egg
  1   1.0%
Total under
92 90.2%
dry or
dry-dropper
BWO   8   7.8%
midge shuck   2   2.0%
Total Top 10  9.8%

Catch Chart for Lower Provo River between Apr. 2 and Apr. 22 (2014 – 2020)

Technique Fly Fish Pcent
nymphing
bounce or

inline
sow bug 45 52.9%
BWO nymph 14 16.5%
midge larvae  7  8.2%
BWO nymph  4  4.7%
Total under
70 82.4%
dry or
dry-dropper
BWO 10  7.6%
BWO shuck  5  5.9%
Total Top 15 17.6%

Midges are always hatching on the Provo River, and the Buffalo Midges hatch is definitely on. We have seen a few blue-wing olives and fish have been taking them as well as the midge flies.

For nymphing this time of year on the Middle Provo River, the sow bugs have yet to turn on (but they will) and the egg patterns are not much use unless you are fishing for rainbows down near Deer Creek Reservoir..

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 have gotten out of the habit of using worms lately since they have not worked well this Winter. You can’t catch fish with a fly if you don’t use it. I will try P.R. worm next time.

The data in the Catch Chart show fish caught by technique and by fly, but does not show the total effort that went into each technique/fly combination. Other techniques and flies may have been tried (such as swinging soft hackles or steamers), but were not included if no fish were caught during the time period.

Flies to Use in April on the Provo River

What flies should you have in your fly box the next few weeks on the Middle Provo River?

Middle Provo River

Our Catch Chart for the time frame (April 2 – 22) has 90% of the catch on four flies.

  • P.R. worm
  • sow bug
  • midge larvae
  • BWO fly

Lower Provo River

Our Catch Chart for the time frame (April 2 – 22) has 89% of the catch on four flies.

  • BWO nymph
  • sow bug
  • midge larvae
  • BWO fly

 


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

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

Last weeks video pending publication of new video.

At the end of the video, Jim shows his fly box, so you can see all the flies we used.

Fishing the Middle Provo in April


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Comments

  1. Excellent report! Many thanks to you and Mike for taking the time to put this together. I can fish vicariously through you while Wasatch County has their door closed to those of us who don’t live in the area!

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