Provo River Fishing Report and Outlook Late April/Early May

Jim is still holed up down in Salt Lake County, but I live close to the river (luck has nothing to do with it) in Wasatch County so  I am still able to get out and fish and keep a safe social distance from everyone.

Our guiding/teaching business is still on pause until the pandemic is over but I still try to help interested anglers I see on the river (staying 10 feet apart and across the wind to be safe).

Mike sent another detailed fishing report (see below) this week and as long as he is willing to take the time to write them, I will add my 2 cents worth and post them.

(Don’t know Mike? Mike is one of our students – I introduced him last week).

Middle Provo River Fishing Report

Mike’s Fishing report for 4/18/2020 – Middle Provo

Fished the lower part of the middle provo starting around 9:30 AM. Plan was to start up river and work my way down to try and vary my approach at the same area last week. Weather was sunny at about high 40’s, low 50’s and no detectable wind.

Began fishing a Provo River bounce rig with sow a bug, midge nymph, and caddis nymph. Good drift, tried lots of different pools, but no hits until about 10:30 AM. Wondering what the trout were really keyed on, my buddy took a a sample of the water and identified several very large larvae (Dan’s note: appear to be caddis from photo). Worth noting that the past three times I fished this section of the river, the earliest I’ve managed to observe a hit, let alone catch a fish while nymphing was just around 10:00 AM. Little action in the morning this time of year. Unclear to me why that might be, as I’m still fairly new to fly fishing.

Around 10:30 AM, I caught a small rainbow on a midge nymph and shortly afterwards, hooked a larger brown that got off (unclear what it ate). Because fishing was somewhat slow in the morning, my buddy and I moved to a few different holes downstream and there was very little action on midge nymphs or sow bugs. Fishing seemed to pick up in the early afternoon, around 1:40 PM, during what appeared to be a BWO hatch. Weather alternated between mid 50s and low 60s with slight gusts of wind from the east and partly cloudy weather.

During the hatch, my buddy caught 3 browns on a size 18 baetis dry fly. Meanwhile, I was nymphing in a faster current trying every adjustment in the book anytime I went 5 good drifts without a hit; leader length, tippet size (went from 5x to 6x), weight, and fly selection. Up until 1 pm, I tried mayfly nymphs, rainbow warriors, caddis nymphs and a provo river worm. The red worm quickly caught a 17 inch brown, but no success with worms after that.

Moving into the early afternoon, the weather leveled out to about mid 50s with light scattered breeze, partly cloudy. Lots of swallows seen flying about different sections of the river and the vividness and frequency of different bird calls seemed to signal a strong entry into spring season. At this point in the day, fish seemed to prefer the usual suspects: midge nymphs and sow bugs but with intermittent interest.

Nymphing was most effective during 3 pm and 4:15 pm as I hooked several in that window. Deeper, faster pools seemed to be more productive for bounce rigging as opposed to slower shallower pools. When I left around 5 pm, weather cooled down to the mid to low 50s partly cloudy and intermittent wind from various directions.

The brown trout and whitefish I caught today did not seem to exhibit any notable preference between sow bugs and midge nymphs. All flies used were size 18 and 20 except for the worm, which was size 16. Fish were only caught on 6x tippet for me at least. Saw a few other anglers on the river, but didn’t see them catch anything other than my buddy who caught two browns on a stonefly nymph and three browns on a BWO dry fly. Overall, it was a beautiful day to be out on the river, and generally reliable fishing for those nymphing sow bugs and midges.

Other Observations and Reports

The end of April and beginning of May bring warm weather, active hatches and active fish, but also starts to melt the snow. The Lower Provo flow has already bumped up to 580 cfs and I notice today, the Middle Provo has been bumped from the constant 145-150 cfs we have seen all Winter up to 331 cfs.

The 580 cfs in the Lower Provo make some of our favorite spots either harder to fish or unproductive. This is why why have little data from the Lower Provo this time of year.

A bump to 331 cfs will help fishing in the Middle Provo, as it actually increases the amount of habitat considered usable for brown trout. It will start to shake a few rocks and bump nymphs, caddis and sowbugs loose for fish to pick up. It may change the steady hatch for a few days until the nymphs and larvae acclimate to the new flow and temperature

I didn’t fish this week, but had other very good reports from both the Middle a similar to Mike’s.  Ryan was catching fish with sow bugs on the bounce rig and with BWOs on top.

I also got a good report from Chris yesterday on the Lower Provo… Chris has fished with us at least 3 times and sends me many reports. Here is his report for April 22:

People were in our spot when I arrived so fished on opposite side until they left an hour later. They caught a lot of fish. I caught nothing.

Then I switched sides. The water was high and seemed to get higher. I hooked 11 fish and lost 6, including 2 or 3 big ones. I have never lost such a high percentage before. All on sow bugs.

Once I was sure I was snagged on a rock. My line would not budge so I moved upstream to un-snag. Then it moved. It went straight downstream and never stopped.

I did land a 17″ and a 16″ brown. When the storm front went through it knocked down the fishing. I saw a lot of midges and even a few BWOs. No rises.

Dan’s note – I will not reveal the exact spot Chris was fishing, but it is in a place that is difficult to land big fish once the water flow is above 400 – 450 cfs. That is why he lost so many. They get downstream and you can’t chase them. Can’t fight a big fish and fast water at the same time.

I am fishing tomorrow, so my report will be included in next week’s report, but as always, Jim and my data are included in the Historic Catch Data below.

Historic Catch Data – Fly fishing Provo River

This report was prepared on April 23, so the dates include that date plus 10 days prior to and after for a total of 21 days (April 13 – May 3). I have data from 2014 – 2020.

During this time I have kept records for 215 fish in 23 total fishing trips; 5 trips to the Lower Provo, 10 to the Middle Provo and also made trips to Diamond Fork, Hobble Creek, Soldier Creek and the Strawberry River. We even had a trip to the Ensign Ranches with the Park City Fly Fishing club since we helped with them a fly casting class.

Catch Chart for Middle Provo River between Apr. 13 and May 3 (2014 – 2020)

Technique Fly Fish Pcent
nymphing
bounce

inline
or Czech
midge larvae 52 39.7%
sow bug 29 22.1%
BWO nymph 14 10.7%
P.R. worm 13   9.9%
Total bounce
108 82.4%
Swinging
black ant
 1  0.8%
BWO nymph  1  0.8%
Total swing
 2  1.5%
dry or
dry-dropper
BWO  9  6.9%
noseeum midge  7  5.3%
Stone fly  3  2.3%
Palmer fly  2  1.5%
Total Top 21  16.0%

Catch Chart for Lower Provo River between Apr. 13 and May 3 (2014 – 2020)

Technique Fly Fish Pcent
nymphing
bounce rig

sow bug 30 60.0%
BWO nymph 14 28.0%
midge larvae  6 12.0%
Total under
70 100%

Midges are always hatching on the Provo River and the Buffalo Midges hatch has definitely on and we’ve been seeing some blue-wing olives as well.

For nymphing this time of year on the Middle Provo River, the sow bugs have turn on, but not so much with the Provo River worms. Look for them to work better as the water flow picks up.

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 13 and May 3) has 94% of the catch on six flies.

  • sow bug
  • midge larvae
  • P.R. worm
  • BWO nymph
  • BWO fly
  • Midge – no-seeum

Lower Provo River

Our Catch Chart for the time frame (April 13 and May 3) has 100% of the catch on three flies.

  • BWO nymph
  • sow bug
  • midge larvae

 


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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 with Jimmy Blackmon


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