Provo River Fishing Report and Outlook for Late June

Provo River flow June 2020

2020 Provo River Yo-Yo Spring Runoff Flow

The high spring flow on the Middle Provo is finally behind us. The flow has been steady between 630 – 640 cfs since June 12 (2020).

Now that the highest (and the yo-yo) flow is over, the fishing and hatches should quickly return to what we consider normal. Fishing during the highest flows is always challenging, but seems like every time we would figure out where to fish and what to use, the flow would change again. What worked well one day, didn’t work the next.

I mentioned in the last report that we tried to make a video while the water was still running at 1,800 cfs, but it dropped down to about 1,000 cfs by the time we get everyone together. Then we were ready to take clients fishing after scouting the river running around 800 cfs, but by the time we met the clients, the flow was back over 1,200 cfs (see chart).

There are several problems for fishing brought on by the extreme high flow. Mainly safe access, less suitable places for trout to hold in the water and the flush of melting snow is cold (around 40°F) which slows fish metabolism and messes with the bugs that would have been hatching. The up and down changes (Yo-Yo) changes in flow makes it harder for fish and bugs to adjust.

Anyway, that should all be over now, and as the flow returns to normal Summertime flows, the water will warm, access and crossing becomes safer and there is more actual trout habitat.

See the timing and magnitude of historic flows on the Middle Provo River

Mike sent several detailed fishing reports again this week and Ryan spent some time on other smaller streams where he and some buddies caught 4 trout species (they told me, but don’t think they want me to tell you). But that is part of your education… Get out there and find some fish.

We don’t fish the Lower Provo much when the flow is high, so I only have data from one trip in the database for this time of year, but I got several reports from Chris who does fish the lower often.

Middle Provo River Fishing Report

These reports were after the main flow had dropped. Looking at our historic data, I would have expected to catch most fish on worms and PMD nymphs. Worms did their job (as they do on high flow or after rain), but this year, more fish were caught on Baetis nymphs instead of PMDs. But PMDs are coming.

Fishing has been tough the last couple of weeks. We had several beginning clients that worked very hard to catch fish. Sometimes it is easy, but not when the water is cold and the flow is high.

One of those clients worked very hard on tough day. Since Mike was fishing nearby, he could see fish were biting, so he was motivated to work on his technique. After he got the hang of mending and could consistently cast into the best lanes he started catching fish. After catching several fish in a row, other fishermen across the water (also struggling to catch fish) yelled they were coming over to our side. We just smiled. The client told me “if those guys worked as hard as I have, they could catch fish on that side of the river“. Exactly! If the bounce rig is adjusted correctly and they are mending properly.

The Secret

Everyone wants to know our secret places to fish and want to see our secret flies. Let me tell you the secret.

The secret is technique, knowledge and effort. Sure we choose places that hold fish and allow beginners to fish. And we use flies that have proven to catch fish, but other flies catch fish too.

Mike and Mark prove that all they time by catching fish on flies that Jim and I never use.

Knowledge comes with experience and from hanging out with people (if you pay attention) that already have experience.

Mike’s Fishing report 6/12/2020 – Middle Provo (635 cfs)

Fished the lower part of the middle Provo River today with Dan (above and below the railroad track). Began fishing around 9:30 AM where the weather was partly cloudy around high 70s, low 80s with slight wind from the South; current appeared to be relatively lower than previous weeks (lowering from at least 1,000 cfs to the 550 – 700 cfs range).

Dan and I fished an inside bend with a Provo River bounce rig. My rig included a size 22 brown Baetis nymph, small purple PR (or San Juan) worm, and size 20 BWO emerger on my bottom to top tags respectively.

Fishing was relatively consistent between 9:30 AM to 10:30 AM, with 3 fish caught on worms and 1 on a Baetis nymph; Dan and I lost a few others as well usually right after the fish jumped out of the water when hooked (I had also pinched most of my hooks down that day).

A little before 11:00 AM, we relocated to a different inside bend. Weather was hot, sunny and around mid 80s with occasional, slight wind from the South. A little after 12:00 PM, I landed two whitefish (second was almost 17 inches) on a small, tan caddis imitation when things seemed slow on Baetis nymphs and PR worms. We moved just a little further downstream to an inside bend with a slower, deeper current around 1:00 PM, where one brown trout was caught on a worm and two others were caught on the caddis pattern between 1:00 PM and 2:00 PM.

Fishing slowed down after 3:00 PM, and we decided to relocate to the first hole that we fished at the beginning of the day to see if there was more consistency. The weather was partly cloudy but still quite hot in mid to high 80s. After catching one small fish on a black size 20 midge pattern, Dan and I decided to relocate to a couple of other holes. The last fish of the day for me was caught on a worm just before 5:00 PM or so.

Fishing very hard, I managed to catch 11 fish that day. I noticed in that section of the river, fishing seemed to slow down after we would hook the first few. Sometimes we would hook a fish on the first cast and then get no hits for an hour. I speculated that it could be related to relatively less fishing pressure in that stretch of the river, but tough to say for sure; I am not an expert on fish behavior. Great day to be outside, overall and certainly didn’t seem crowded. I remember seeing only one other group of anglers the entire day.

Mike’s Fishing report 6/13/2020 – Middle Provo (650 cfs)

Fished the upper part of the middle Provo River (Little Lunker and Cookie Jar) around 7:00 AM. Flow was around 650 cfs and weather was partly cloudy at high 60s, low 70s, with moderate winds from the south. I fished with a Provo River bounce rig with a size 22 Baetis nymph, small purple PR (or San Juan) worm, and size 20 BWO emerger on my bottom to top tags respectively.

Fishing was relatively consistent between 7:00 AM and 10:00 AM, landing 7 brown trout (2 on Baetis nymphs, 3 on worms, and 2 on black midges), and losing a couple others. There was a strong midge hatch that occurred between 8:30 AM and 9:15 AM, where fish seemed to no longer take the Baetis nymphs or worms and just keyed on the midges.

I took a break until 11:00 AM. Fishing seemed to have slowed down a bit. Weather was hot, sunny and windy with strong gusts from the south. I relocated further downstream, where I caught 2 fish on worms and 2 fish on Baetis nymphs between 12:00 PM and 12:45 PM.

Fishing seemed to slow down after 1 PM. After a few fly changes I caught one brown on a sow bug near the head of the hole and hooked a couple other fish. A client Jim and Dan were guiding had caught 3 or 4 decent-sized fish in a short stretch of time on a small Baetis nymph.

I relocated back towards the first hole I had been fishing around 3:30 PM and caught 1 more brown on a Baetis nymph and headed home around 4:00 PM as things seemed to slow down.

Last Minute Addition to Report

Before I published this report, I took break and walked down the the river below Legacy. I talked to a fisherman that was from out of town. The fly shop sold him some Frenchies and split case PMDs and he caught some browns and a couple of big whitefish on a bounce rig between 2 and 5 PM… Not bad. Then, he saw a few fish rising to caddis in a little backwater area and caught a few on a large elk hair type caddis.

Want to Fish with Us?

Jim and I have been taking people fishing again. We find it is fairly easy to stay 10 feet apart (and across the wind) to be safe on the river.

So we can do fishing lessons or guided trips and we can provide boots and waders if needed.

It will soon be warm enough to wet wade, so waders will not be needed anyway.

Lower Provo River Fishing Report

Reports from Chris – Lower Provo (ca 750 cfs)

Chris sent several reports from the lower Provo River this week. He fished a variety of places I won’t reveal, but he basically caught most fish on sow bugs. He saw some may fly hatch recently, but says fishing has taken some effort lately. And with the high water, hooked fish that do get out into fast water are hard to land.

The only data I have for the lower Provo during the time frame is a June 24, 2016 trip where Jim and I guided two beginners and they caught 8 fish, all on sow bugs.

Our Historic Catch Data – Fly fishing Provo River

This report was prepared on June 19 (2020), so the dates include that date plus 10 days prior to and after for a total of 21 days (June 9 – June 29). I have data from 2014 – 2020.

During this time period I have records for 275 fish in 25 total fishing trips; 1 trip to the Lower Provo (not counting Chris’s reports), 13 trips to the Middle Provo and we also made trips to Soldier Creek, the Strawberry River, Strawberry Res. and to several High Uinta lakes.

Note that we have fewer trips in the database this time of year, because I should be visiting family back in N.C. But since the pandemic is upon us, I’m staying put and we are fishing local.

Also note that since 2017, most of the fish in the database actually have been caught by our guided fly fishing clients and students, so these are not just fish caught by Jim and me.

Catch Chart for Nymphing the Middle Provo River June 9 – June 29 (2014 – 2020)

Technique Fly Fish Pcent
Provo River Bounce Rig
P.R. worm  42 26.3%
midge larvae  39 24.4%
PMD nymph  25 15.6%
sow bug  24 15.0%
BWO/Baetis nymph  24 15.0%
caddis nymph   4
BWO emerger   2  1.3%
Total 160 100%

There is more variety of flies in the table than usual. Normally, about 90% of all fish are caught on just 4 or 5 flies.

The data in the Catch Chart shows the technique and fly used to to catch fish, 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. Also, we don’t normally try to catch fish on dry flies this time of year.

Flies to Use in May 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 (June 9 and June 29) has 95% of the catch on five flies.

  • P.R. worm
  • midge larvae
  • PMD nymph
  • sow bug
  • BWO/Baetis nymph

Lower Provo River

Our Catch Chart for the time frame has 100% of the catch on sow bugs and most of the fish Chris caught as well. As the hatches return, there should be some opportunity to catch fish on dry flies (BWOs)

We tie all our own flies, but remember that common store bought flies like Rainbow warrior, Zebra Midge and Tung teaser are mimics for midge larvae and Baetis (BWO) nymphs.

And you should never go to the Middle Provo without a worm pattern of some kind and sow bugs in your fly box.

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

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

This week, I chose a video where we fished post high water on the Middle Provo River in July 2018.

Post High Flow Fishing in July – things to come

Other Observations and Reports

Mike took the time to write this report, but I took so long to write the next report, this data is not longer in the current time span. But I include the report here because there is value in the report to compare your fishing last week and for next season.

Middle Provo River Fishing Report

Mike’s Fishing report 6/6/2020 – Middle Provo (790 cfs, after high runoff)

Fished the upper part of the middle Provo River today (Little Lunker & Cookie Jar).

Began fishing around 7:00 AM. Weather was windy, rainy, around mid-60s and the current was running at about 790 cfs. I began fishing a Provo River bounce rig with a size 22 brown Baetis nymph, small purple Provo River worm (aka San Juan worm0, and size 20 BWO emerger on my bottom to top tags respectively. As usual, I used a 5x leader (ranging from 7 to 11 feet between the strike indicator and weights) with 6x tags.

Fishing was relatively steady on worms and Baetis nymphs between 7:30 AM and 9:50 AM, where two fish were landed and five were lost (rig mostly snagged in rocks).

Jim and Dan were also guiding a client who seemed to have success on worms between 10:00 AM and 12:00 PM as well. By then, weather was partly cloudy with slight winds from the South and South East. Fishing slowed down for me on the PR worms and Baetis nymph around noon, but was able to land a fish on a size 18 grey sow bug on the bottom tag of another bounce rig I had brought with me.

Dan’s note: Our most common Baetis this time of year is the Blue-winged Olive -BWO.

I relocated down stream later in the afternoon before a brief thunderstorm that occurred around 1:00 PM. Following the thunderstorm, weather remained partly cloudy around high 60’s and low 70’s where remaining fish were caught on BWO emergers until 4:30 PM where I headed out. Jim and Dan’s client landed a large rainbow trout on a pink worm.

I landed 9 fish that day, 2 on worms, 4 on Baetis nymphs, 1 on a sow bug, and 2 on a BWO emerger (Barr’s). I lost several others either by the rig getting snagged on a rock/branch or angler error (mostly mistakes I made by rushing to net the fish at the very end).

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