Provo River Fishing Report Late April and Outlook Early May

mountain whitefish provo river with backcountrychronicles.com fly fishing

Mike’s 19 inch Whitefish

Jim finally escaped from quarantine and went fishing on the Lower Provo this week and I got out on the Middle Provo three times.

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

So we can do fishing lessons if you have your own gear and can tie your own rigs. Otherwise, everyone stay safe and we look forward to fishing with you in the future.

Mike sent another detailed fishing report this week and I updated the charts that show our historic fish/fly data.

Middle Provo River Fishing Report

Mike’s Fishing report 4/25/2020 – Middle Provo

Fished the lower part of the Middle Provo today starting around 8:00 AM. I’ve been focusing a lot of attention to this section of the river this past month, as I’ve found it to present especially unique challenges. Each time, I’ve needed to adapt at least a few different variables to secure a good rhythm to land fish (it’s quickly becoming one of my favorite stretches of water). Plan was to work my way up river gradually. Early morning weather was already in the low 50s with bright sunshine, little wind, and semi-clear water.

There was a consistent midge hatch occurring between about 8:15 AM until 10:30 AM but no trout seen rising. All fishing today was with a Provo River bounce rig. My rig consisted of 5x leader with a combination of 5X and 6x tags with a size 18 sow bug, size 18 tan nymph a friend tied for me and a size 16 pink Provo River worm. First cast in a 4 ft deep seam where a faster current merged with a slightly slower one, and I had my first brown of the day on the pink worm. This method worked repeatedly as I landed a few other browns and lost two others.

As a side note, I normally haven’t been able to hook a fish until at least 10 AM in this area, but today proved it is certainly possible. I decided to move upstream around 11 AM and fish a hole with relatively similar conditions. By then, the temperature reached consistent 60s with sunlight, relatively clear water and random gentle wind gusts from the south. I noticed the water level was relatively higher in certain areas compared to weeks prior and currents were a bit more swift requiring me to add much more weight and length to my rig. My bounce rig ended up being around 11 ft long.

Using the same approach as in the hole before, I hooked a couple fish that got off, but I know they took the pink worms because that was the fly that broke off. I moved to a different hole around noon with a seam that blended with an especially fast current and caught two browns using a very long, heavily weighted version of my bounce rig with tags close together and very near the bottom.

At this point, I had experimented with 9 different variations of small flies (midge pupae, bugs, caddis larvae, rainbow warriors, and worms of different shapes and sized) and only caught fish on pink or light purple Provo River worms size 14-18. I was lucky enough to have Dan join me that afternoon (though we had to keep our distance due to COVID-19), and he fished with a roughly similar rig as mine.

Around 2:30 PM, we moved upstream. Weather fluctuated between mid 50s, low 60s, generally sunny with intermittent wind gusts from the South. Hooked a brown on….you named it… pink PR worm. Dan hooked a couple as well that came off last minute. While there were intermittent spurts of midges hatching, we did not see any trout rising.

Moving into the later part of the afternoon, Dan and I found another hole further up north with an especially fast current meeting a slower one. Weather was cooling down to high 50s, partly cloudy, and some wind gusts from the south. On the walk there, we saw several variations of swallows feeding on insects in the air and primarily diving to the water to drink or take baths; nothing indicative of major hatch activity.

Second cast in the hole and I found myself battling a whopper whitefish about 100 yards downstream over all sorts of current, bends, and rocks. I was lucky to have Dan there calming me down and coaching me, as I struggled with the urge to play it hard trying to keep it out of the fast current (I’m almost certain it would have broke off if I horsed it in). Fish measured about 19 inches and it also took a worm.

I headed home at about 6 PM. As I scanned the river while walking back to my truck, I saw a few midge hatches (no BWO hatches seen today) but did not see trout rising. 100% of the fish today were caught on pink Provo river worms.

It’s fascinating to me how versatile and surprising this stretch of the river can be. Overall, it was a blast and consistent fishing can be found with the right adjustments. Today, the answer was low and slow bounce rig nymphing. I’m glad I pushed to unusually long rig length (11 ft in some instances) and heavy split shot weight.

Dan’s note – Jim says that I use the longest heaviest bounce rig he ever saw… He describes using a “Dan rig” when he resorts to using a longer and heavier than normal bounce rig. It works for me and Mike has picked up on this long, heavy rig as well.

Wish we could have video of Mike chasing that big whitefish downstream. You can not fight a big fish and the current on light gear at the same time.  You have to let them run upstream, get them into slower water or chase them downstream until you can get them in a slower pool.

Try to stay calm and enjoy the ride. So what if he gets off? You still have a story to tell. But if you do anything during the fight that prevents a big fish from taking an inch of slack if he needs it, he will be gone.

Jim mentioned watching some anglers on the Lower yesterday that were good at hooking fish, but were losing most of them. It’s almost impossible to hold a big fish in place with light weight tippet and small hooks if it gets below you in fast water.  So try to keep them above you, or walk them down to a pool with less current.

Lower Provo River Fishing Report

Jim’s Fishing Report 4/27/20 – Lower Provo

Air temperature about 60° under partly cloudy skies. Brisk wind coming up Prov Canyon, as usual on most afternoons in Spring and Summer. Release for dam just under 700 CFS, up now for irrigation. Water clear with temperature 43° F, (6°C).

The Provo in the canyon is difficult to access by wading at flow levels like this but there are some spots where a careful angler can be safe and find success. In general though, if you don’t know the river in the canyon well, it’s better now to fish the Middle Provo between Jordanelle and Deer Creek Reservoirs..

I started fishing at about noon with the usually reliable Provo River bounce rig and sow bugs but wasn’t having any hits. Two anglers nearby were hooking a few but I didn’t ask what they were using. What I had on wasn’t working so decided to change flies. Had seen no trout rising but fortunately a small mayfly landed on my waders. It was a Baetis about size 18, so why not try a tiny mayfly nymph even if water flow was high.

I put on a couple of little dark olive colored nymphs, size 18 and 20 and started getting takes on just about every drift. Lots of hits but not many hook-ups, often happens with very small flies and quick takes in fast water. Best results were on nymphs that were tied on hooks with a wide gap rather than narrow gap.

Throat sample showed lots of little sow bugs, may fly nymphs, and caddis larvae, all quite small, 18s and 20s. In retrospect, it appears that trout had keyed on nymphs in preference to other things, not unusual behavior, but sometimes difficult to figure out. Action continued until about 3 pm. when cloud cover moved in and the wind became vert strong. This shut things off, at least for me anyway.

Other Observations and Reports

The last few days of April are going to be very warm so runoff from melting snow will increase in the coming weeks. The Lower Provo flow has bumped up again to 703 cfs (as of this morning 4/28/20) and the Middle Provo was running at 328 cfs out of Jordanelle and 287 cfs near Charleston.

In the Lower Provo, flows over 600 cfs make some of the favorite places hard to fish, but Jim caught fish yesterday.

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

I fished three times this week (all on the Middle Provo). Mike’s report covered one day and the other two days were very similar. I did not fish either day until after 1 PM. Fishing seems to be slower now in the afternoon.

All fish were caught using the bounce rig on Provo River Worms (aka San Juan Worm, but we are not on the San Juan), despite also fishing with sow bugs and a variety of midge larvae (the very same flies that caught all fish last week). I did not see any fish rising and only saw a few midges hatching. Not surprised that the increased flow has changed the hatch.

big utah brown trout with backcountrychronicles.com fly fishing

Mark with Big Utah Brown Trout

I also got a fishing report from Mark this week.

On Saturday, Mark fished south of River Road on the Middle Provo and caught 5 or 6 browns on worms and BWO emergers. He also saw some stone flies. Not bad for a guy who said his primary mission was to take his wife for a walk.

Historic Catch Data – Fly fishing Provo River

This report was prepared on April 28, so the dates include that date plus 10 days prior to and after for a total of 21 days (April 18 – May 8). I have data from 2014 – 2020.

During this time period I have records for 279 fish in 32 total fishing trips; 5 trips to the Lower Provo, 15 to the Middle Provo and also made trips to Diamond Fork, Hobble Creek, Soldier Creek and the Strawberry River and even one trip to the Ensign Ranches private lake with the High Country Fly Fishers club from Park City since we helped with them with a fly casting class.

Since 2017, most of the fish in the database have been caught by our guided fly fishing clients and students.

Catch Chart for Middle Provo River Apr. 18 – May 8 (2014 – 2020)

Technique Fly Fish Pcent
nymphing
bounce

inline
or Czech
midge larvae  52 31.9%
sow bug  37 22.7%
P.R. worm  25 15.3%
BWO nymph  12  7.4%
Total bounce
126 77.3%
Swinging
black ant
 1  0.6%
Total swing
 1
 0.6%
dry or
dry-dropper
noseeum midge 22 13.5%
BWO  4  2.5%
Palmer fly  4  2.5%
caddis
 3  1.8%
Stone fly
 3  1.8%
Total Top 36 22.1%

Catch Chart for Lower Provo River Apr. 18 – May 8 (2014 – 2020)

Technique Fly Fish Pcent
nymphing
bounce rig

midge larvae 17 45.9%
sow bug 14 37.8%
BWO nymph  6 16.2%
Total under
37 100%

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 18 and May 8) has 91% of the catch on five flies.

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

Lower Provo River

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

  • midge larvae
  • sow bug
  • BWO nymph

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 flybox.


Want to Fish with us? We can give fishing lessons during the Pandemic if you have your own gear and can tie your own rigs? Click Here to Learn More.

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.

This week, I chose a video where we fished with Phil Bair last May.

Fishing the Middle Provo with Phil Bair in May

 

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!

Comments

  1. Ryan Hamblin says

    Nice report! I’ve also had a fish run me down stream this week and a buddy had one run him down to the backing.

    Both got off and took pink sjw’s 😉

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