Provo River Fishing Report for Late May & Outlook for Early June 2019

provo river brown trout

Nice Brown Trout caught above RR track.

The Spring Runoff has started on the  Middle Provo.

The water below the dam is running clear and cold (about 40° F) at about 523 cfs.

The flow bumped to over 400 cfs on Thursday, then over 500 cfs on Friday just before the Memorial Day weekend.

Weather last week prior to the flow increase, was cold and windy and we got caught in quite a few showers.

We fished nymphs one day at and below the white bridge where there were a few risers in slower parts of big pools. Size 20 or 22 BWO mayflies were hatching, best results were with nymphs on a bounce rig. Caught four nice browns in a short time, but bounce rig has to be heavy and deep.

Thursday 5/22, early morning guided in Lunker area and client/student caught 9 good browns bouncing; 2 on worms, rest on a little mayfly nymph. Again, very little surface activity, caught fish deep on bounce rig.

Guided again in the afternoon, walked in to “Post Card” from the “Lunker” parking area, caught one big brown on no-se-em (dry fly on top) and one big one on worm (bounce rig).

Fished down toward white bridge and caught 4 more on Provo-River worms.

Again, weather was rough, very cold wind, rain, pellet snow, etc. but trout were turned on to worms.

There was a bit of a BWO hatch about 1 pm but short lived.

So everything we learned prior to the increase in flow, may have gone out the window until hatches and fish adjust to the higher flow.

As example, Jim and I fished using the same techniques a few days later and caught a few fish, but beginning students had a tough time. Few fish were caught on top, but better success bouncing and fishing nymphs with in-line rig.

Before the flow increased, the lower part of the Middle Provo (fished mostly below Legacy Bridge and above Rail Road track), was a little cloudy, but fish were taking small brown nymphs, split case nymphs, worms and sow bugs under the water and when the BWOs started hatching, a few fish were taken on dry flies with BWO emergers and a few on caddis.

The Mother’s Day Caddis Hatch has come and for the most part is gone (watch short video here). There was an incredible hatch below Legacy last week, but I think the cold rainy weather slowed down the hatch farther upstream.

Reports I received from the Charleston area after the flow increase is as follows: “Water is high and dirty with a lot of moss and debris floating down.” But friends and students report catching browns on artificial worms. Fishing will be tougher simply because visibility is reduced.

The flow in the Lower Provo River is now over 700 cfs, so there are fewer easy places to fish. As flows increase, the Lower Provo can be dangerous, so best to concentrate on fishing the Middle Provo.

The flows may be high, but the fish are still in the river and they have to eat. The techniques still work, but you may have to work harder, especially if visibility is low. If you see a hatch, try to match either the nymph, the emerger or the dry fly. If not, always have a sow bug, Provo River worm and small brown nymphs and midge larvae.

Flies and Fly Fishing Techniques that caught fish on the Middle Provo River in May

This report was prepared on May 26, 2019, so the dates include 15 total days from May 19 – June 2 (7 days before and after).

We have records for 9 fishing trips during this time of year (2014 – 2019) on the Middle Provo and caught a total of 93 fish. We do not have records for the Lower Provo during this time frame because of the high water and crowded conditions.

We also made additional fly fishing trips to places like Strawberry River and Soldier Creek during this time of year during the past several years. Soldier Creek may still offer good fishing this year, but lower sections of the Strawberry River may take a few years to recover from last years’ fire and flood.

Catch Chart Middle Provo River – May 19 – June 2

Technique Fly Fish Pcent
Nymphing
(bounce rig or
inline)
P.R. worm 40 43.0%
midge larvae
13 14.0%
BWO nymph
11 11.8%
sow bug
 8   8.6%
soft hackle
 1   1.1%
black ant
 1   1.1%
Total Nymphing 74 79.6%
Dry Fly Caddis 16 17.2%
BWO (no-seeum)  2  2.2%
BWO emerger  1  1.1%
Total Dry
27 20.1%

As usual, we caught most (80%) fish while nymping (Provo River Bounce Rig) during this time frame. During this time of year, the Provo River worm is always a good choice, followed by very small midge larvae and BWO nymphs (size 18 – 22). Several weeks ago, the catch was dominated by sow bugs. As the flow increases, worms become more important and sow bugs less so. Worms are always a good choice when water is cloudy or during or after rain or when flows increase.

As for dry flies, the caddis are best during the Mother’s Day caddis hatch.

Our records don’t show any fish being caught with swinging techniques for this time of year, but I remember a day last year, when we tried black ants and soft hackles on the bounce rig and caught fish. These flies typically work best when swung in the current or when stripped across current and upstream.

Jim even caught more fish on top this week with BWOs and emergers, but that info did not make it into our database.

Note: Not all of the fish in our records are caught by Jim and me. Many are caught by intermediate and beginner fly fishers that we are guiding or teaching. It is not the numbers of fish that are important, but the proportions (percentages) caught with different flies and techniques.

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

Watch our other fly fishing videos (about 100) here at Jim’s YouTube Channel.

Here is one of our recent videos where Jim fished with Phil Bair (inventor of the no-seum fly):

Fishing with Phil Bair – Provo River, Utah – May 2019

Hint for everyone that does not see HD videos on Youtube. Click on “Gear” icon on lower right of YouTube Player to see your quality setting. Default is 480p. Videos are best when viewed with at least 720p.


This is 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. It was good to see you and Jim on the river this week. I’m curious to see how high the flows go – we have a lot of snow up in the high country still! Thanks again for publishing this fishing report. It is a valuable tool for those of us lucky enough to fish the Middle Provo.

  2. Have you guys been out much since the flows on the Middle jumped over 900? I’m hearing from the shops that the river won’t be fishing well for a month or two and was curious what your experience has been.

    • Yes, we had took a group of new fishermen (Including a 15 year old kid) the first day the flow jumped over 900 cfs…
      We knew conditions were going to be tough, but they did not. They simply did their best to follow our instructions and everyone caught a few fish including some nice sized fish.

      I hope to post by the end of the day today (6/6/19) about historical spring runoff flows on the Middle Provo and discuss a 2004 Flow report that estimated the amount of trout habitat under different flow regimes…

      The increased flow does reduce the amount of prime trout habitat in the river. At 900 cfs, the river has about half trout habitat as it does when the flows are 150 or 375 cfs (Peak habitat estimated at 200 cfs).
      Also, when the water is this high, you basically commit to fishing one side of the river or the other, since there are few places to safely cross the river.

      When we have fished by ourselves in this high water, we have had some great days and some not so great, but that is fishing. But we need to go often so we know where fish are biting and what they are taking, so it is not quite so hard for inexperienced fisherman to catch fish.

      Obviously, the best chance to catch fish with high flows is by nymphing. The principles of the Provo River Bounce Rig is the same no matter what the flow. Look for inside bends and runs that are not too fast and give it a try.

      As always, try sow bugs, Provo River worms and various flies that mimic small Baetis nymphs (BWOs).

      Normally this time of year we are also out scouting other streams. But with the fire and storm that blew out the Strawberry River and damaged part of the Diamond Fork drainage, and the fact that other small streams are high now too, we have fewer choices this year.

      So don’t talk yourself out of fishing because the flow is high. Look at this is an opportunity to learn. Nobody learns much on days when the fishing is easy. But you learn a lot on days you work very hard to catch a few fish.

      Plus fishing isn’t just about catching fish anyway.

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