Provo River Fishing Report Late May and Outlook Early June

provo river brown trout with backcountrychronicles flyfishingIt has been an eventful and turbulent couple of weeks since the last fishing report on the the Middle Provo River.

I was preparing a new report last week when someone sent me a text that the flow had increased to 1,200 cfs. I stopped what I was doing and walked out to look at the River below Legacy Bridge. By the time I got back home, the flow had increased to 1,800 cfs.

At that point, I postponed the report until we fished again in the high water. For the record, all previous reports sent to me during the past two weeks are included at the bottom of this post.

On May 21st (2020), Jim and I met at 11:00 am to take a quick look at the river below Jordanelle Dam while the was still running at 1,800 cfs. While I tried to help some BYU students baffled by the high flow, Jim caught three fish in about 15 minutes, so we learned what we needed to know for an upcoming trip.

We went back to the river on Wed. (5/27/20) with the intention of getting some good video on fishing when the water is extremely high, but by the time we got organized, the flow had dropped to 1000 cfs.

Since then, the flow has increased back up to 1,700 cfs. I obviously don’t have all the data used to made decisions about how much water is released, but as of today, only one inch of water is left at the Trail Lake Snotel site, so I am hoping flow drops to lower levels in the next few days.

Mike sent several detailed fishing report this week and Ryan sent a report from the Lower Provo. I updated the charts that show our historic fish/fly data for this time of the year.

Middle Provo River Fishing Report

Since the water is currently high again, I have grouped the high water fishing reports together here and posted the lower water reports at the end of the post

Mike’s Totals  from 5/30/2020 – Middle Provo (1,700 cfs)

Totals only – Mike caught 33 fish today, 23 on small brown baetis nymph, 8 on BWO emergers and one on a worm. Mike fished exclusively with a Provo River bounce rig.

Mike’s Fishing report 5/23/2020 – Middle Provo (1,600 cfs)

Fished the upper part of the middle Provo River below Jordanelle Reservoir. Conditions consisted of especially heavy flow (1,600+ cfs) and rainfall the day before.

I began the morning fishing a Provo River bounce rig with 5x leader, 6x tags, a size 18 grey sow bug, size 16 pink Provo River (aka San Juan) worm, and size 18 caddis imitation. Weather around 8:30 AM was cloudy, around low 40s with intermittent hail and rain. Fishing at the head of a hole at a seam of an inside bend where a very fast current merged into a lower one, I was able to catch three fish on six casts; two fish took worms and a large whitefish took the caddis nymph.

Weather began warming up and fishing remained slow until 10:30 AM where I was able to catch two fish further down at the tail of the hole using the caddis imitation. Weather remained partly cloudy for the remainder of the afternoon and morning. A few fish were seen rising, but there was no distinct hatch that I could identify.

A sparse BWO hatch occurred around 2 PM and lasted until about 3:30 PM. During the hatch, I began fishing baetis nymphs and ended up hooking a brown trout on a PR worm towards the head of the hole. Despite the very heavy flow, I did spot a few other anglers on the river that day, though few seemed to have much luck. One angler, who was fishing at the head of the same hole as me during the early afternoon caught two brown trout on a soft hackle using a euro-nymphing rig. Fishing seemed to slow down after 4 PM and I headed home.

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.

We can usually provide boots at waders if needed, but while Covid-19 is a consideration, any waders used by clients be left to dry for 1 week before I clean them. So me may not have all the sizes we usually have.

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

Lower Provo River Fishing Report

Ryan’s Fishing Report 5/26/20 – Lower Provo (ca 700 cfs)

Time of day: 2-5 pm, Tackle: Baetis nymphs, sow bugs, caddis emergers, all on bounce rig, Temp: 75-80°, Condition: mostly cloudy.

Today went to the Lower Provo just below deer creek for some rainbows and sunshine. I definitely got what I had set out for. I arrived around 2pm and saw that there were some fish stacked up in a shallow run. It seemed they were waiting for a hatch to turn on and as it turned out there were a few caddis and some BWOs on the water, but the fish weren’t keying on them.

I rigged up a bounce rig with a caddis soft-hackle emerger, a light grey sow, and a gold beaded black zebra midge; not a single fly under size 18. I decided to leave the shallow fish alone until a hatch truly happened (which didn’t for me) and fish out in the main current for the time being. It took me 20 min of adjusting weight and leader but as soon as I was bouncing just right the afternoon turned into a delightful outing.

I landed my first brown around 2:45 and he was my biggest fish in the net all day at 16”. He took the soft-hackle emerger.

Cloud cover came in at about 3 and I fully expected to turn around and see some fish rising as there were fluttering caddis more frequently flickering around the falling cotton in the shallow, still nothing. A few casts later I had a magnificent brown took a sow bug and ran downstream so fast I couldn’t catch up. He ended up breaking off. (Dan’s note: angler usually does the breaking unless fish wraps around something)

So, from that point on, I knew it was going to be a consistent day. I hooked into a 15” rainbow trout who also took the caddis emerger pattern, and while fighting the fish I saw some fish start to rise. As soon as I landed him I decided to switch over to a dry fly rig (wasted an hour of my afternoon) and tied on a caddis with that same soft-hackle emerger chasing it. Not even a sniff.

After being frustrated that I had wasted my time I went back to the bounce rig and landed 5 more trout, 1 rainbow and 4 more brown beauties. Nothing over 14”.

The gentleman across the river from me was having a similar day on sows and emergers. And while I didn’t land every fish I hooked (about 12) them all, I certainly had myself a day I’ll never forget.

From here on out, I’ll only cast if rising fish, if they’re consistently rising. No more chasing the occasional splash for me!

Our Historic Catch Data – Fly fishing Provo River

This report was prepared on May 30, so the dates include that date plus 10 days prior to and after for a total of 21 days (May 20 – June 9). I have data from 2014 – 2020.

During this time period I have records for 299 fish in 41 total fishing trips; 1 trip to the Lower Provo not counting Ryan’s report, 22 to the Middle Provo and also made trips to Soldier Creek and the Strawberry River and I made a trip to Oregon one year.

Since 2017, most of the fish in the database have actually been caught by our guided fly fishing clients and students. Jim and I added to the data this week since we had a chance to fish.

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

Catch Chart for Middle Provo River May 20 – June 9 (2014 – 2020)

Technique Fly Fish Pcent
nymphing-
Provo River Bounce Rig
BWO/Baetis nymph  70 29.8%
P.R. worm  66 28.1%
sow bug  45 19.1%
midge larvae  18 7.7%
PMD nymph   8 3.4%
BWO emerger   6
2.6%
caddis nymph   2 0.9%
soft hackle   1 .04%
black ant   1 0.4%
Total bounce 217 92.3%
dry or
dry-dropper
caddis  16 6.8%
noseeum midge    1 0.4%
BWO noseeum    1 0.4%
Total Top  18 7.7%

Things can change quickly for nymphing this time of year on the Middle Provo River.  Be prepared to fish with worms, sow bugs or as we found this week, BWO or Baetis nymphs and today, Mike found that when fish turned off to everything else, they would hit a BWO emerger even fished on the bounce rig.

If that is not enough, we have the high water to contend with.

Once the water gets above 600 cfs. some of the favorite fishing spots don’t hold fish. Find new places that do. Look for inside bends or deep runs.

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 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 (May 20 and June 9) has 91.5% of the catch on five flies.

  • BWO nymph
  • P.R. worm
  • sow bug
  • midge larvae
  • caddis dry fly

Lower Provo River

Our Catch Chart for the time frame (May 20 and June 9) has 100% of the catch on sow bugs (one trip), but Ryan also caught fish on

BWO nymphs and caddis emergers.

  • sow bug
  • BWO nymph
  • caddis emergers

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 & BackcountryChronicles.com

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

This week, I chose a video where we fished high water on the Middle Provo River in May back in 2017.

Fly Fishing Big Flow Late May Provo River Utah

Other Observations and Reports

Middle Provo River Fishing Report

Mike’s Fishing report 5/16/2020 – Middle Provo (650 cfs, before high runoff)

I used a Provo River bounce rig that day with a

Fished the upper part of the Middle Provo River below Jordanelle Reservoir starting around 8:00 AM. Weather was very sunny temperature in the low 50s with little to no wind. I set up at an inside bend and began fishing near the head of the hole. I began by fishing a size 20 sow bug, size 22 brown baetis nymph, and tan caddis imitation with a 5x leader and 6x tags on a Provo River bounce rig.

I did not change flies at all that day. As the flow was running fast and deep (I think roughly 650 cfs), I had to use a lot of weight to get my flies to the bottom, but resulted in several snags at the head of the hole which had a very rocky bottom. I avoided wading out too far into the water as the current was very strong even in the shallow section of the inside bend, so relocated to the tail of the hole around 10:00 AM, where I caught a small brown trout on the tan caddis. Weather was around low 60s partly cloudy at about this time. By this point I had seen about a half dozen other anglers, but none catching fish just yet.

I decided to relocate to the other side of the river to fish different inside bends, but used a bridge and did not wade across as doing so would be dangerous in this heavy flow. In certain sections of the river I would wade just a foot or two out from the bank and already struggle with keeping my balance, as the water was moving so fast. Around 11:00 AM, I arrived at a different location of the river, where the rocky bank from which one would normally be fishing was completely submerged in water. This bank ended up being beneath the seam where the slower current merged with the faster one, and was the location where I guessed the fish would be feeding.

In the hopes of avoiding snags, I set up my rig with several tiny split shots (used more than 20!) versus a few of the larger ones which would more easily snag on the rocky bottom. From about 11:00 AM to 1:00 PM.

I was catching brown trout throughout the hole on every few casts. They mostly alternated between taking sow bugs and the baetis nymph; I caught a couple of larger trout on the caddis nymph as well. By 1:00 PM, the weather was in the high 60s, low 70s, partly cloudy with an occasional breeze from the north.

There was a small BWO hatch occurring around 1:30 PM that remained light and intermittent until about 4:00 PM. Between this stretch of time, I caught relatively more fish on the baetis nymph than the sow bugs or caddis. I was catching brown trout consistently until about 4:00 PM when I lost my string of small split shot and had to resort to using larger ones, which got snagged more frequently.

Around 5:30 PM, I headed home but seemed like fish were still feeding on nymphs consistently around this time. Overall, dynamite day of fishing and one of the few where I was landing fish consistently for a few hours. I was also happy with the fact that only one fish got off the whole day, despite fishing near a very fast and strong current. I followed Dan’s advice from his last fishing report, and it worked.

Mike’s Fishing report 5/25/2020 – Middle Provo

Fished the upper part of the middle Provo River around 8:45 AM below Jordanelle Reservoir. Weather was at high 50s, very sunny with little to no wind and 1,000+ cfs of flow in the river. I began fishing on the side of a fairly rapid stretch of river (“Cookie Jar”) using an approximately 11 ft. long Provo River bounce rig, 5x leader, 6x tags, with a size 18 sow bug, size 14 pink PR (aka San Juan) worm, and size 22 brown baetis nymph.

I was able to quickly catch 2 relatively large brown trout (over 16 inches), though I probably got lucky as my rig was not properly bouncing, nor could I reliably manage to get it to do so in the extremely fast current in which I was fishing.

I moved further downstream around 10:30 AM to an inside bend on the west side of the river to find a handful of anglers fishing bounce rigs with a guide. I watched for a little while, though I did not witness any catching fish.

Around 11:30 AM, I decided to relocate to the east side of the river and began fishing at the tail of a hole at a seam where a fairly fast current merged with a slower one (lower part of “Lunker”). Weather was very sunny, high 60s with a slight breeze blowing from the north. I caught 6 fish in a 30-minute stretch; 3 took worms and 3 took sow bugs. During the same stretch of time, another angler caught several using sow bugs at the head of the hole.

Fishing remained slow, but steady from 1 PM onwards, where I caught 4 more fish about a half hour apart. While I experimented with different flies (caddis nymphs, baetis nymphs, midge nymphs), fish were only caught on sow bugs and worms that day. I accidentally hooked a few branches to find several-cased caddis nymphs attached to them. While I attempted to fish various caddis imitations, I did not manage to catch any fish with them.

Overall, fishing was relatively productive in the high flow and hot, sunny summer weather.

(As a side note, it would be extremely dangerous to attempt to cross directly through the current in such high flow)

Mike’s Fishing Report from 5/27/2020 – Middle Provo (1,000 cfs)

Fished the upper part of the middle Provo River today with Dan, Mark, and Jim (Jim wasn’t actually fishing but watching and doing a little bit of filming, while Dan only fished occasionally). We started fishing around 10:00 AM at a hole located roughly a mile below Jordanelle Reservoir. We encountered a couple of other anglers near the head of the hole, who kindly let us fish below them. We did not see them catch a fish though, and they left the hole after about 10 minutes or so.

Weather was around high 60s, low 70s partly cloudy with very little wind, and the current in this area was quite heavy (roughly 1,000 cfs). I began fishing a Provo River bounce rig with a 5x leader, 6x tags, with a size 18 sow bug, size 16 pink PR (or San Juan) worm, and size 22 brown baetis nymph from bottom to top respectively. Around the middle of the hole, I quickly caught two small brown trout on the sow bug and worm respectively after a few casts.

Jim recommended a couple of adjustments: the first involved a few changes to my rig, which consisted of replacing the bottom tag with the baetis nymph as opposed to the sow bug, replacing my pink worm with a different worm colored in a relatively dark shade of purple, and removing a little bit of weight and length from my bounce rig to allow me to fish closer to the bank where he knew fish were holding. The second adjustment involved location: judging by how small the first two fish were, he said the bigger fish would probably be further downstream from the hole. I gave it a shot and in a 15-minute stretch, I was able to catch three brown trout, two of which took the baetis nymph and one took the worm.

While we were packing up to head upstream around 11:45 AM, Dan fished the same section of the hole and was able to quickly hook one as well.

Around 1:00 PM, we ended up relocating upstream about a quarter mile or so and used a bridge to cross (the heavy current was far too dangerous to wade across). I tried a few casts at a hole that had a relatively quick current (“Cookie Jar”) and caught a brown trout on the worm. It was tough to get the rig fishing consistently in the relatively fast and heavy current, so we decided to move further downstream to a different inside bend (“Little Lunker”).

We got to the next location at about 1:45 PM, weather was in the mid to high 70s and mostly sunny. Fishing close to the bank in the middle of the hole, I caught 13 small to medium-sized brown trout within the hour, which mostly took the small baetis nymph, while a few others took the worm. Dan and Mark caught several as well, and I think we had at least three doubles during that stretch of time.

Fishing seemed to generally slow down after 3 PM. While I caught a total of 18, I think the group of us caught close to 30 that day. For me, that’s a pretty solid day of fishing, especially considering such a heavy flow and a fairly sunny day.

Personally, one major take-away from the day was the realization that fish can be holding closer to the bank than one might think. At the first hole we were fishing this morning, the angler was probably no more than 10 feet out from the bank, and Jim pointed out that he may have actually been past where the fish were holding (further observation seemed to suggest that he was standing exactly where the fish were). Though you may not be able to see them, they might be pretty close in front of you.a

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