By: Terry Gunn
Recent Fish Rating
Upriver: 5 to 7.5
Walk-In: 5 to 6.5
Key: 1 = Go fish somewhere else 10 = Rent a helicopter and get here now!
Today’s Weather: Sunny, Low 38 High 59.
Crowd Rating: Upriver: 1-2 No Crowds during the week and 2 on the weekends
Walk In: 1 during the week and 3 on the weekends
Key: 1 = Sleep late and fish where you want. 10 = Very crowded, get up early
Fly Fishing Up-River:
Visit www.leesferry.com for reports and updates.
The best part of spring is the prolific midge hatches occurring as the days warm, the sun rises higher in the sky and sunlight returns to the canyon. The fishing has really turned on and is going to get better as the midge hatches increase in magnitude, duration, and frequency. The weather has been perfect with cool mornings and warm afternoons the norm.
We have also been seeing many larger fish this spring. I would say that the average fish are overall larger than they have been in the past few years. We have also been seeing – and occasionally catching – some really husky fish that are very strong. Overall, fish condition is good and will continue as they get more food from the midge hatches this spring and the higher “feeding flows” in the summer.
The spawn has been a so-so event this winter which is normal when our fish population is good. The AZ Game and Fish Department has concluded that the current catch rates and trout population are higher than they have been in 20 years. I agree with that and predict that this spring and summer will be the best fishing that we have seen since the 1990s.
Current water flows are just about perfect for wading and will remain at this level through May and possibly June. The flows are lower than normal due to the low levels in Lake Powell. However, current snowpack conditions are good with 115% of normal. This means Lake Powell will rise this year. Low water + big midge hatches = great fishing!
The fish are already moving into the shallow water above riffles to feed on the midges and I would say that the fishing is currently better than it normally is this time of year.
Walk-In Fishing: By Dean Windha
Walk-in Fishing Report 04/09/14
The walk-in area has really came alive the last 10 days or so. Good numbers of fish are being reported from the boulder field down to the Paria riffle. The weather has been really warm with just a couple of wind days last month. All-in-all, a great start to spring at the Ferry.
Midges are working really well with the zebra midge being the favorite right now. San Juan worms and glo bugs are also working well. Nymphing is the rig of choice at this time; however, streamers worked well, especially in the lower water on Saturday and Sunday.
There have been reports that the boulder field is a great place for some dry dropper action. The afternoon and early evening has been a good time to fish in this area. Fish are holding in the usual areas of slack water close to the faster riffles. On the weekends, when the water is low and you can wade out the point just above the big rock, nymphs or streamers are both productive.
Be careful when wading in the boulder field; a wading staff is most helpful here.
The area by the big rock is starting to turn-on as the fish move in. Nymphing is the rig that is working great in this part of the river. Zebra midges with a San Juan worm in the morning and a midge with a glo bug or scud in the afternoon are very good options. The transition water below the big rock where the water slows is always a great place to fish. Fish close to shore and work your way out making sure to fish all of the seams. This is where fish are holding.
The area where the Paria River comes into the Colorado has also been fishing well. Midges and bead head nymphs have really been the ticket here. Remember to not wade out very far as you will be stepping on fish if you get out into the river. Fish above the confluence and out from the silt line and you will do well. Remember to watch the bubbles in the river. If your indicator is moving about the speed of the bubbles you are pretty close to what you need. If you are fast then you will need to add more weight or add length to your rig. If your indicator is slow you will need to shorten it or remove weight.
One word of caution about wading in the area of the Paria River: There are areas that are soft silt and act like quick sand. If you get stuck in this area you may lose a boot or get water in your waders. Always fish with a partner and use a wading staff here.
I would rate the walk-in at 6.5 this week and expect it to be even better next week.
Walk-in Spin Fishing Report 04/08/14
With the low flow, spin-fishing can be difficult. The best time to spin-fish is when the water is at its peak for the day. This is about mid-day except on weekends when the water does not rise much. Evenings have been good at the Paria beach area and in the area just below the boat dock.
Kastmasters and Panther Martins are the lures that work in the walk-in. Gold is the color that works well here at the Ferry. Keep in mind that you need to think of the spinners as a jig not a traditional spinner and you will have better luck than if you use the traditional spinner techniques.
I would rate the walk-in spin fishing at a 5 for this week.
Fish Behavior 101. Some thoughts on why fish eat and why they don’t.
Any man who claims to understand fish is a fool. – T G
Fish are weird; there is just no getting around it. One day they are jumping in the boat, the next they are nowhere to be found. Some people say that this is what keeps bringing us back to the stream, that this uncertainty we call “fishing” makes us more competitive. After all these years I do understand a little about fish and I would like to share some ideas on why fish are happy one day and not the next.
First and foremost, the fish have to be present in the area of water that you are fishing.
Fish are not always going to be in the same spot. This is especially true at Lees Ferry where you have water that fluctuates on a daily and monthly basis. A spot that is stacked with fish at one flow may be a “fish desert” at another level.
FOOD and SHELTER
The two things that determine the location of fish are food and shelter.
If there is no food present there is no reason for a fish to be in a specific location. However, if you find the highest concentration of food, you will always find the highest concentration of fish, assuming that this concentration of food has been present long enough for the fish to locate it.
At Lees Ferry, we have two different major feeding plots (each with hundreds of sub-plots). The first is PROLIFIC MIDGE HATCHES. Midges hatch throughout the year; however, by far the largest hatches occur in the spring. The lifecycle of a midge is very similar to a butterfly; the adult midge’s sole purpose is to make babies. In a nutshell, this is how it works – the adult midge mates with other midges in a swarm, then the female lands on the water to lay the fertilized eggs. She stays on the water for second or so then flies off the water and then lands again to lay more eggs (this is a survival mechanism which helps protect her from being eaten by a fish). The eggs slowly sink and eventually hatch into larvae (think of a tiny caterpillar); the midge lives as larvae for a long time, living in the algae and mud. Then, though some miracle of nature, the midge larvae get a call to pupate in mass, (think of a butterfly chrysalis). As they pupate, the midge, encased in a hard protective husk, slowly floats to the surface. The size and color of the midge pupae varies with the specie and with 50 different species of midges inhabiting Lees Ferry we have a large variety of sizes and colors of pupae. When the pupae reaches the surface, the midge hatches through the husk and the adult midge crawls out, dries his wings and flies off to repeat the entire process.
Fish do feed on adult midges, but mostly on the carcasses of dead midges that accumulate in back-eddies. The importance of a midge as a food source occurs in the emerging stage. When midges hatch they often do so in mass numbers and for long durations. The fish know this is happening and move into the riffles to feed on the emerging midges.
WHY DO FISH MOVE INTO RIFFLES TO FEED ON MIDGES?
Midge pupae are small, anywhere from a size #18 to #30. It takes a lot of midges to sustain a Lees Ferry trout; however, if you were to measure the midges as a percentage of total biomass, they far exceed all other food sources combined. Riffles are areas of river where the water transitions from very shallow to slowly deeper water. Do not confuse “points” with riffles, they look similar, however, the water on “points” transitions from shallow to deep in a short area. Fish move into the shallowest part of the riffles to feed on the CONCENTRATED MIDGES. Imagine if you had a thousand midges in a column of water that was 3-feet deep versus 6-inches deep, the midges are going to be much more concentrated in the 6-inch deep water. This is why we often tell people that they are wading in areas that they should be fishing.
The other kicker to midge hatches is water volume. As the water flow increases, the midge hatches decrease. This is something that I do not understand, but I know it to be true. So, the best midge fishing is always in lower water flows. If I were to put a number to it I would say the best midge fishing is in water less than 14,000-cfs. This is why in the spring, (March, April and May) some of our best fishing is on the weekends when the water is at the lowest level of the week. We often see good midge hatches in September and October, but not the mass swarms that happen in the spring.
The other situation that makes fish eat at Lees Ferry is HIGH WATER FLOWS. Anytime the water flows are high (above 16,000-cfs) food is dislodged, moved around, and transported by the current. Here we are talking about WORMS and SCUDS. High water flows normally occur four months each year, the two hottest months – July and August – and the two coldest months, December and January … this is all about electrical demand and high demand equals high flows. There are exceptions and high flows can occur at other times if there is a high level in Lake Powell and high runoff into the lake. This happened the years1983-86 and a couple of other times in the 90s. The best fishing periods at Lees Ferry have always been preceded by periods of higher than normal water flows. In high water, the fish will concentrate in the rifles and the tail out of the riffles to feed on the drifting food. In addition to the riffles, feeding fish can be found though long runs between riffles. This is the time of year that the most productive fishing is usually from a drifting boat as opposed to wading.
Any change in the weather can shut off fish feeding. I cannot explain why this happens, however I guarantee you that it is true. I was in Placentia, Belize last year fishing with noted guide Eworth Gartbutt. A cold front was pushing through (it dropped to a frigid 78 degrees) and Eworth said “Terry, you realize that permit fishing and a north wind do not go together.” I thought to myself how “fishing is fishing” no matter where you are in the world.
Impending weather change make fish at Lees Ferry not want to eat. It might look like a normal day, the sun may be shining and not a breeze is blowing , but a storm is on the way and the fish know it. For whatever reason, they decide to take the day off from eating. I saw it this week when I was fishing with someone who I have fished with for two decades and the weather that day was a classic cold front, it was windy, cold, and spitting rain. My client is a good stick and at the end of the day he had landed two fish. His companion had landed three and they were all smaller fish. The next day started cold, but warmed quickly due to the cloudless day and bright sunshine. They landed more than 30-fish including a 19-inch football and several that were in the 18-inch range. If they had only fished the one day, they might have concluded that the fishing at Lees Ferry sucks or that we are “blowing smoke” or overrating how good the fishing is … that actually happened with one trip last month when a couple of guys had a similar experience fishing with me one day with a cold front pushing through.
So, poor weather makes for poor fishing most of the time, however, there are exceptions and I have seen some great fishing on days the wind is howling and the snow is flying. Often times the impending or approaching weather is worse on fishing that the bad weather itself. I can’t explain this but I can tell you that more often than not, a change in the weather will affect fishing in a negative way.
Lees Ferry Fishing Tips: I have been using 6 and 7X fluorocarbon tippet and feel that the lighter tippet results in a much higher success rate than say 5X. Anglers might argue that they break fish off on such light tippet, but my argument is that in order to break a fish off, you first have to first get a fish to eat your fly and you are going to get more eaters with lighter tippet than heaver tippet.
When wading the riffles, you need long dead drifts. There are two types of drifts; perfect dead drifts and all other drifts. Perfect dead drifts catch fish at Lees Ferry; all other drifts don’t catch fish here. You get a dead drift by mending the line, then throwing slack line on the water. If your line is straight from your rod tip to your indicator or you move your indicator during the drift, then your drift is not perfect and will not catch fish. The key to success is to stay over fish, get the flies down to the bottom, and get a long, perfect dead drift.
For details on Lake Powell conditions and snow-pack, go here: http://lakepowell.water-data.com/
For a real time graphic view of water releases and ramp rates go here: http://waterdata.usgs.gov/az/nwis/uv?09380000