View Single Post
Old 12-03-2018, 06:41 AM
T Gunn's Avatar
T Gunn T Gunn is offline
Senior Member
Join Date: Oct 2008
Posts: 472
Lees Ferry Fishing Report 12/3/18

Winter has arrived in northern Arizona and so has cooler weather. Water flows have increased – as they do every winter.

The new flows arrived December 1 and are scheduled to continue through January. These flows are perfect for drifting and the water has been rising throughout the day, making for great fishing conditions. Flows on the weekends, as always, are lower than the weekday with the water rising much more slowly. There are numerous locations that accessible to wading, however, drifting or fishing from the boat is generally more effective in the higher water. For fish that are in deeper water, try swinging streamers or traditional nymphing with an indicator. Scuds, glow bugs, San Juan worms, and midges are all working well with the heavier nymph rigs. Remember, with the slower water these fish get another second or two to check out your fly … so smaller flies and smaller tippet sizes are not a bad idea. The high water dislodges larger food items like scuds and worms so be sure to plan on doing some heavy nymph fishing with a heavy shot, a long leader and strike indicator. Longer rods work better for casting these rigs so be thinking longer than 9-ft and the 11-ft switch rods work great for these rigs.

The fish are looking very healthy and their condition is outstanding. In addition, the overall average size of the trout is larger than we have seen in a couple of years. Trout numbers have also increased compared to the past two years and we are seeing all sizes of fish from little guys to some slabs ... looking forward to another great year at the Ferry.

Arizona Game and Fish Department recently stocked 500 rainbows in the lower stretch of Lees Ferry. This is the first time that trout have been stocked here since 1996. This is a really big deal since the political environment has prevented any stocking of fish in the river for more than 20 years. By conducting this stocking, the precedent has been set that sport fish are indeed a priority and if the need should arise, there can be a rapid response to introduce fish into the river. Thousands of hours of diligent work by countless individuals, who have been working behind the scenes has brought this change in management to know who you are and we will be forever grateful for your efforts. This is an experimental stocking...the fish that were stocked are triploids, which means that they are sterile. Triploids generally grow larger and faster than regular wild trout due to the fact that they do not spawn; it will be very interesting to see how they do.

Beginning this spring, Lees Ferry Anglers is embarking on a new venture where we will be "back-hauling" personal flotation boats, passengers and gear up-river from Lees Ferry to wherever you want to go upriver, even all the way to just below the dam. We have a new boat that is dedicated to this service and is designed for carrying kayaks, canoes and up to 6 passengers with lots of gear. In the past, you had to schedule your departure around the operations of the guide or service and often had to launch late in the day. This new boat is dedicated to only transportation so we will be able to coordinate with your schedule and be operating throughout the day with multiple departure times. You can do a day float, a partial day float, or camp along the river on a multiple day float. Call the shop to schedule your trip. We also rent kayaks!

Spin fishing up-river is always an effective way to fish the Ferry. Drifting from a boat, casting Panther Martins, Castmasters, Z-Rays (if you can find them), and Mepps spinners toward the bank is a great method in the slower, deeper water. In the shallower water (3- to 15 feet) try drifting glow bugs and plastic worms. Rig with ½ ounce of lead, a swivel, a couple feet of tippet and bounce the lead so your lure stays just off the bottom.
As for the temperatures at the Ferry; the mornings are cold and the days are cool. It’s jacket weather in the morning and as the sun gets up you’ll shed clothing so layer up. Boat traffic is moderate with more on the weekends. Fishing is great… come see us!

There was enough sediment that flowed from the Paria River this summer to trigger an HFE (artificial flood) in November. This event has come and gone and the fish have begun to settle into normal behavior. You are probably aware that we think that these fall floods make little sense. This is not a normal time for a flood to occur! These fall floods scour the vegetation and aquatic food base at a time when the river is entering winter, the sun lays over to the south with very little sunlight entering the canyon, so any photosynthesis is delayed until the spring. If these HFE's are to continue, it would make much more sense that they occur in the spring, a natural timing for floods to occur and could potentially provide some benefits to the river resources.

Current snowpack conditions are favorable and currently exceed 100% of normal. We are hoping for a banner snowpack to make up for the dismal runoff from last season. Currently, there is a very good chance that we will enter into an El Nino this winter which generally brings large snowpacks to the Rockies and the Lake Powell drainage. Currently, Lake Powell is 114-feet below full pool which is almost 40-feet below where it was a year ago on this date.

Bug Flows began May 1. This is great news for the river!

The Department of the Interior implemented experimental Macroinvertebrate Production Flows (Bug Flows) at Glen Canyon Dam May 1. These flows continued through August 31. Early indications are that the bug flows were a success with the largest hatches of midges ever recorded at Lees Ferry. Bug Flows consist of steady weekend releases from Glen Canyon Dam that provide favorable conditions for insects to lay eggs along the Colorado River margins and slightly higher fluctuating releases during the weekdays designed to prevent the eggs from drying out. This experiment is expected to have positive benefits to the food base of the aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems below Glen Canyon Dam. The Bug Flow experiment is expected to provide resource benefits in the near term and will also provide scientific information to be used in future decision making. The Bug Flow experiment will satisfy the Department’s goal to ensure effective and coordinated implementation of important research that the Department is undertaking through the Glen Canyon Dam Adaptive Management Program.

Quagga mussels have become very well established in Lake Powell and we are now seeing them in the river below the dam. So far, there has not been a major infestation and there is some thought by experts that they will not become very well established in the river due to the current. Be aware and remember to dry waders and boots before using them in any other body of water. Also, all private boats should drain all water from the boat and live-wells as soon as you exit the river. We all need to do our part to limit the transport of this and all invasive species.

For details on Lake Powell conditions and snow-pack, go here:

For a real-time graphic view of water releases and ramp rates go here:

Cliff Dwellers Lodge has been proudly serving guests for more than 60 years!

Our lodge has rooms with cable TV (20 channels), in-room coffee and refrigerators, and the basic amenities. Choices of rooms are ONE king-size bed, TWO doubles, and TWO queen-size beds and one 2-bedroom unit. Also, the group unit we call the HOUSE, sleeps six with two baths, dining area, kitchen, patio with a view, and cable TV. Rates vary with season. We are excited about the winter season and have some great “blackboard” specials planned. Patio dining is available. (Enclosed in the winter months

Walk-in rating: 6

The walk in is fishing good, as it has been all year. With the higher water, there is not as much wading access to much of boulder field all the way down to the Paria. The deeper water straight across from the big rock has been producing the best. With the low water, you don't have to get out very far and the drift is nice and slow. The fish are stacked in those deep pockets from the big rock down to the straight away. The straightaway has also been fishing well, as long as you can roll cast (due to the trees right on the bank). Traditional nymphing in these two spots has been very effective. San Juan worms and midges have been the go-to flies. When the water rises, olive and black wooly buggers have been working well from the riffle down to the confluence of the Paria River. Keep in mind that the water flows are lower on the weekends and the fishing will likely be better in the lower flows.

Spin Fishing rating: 5 to 6

This is the time of year that the fish are really starting to key in on glo-bugs (egg patterns), which is due to the fish beginning to spawn. The key success is getting the fly to the bottom and drifting along the bottom of the river in a long dead-drift. The best way to do this is from a boat. Spin fishing in the higher water months of December and January is always good.

Spin fishing the walk-in is best in the deeper water due to all the rocks. From the top of the boulder field, all the way up to half a mile past the boat landing is good. Gold ¼ ounce Castmasters and ¼ ounce Panther Martins are the best. Using the quarter ounce lures you can really cast them out for some distance and cover a lot of water. Small, sinking Rapalas in rainbow trout and original have also been working well. Cast out, let them sink for a few seconds then retrieve them at a steady speed (and maybe even give it a little twitch here and there) to trigger a strike. When spin fishing, you need light line (4 pound test); you can cast further and the fish cannot see it. Remember to set your drag light!
Reply With Quote