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Old 05-17-2019, 11:17 AM
T Gunn's Avatar
T Gunn T Gunn is offline
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Join Date: Oct 2008
Posts: 473
Lees Ferry Fishing Report 5/17/19

Up-River Summary
The midge hatches are exploding and on warm clear days we are seeing epic hatches. The fish have moved into the shallows and riffles to feed on the emerging midges. The key is to be here when the weather is good (warm and sunny) as cooler days and cloud cover suppress the midge hatches and the fish are not near as active as they are during good weather. The water flow conditions are perfect with low steady water (bug flows*) on the weekends and very slow rising water on the weekdays. Midge fishing currently is just about as good as it gets, especially if you enjoy sight casting to sub surface feeding fish. The fish can be very selective, and at times it can be frustrating to see countless fish in less than a foot of water, chowing down in a feeding frenzy while ignoring your flies. This is where it gets fun though…trying different flies until you find the right one. I always start big, size #18 and work down and will often find that a size #22 or #24 will be the ticket.
Experimental “bug flows” began on May 1 and will continue through the summer. This means that the flows on Saturday and Sunday will be steady low flows with no rise. Details below *.
The summer fishing outlook is good. This is when the flows move the large food items (scuds and worms), pitch in the cicadas in early July and it is usually fishing nirvana here at the Ferry
The fish have been spawning in deeper runs this spring with no shallow water spawning anywhere on the river. This is very good for survival of the trout eggs and fry as they are not left high and dry by fluctuating water flows. While it has peaked for the year, expect to see some sporadic spawning into June.
The fish are looking healthy and their condition is good. 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 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 working behind the scenes have brought this change in management to fruition … we will be forever grateful for your efforts. This is an experimental stocking …the fish are triploids, which means they are sterile. Triploids generally grow larger and faster than wild trout since 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 service. We will be “back-hauling” personal flotation boats, passengers and gear up-river from Lees Ferry to wherever you want to go, even just below the dam. Our new boat dedicated to this service was 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 transportation only, so we will 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!
Current snowpack conditions are highly favorable and exceed 160% of normal. This is a banner snowpack to make up for the dismal runoff last season. The El Nino generally brings large snow pack to the Rockies and the Lake Powell drainage. Currently, Lake Powell is 120-feet below full pool which is almost 50-feet below where it was a year ago on this date. There is currently a 60% chance that El Nino could continue through next winter which could mean another year of epic snows for the Rockies and perhaps alleviate the ongoing decline in Lake Powell and Lake Meade. Another important consideration is that this year’s large inflow into Powell will stir up tons of nutrients which will be good for the river for several years to come.
Bug Flows*
Implemented at Glen Canyon Dam beginning May 1 through August 31, 2019.
Bug Flows consist of steady weekend releases from Glen Canyon Dam and normal fluctuating releases during the weekdays. The steady weekend flows are expected to provide favorable conditions for aquatic insects to lay eggs along the Colorado River downstream of Glen Canyon Dam, while the minimum flows on weekdays are designed to be similar to flows on the weekends. This flow regime would decrease the amount of stage change in the river on the weekends, thus preventing the insect eggs that are laid along the river margins from drying out. Technical experts at the United States Geological Survey’s (USGS) Grand Canyon Monitoring and Research Center (GCMRC) and Western Area Power Administration (WAPA) have coordinated the design of the recommended experiment to optimize the benefits for insects throughout the Canyon while minimizing negative impacts to hydropower. This experiment is expected to have positive benefits to the aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems in Glen, Marble, and Grand Canyons. The purpose of the experimental flow is to test the effectiveness of Bug Flows for improving insect production and to increase the availability of food for desired fish species including the endangered humpback chub (Gila cypha) and rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss), an important sportfish, as well as terrestrial wildlife like birds and bats.
For each month of the experimental period (May through August), weekend low, steady releases will be maintained at 750 cfs greater than the weekday low for that month. Normal fluctuating releases will be maintained during the weekdays. The LTEMP maximum ramp rates (4,000 cfs
per hour when increasing and 2,500 cfs per hour when ramping down) will be adhered to throughout the experiment, as will the maximum daily fluctuations (9 times the monthly release volume in May; and 10 times the monthly release volume in June through August). The daily fluctuating range is not to exceed 8,000 cfs. In addition, minimum releases of 5,000 cfs during the nighttime and 8,000 cfs during the daytime will be maintained.
There was enough sediment that flowed from the Paria River last 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 of year 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 HFEs are to continue, it would make much more sense to occur in the spring, a natural timing for floods and could potentially provide some benefits to the river resources.
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, our 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.
As for dining, we have some great blackboard specials planned along with our regular menu. Patio dining is available.
Walk-In Summary
Walk-in rating: 6 to 7
We have been hearing some great reports from the walk-in area. The same epic midge hatches that we are seeing upriver are also happening in the walk-in. With the low water, you don’t have to get out very far and the drift is nice and steady. The fish are stacked in those deeper pockets from the big rock down to the straight away. The boulder field above the big rock is often the best midging water with either a dry and dropper rig or our double tiny rig with two bead-head midges or a bead-head with a size #20 or smaller midge pupae. Don’ waste your time with any tippet larger than 6 or 7 X and a perfect dead drift is critical to success. When the water rises on the weekdays, 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 low and steady on the weekends and the fishing will likely be better in the lower flows.
Spin Fishing Summary.
Spin Fishing rating: 5 to 6
Spin fishing up-river is an effective way to fish the Ferry. The best recent fishing has been to drift glo bugs from a boat, making sure they are bouncing along the bottom. 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 plastic worms. Rig with ¼- ounce of lead, swivel, a couple feet of tippet and bounce the lead so your lure stays just off the bottom.
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!
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Old 05-17-2019, 05:27 PM
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JBatina JBatina is offline
Join Date: Jul 2006
Location: Casa Grande
Posts: 60
Thanks Terry. I always enjoy your posts even though I rarely get up there. The passion and love of your home and river exude from your words.
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Old 05-28-2019, 09:08 PM
T Gunn's Avatar
T Gunn T Gunn is offline
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Join Date: Oct 2008
Posts: 473
Thanks for the kind words.
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