A Fly Fisher’s Guide to Spring

The Provo river is ready sooner than you might think.

Heber Valley

If you’re waiting for warmer weather before you get out your pole and fly box, you’re missing out on some great fly fishing! Summer is popular for fishing because there are a lot of hatches and fishers can use bigger flies, but spring has several of its own great hatches, too. It’s also the first time of the year you can start catching fish on top of the water with a dry fly, rather than nymph fishing below the surface.

We talked to Mike Howard at Fish Heads Fly Shop in Heber for tips on spring fishing. Throughout the year the shop’s guides take out fly fishers of all experience levels and help them not only find the best access points on the Provo River, but also pick out the right flies for the season. Here are some of Mike’s suggestions for fly fishing the Provo River in the spring!

Boundless Local Access

If you’re just getting started or looking for some popular spots, Mike says you can’t go wrong with starting at the Bunny Farm meadows. Located at the top of North River Meadows Drive off of River Road, this section of the Provo is great in the spring. Once there, be ready to pull out your gear and hike along the hillside for some great fishing!

Closer to the Jordanelle dam, just off of Old Highway 40, there is another easy access point to the Provo. Thanks to the efforts of the Provo River Restoration Project, this marked recreational area sports ample parking, elevated walking paths, a restroom and countless holes to fish. Keep your eyes peeled, however, for one local resident: the rattlesnake. As the temperatures rise, these noisy neighbors like to sun themselves on the trails in this area.

The Early Bird Doesn’t Always Get The… Fish

What time of day is ideal for spring fishing? Mike says the best time to fish varies, but later in the day — just after noon — will often be best during the spring. In the end, Mike explains that “whenever it’s comfortable for you to fish, it’s comfortable for fish to eat.”

Remember the weather does affect hatches; insects often won’t hatch when skies are blue and the temperature is low. That means that clear, cold days are often the worst fishing. Keep an eye out for gray skies!

Buffalo Midges

Midges — Buffalo and otherwise — are one of the most common and resilient insect families of the riparian zone (an area bordering a river or other body of water). Named after the hump on their backs, Buffalo Midges are the signal of spring. These midges hatch mid-February and are larger than usual midges — typically size 18. These pupa (inactive, immature insects between the larva and adult stage) are the first major hatch of the season and come in many colors, but are most often black.

Mother’s Day Caddis

These caddisflies get their name from when they hatch: around Mother’s Day in mid-May. Mother’s Day Caddises have a green body with a dark head. Usually size 18 – 20, these flies are sometimes only size 22. While most caddisfly hatches are short and intense — sometimes lasting for only an hour or two on one day — the Mother’s Day Caddis hatch can last over several days, with each individual caddisfly taking much longer to transition from pupae to adult. That, of course, makes this one of the best caddisfly hatches for fly fishers!

Blue Winged Olives (BWOs)

BWOs are a grayish-olive mayfly with sail-like wings and long tails. Adult mayflies are known for “dancing” in clouds around rivers and lakes, and they are a great indicator of clean, unpolluted water. BWOs hatch in April or May and are usually size 18 – 22. They are the first mayfly hatch of the year, and after the hatch starts, trout will often target them exclusively.

Blue Wing Olive

New To The Provo River?

The Provo River is a tailwater river, meaning it’s being fed from a reservoir, so its temperature and water flow are controlled. It’s filled with rainbow and brown trout, as well as the everpresent mountain whitefish. The best part about the Provo? While a lot of the land around it is private property, the river itself is public. That means once you enter the river from any of the public access points, you can wade as far as you want without worrying about stumbling onto private property.  Fish on!

What Are You Waiting For?

Spring fishing is a great way to get a head start on the Provo River — no matter if it’s your first fishing season or your fiftieth. “Just go out and have fun,” Mike says, because “each time you go out you’re going to get better. The guy that’s been out 40 times is better than the guy that’s been out once.”

A fly size is the number that describes the size of the hook a fly is tied to. Fly sizes are counter-intuitive: the smaller the number, the larger the fly. For example, a size 18 Blue Winged Olive is larger than a size 22 BWO.

What stands 11,749’ high, has a heart, a saddle, an emerald, a shack, and some goats?

If you’ve been in Heber for even a short time, you’ll know the valley’s pride lies in the great mountain that sprawls to the west where the sun settles each night. Mount Timpanogos creates a portion of the eastern wall of the Wasatch Front. Often folks claim we, here in Heber, reside on the backside of the great Timpanogos. We’d like to beg their pardon. They happen to be discombobulated, not realizing that we have the front seat to Timp’s right side. Of all the peaks in the Wasatch Mountain Range, the majestic summit is second in height only to Mt. Nebo. Each breathtaking foot is covered in alpine flora, fauna, and crag, while crystal clean water from white peaks, burbles over as falls, and meanders to rivers and streams.

Through The Year

Spring is when the falls of Timp and their gushing runoff are at their prime. Mount Timpanogos Trailhead in Aspen Grove, accessed on State Route 92, is the entry point to three sets of breathtaking waterfall hikes. Timpanogos Falls is made up of an upper and lower set of falls. Visiting both is approximately a 2.5-mile round trip hike. Stewart Falls and Scout Falls are also great options for late spring hikes.

Summer is the best time to beat the heat and get to the heart of the mountain. Timpanogos Cave National Monument leads tours deep into the geologic Timpanogos Cave System. In the depths of the cavern is a large stalactite known as the “Great Heart” of Timpanogos. Legends tell of two hearts joined at death to become one that now lies deep in the mountain.

Summer is also a great time for ambitious hikers and trail runners to reach the peak. But don’t forget your jacket — even in the summer months, the windy summit stays nice and cool. The trek begins at either Aspen Grove or Timpooneke trail. It careens through Mount Timpanogos Wilderness Area, where you may choose to take it slower and camp overnight, remembering there are no fires permitted. Another fun choice is to depart early and squeeze the full excursion into one day. These hikes are where you’ll discover the emerald of Timp — Emerald Lake. Just as a horse’s saddle is sweeping in shape, Mount Timp’s saddle is a sweeping field of boulders where the trail to the peak converges with the ridgeline. Keep your eyes open for the mountain goats, moose, and other wildlife among the profusion of wildflower colors. Marking the summit is an old surveyor shack.

Fall brings a chill to the air, and our trees take center stage. As the bright blooms fade, the deep hues of autumn steal the show. Be sure to take a drive. Throw in a picnic and your camera to make a day of the fully-paved, 20 mile Alpine Scenic Loop. Head out before October passes and our snow closes portions of the loop for the winter.

Winter may offer the best views of Mount Timpanogos from a distance. Adventure junkies sometimes choose to summit Timp in the winter with an ice ax and crampons. If you enjoy snowmobiling or snow biking, Wasatch State Park grooms 72 miles of trail throughout the winter months. They are also home to the 2002 Olympic Site contracted by the Utah Olympic Legacy Foundation. This venue allows for Nordic skiing, a tubing hill, and snowshoeing at the base of Timp. Those of you who don’t feel like competing with yetis or Sherpas may choose other ways to enjoy winters with Timpanogos. Relax while you wind leisurely around the base aboard a railcar of the Heber Valley Railroad. Are you an artist? Find a perch in town to paint to your heart’s delight. Or, simply take it easy and get cozy with a warm drink while enjoying the view from your favorite place.

Whatever the season Mount Timpanogos with its high summit, heart, saddle, emerald, shack, and goats, is definitely worth visiting — even if it’s only from your front porch as you watch the sun settle behind Timps peaks.

Hikes:

Timpanogos Falls
1.9 miles |  moderate  |  dogs allowed  |  kid approved

Stewart Falls
3.4 miles |  moderate  |  dogs allowed  |  kid approved

Scout Falls
4.2 miles |  moderate  |  leashed dogs allowed

Aspen Grove Timp Summit
15.7 miles  |  difficult  |  dogs and horses allowed

Timpooneke Timp Summit
12.8 miles  |  difficult  |  dogs allowed  |  $6 fee, pay at yourpassnow.com

For kids:

The Junior Ranger Program
Available at Timpanogos Cave National Monument. Kids explore
the culture and natural history. There is an event every Saturday
at 10:00 am throughout the open season, May-early September.
Go to nps.gov/tica/learn/kidsyouth for more information.

Legend Of Timpanogos:

As with any good story, there are many variations to the Legend of Timpanogos. In fact, at least 12 recorded versions exist today. The legend is centered on the outline of a woman that can be seen in the peaks of the mountain, and the large stalactite called the “Great Heart” found inside the caves.

The legend is “Romeo and Juliet”-esque, featuring the Indian warrior Red Eagle and the beautiful Indian princess Utahna. While their exact roles and circumstances vary from version to version, the story goes that Utahna was chosen as a sacrifice to the gods to end the great drought. When she was about to jump off the cliffs, Red Eagle begged her not to end her life. Thinking Red Eagle was the great God of Timpanogos, Utahna went to the caves with him, and they fell in love.

One day, Red Eagle was injured by a wild animal — which proved he was human after all — so Utahna left to finish her sacrifice to the gods. After she jumped, Red Eagle found her and took her back to the caves, where it is believed their two hearts became one, forming the stalactite that is now called the Great Heart of Timpanogos. People say you can still see the outline of Utahna lying on top of the mountain.

(Courtesy of nationalparks.org)

For more information on Mount Timpanogos and Wasatch State Park visit https://stateparks.utah.gov/parks/wasatch-mountain