A Fly Fisher’s Guide to Spring

The Provo river is ready sooner than you might think.

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.

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