Finding Solitude on the Provo River
Whether you love fishing the Provo or are looking to experience this world-class fishery for the first time, here are the best ways to find solitude and productive fishing on Utah’s most popular river.
In the early spring months, the famed Blue Winged Olive hatch bursts to the surface of many Utah streams, with hordes of fishermen descending upon the water accordingly. Even though many spring days are quite warm in Utah, the water temperatures remain cold in tail waters, like the Provo, that draw from the bottom of heavily insulated reservoirs.
If you were to walk into any Salt Lake fly shop in March or April and ask when the best time to hit the water is, they would almost unanimously say from 11-3, or squarely in the middle of the day once it has warmed up. Most shops would also tell you that it is not worth fishing any later into the evening, as it will get too cold for either the bugs or the fish to be active.
On colder days, this advice may be accurate. But, like any advice, it must be taken with a grain of salt. This past spring, there were several days that I stayed out on the water past the prescribed 11-3 window, and something incredible happened. The people left, but the fish kept eating. Yes, there were a few less bugs than during the middle of the hatch, but there were enough left that the fish kept rising to them regularly. Bugs were hatching, fish were gulping, and my line was going tight until it got dark that evening.
Close to Town
It’s not difficult to see why the Provo River fishery welcomes so many anglers: there are over a million people living in the surrounding areas who are within 60 miles, and it is one of only a handful of rivers within a drive-able distance of the Salt Lake City metro area. Adding to that, the Provo has some top-notch, dry fly-fishing that can really draw the crowds. As a result, some anglers describe the experience on Utah’s Provo River as "combat fishing."
For many people, finding solitude and being surrounded by beautiful scenery are fly fishing’s main draws. In the latter category, the Provo more than fulfills the requirement, as the jagged Mount Timpanogos towers over the Lower River, which begins at Deer Creek reservoir, and the Middle is nestled amongst the cottonwoods of the tranquil Heber Valley, where the Jordanelle Reservoir impounds the river at the top.
Solitude, however, can be hard to come by. Go out on any weekend day during banker’s hours, and you may wait your turn to get your favorite stretch of water to yourself.
While the pressure on the river is discouraging to some, don't let it keep you from checking the experience off your life list. The Provo is a world-class fishery adjacent to a major metropolitan area, which is a rare combination indeed.
"After all, it is truly a world-class fishery, and it would be a shame to not experience it in all its glory."
Extend the Day
On the rest of my trips to the Provo last spring, I chose to disregard the standard routine and only show up in the evenings. Each time, I was rewarded with incredibly productive fishing and very few people. Those spring days are some of the few times I have been able to enjoy epic fishing on the Provo in solitude, without another person in sight.
People generally don’t believe you when you tell them you had an entire section of the Provo to yourself, especially if it happens to be during any sort of hatch. Well, this is actually an achievable feat if one is willing to bend the rules a bit and step outside of the prescribed windows for productive fishing.
I would encourage anglers to apply this same thinking to other times of year as well. In the summer, for instance, one can avoid a lot of crowds by fishing at night. That’s right, I said it, night. Especially during the summer months, fish are tremendously active at night and will feed heavily under the cover of darkness. Streamers and mouse patterns seem to be the most effective methods for moving some of the river’s biggest fish that you typically don’t run into during the daytime.
So start thinking outside the box when it comes to fishing highly pressured rivers like the Provo. Do not let the crowds keep you from getting out — head out with your rod at an off-hour and see what angling adventures you can find. After all, it is truly a world-class fishery, and it would be a shame to not experience it in all its glory.