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trip to Lees Ferry is a great day of fishing | Local News

With forest closures all around us, fishing opportunities are pretty much limited to Green Valley lakes here in town and SRP lakes in the southern part of Tonto National Forest. So now might be a good time to consider a trip to Lees Ferry on the Colorado River downstream from the Glen Canyon Dam. It is one of the most beautiful places I have fished.

The boardwalk area, just downstream from the starting point for tours to the Grand Canyon, is easily accessible and offers good fishing and great canyon views; but I prefer to fish upstream with a guide. The round-trip boat ride from the fishing grounds provides an ever-changing view of the spectacular scenery of the towering cliffs of Glen Canyon on the 15-mile stretch between Glen Canyon Dam and Lees Ferry.

Recently my wife Martha and I took our two older grandsons on a fishing trip on this section of the river. Technically, only the three guys were fishing, while Martha was taking pictures and doing watercolors.

It had been over 20 years since Martha had been on the river. This trip was different from this one as we actually crossed the many rapids on a five day trip to Phantom Ranch where we hiked to the South Rim with our then teenagers.

The upstream section of Lees Ferry has no rapids to contend with, so it’s a safe boat ride that can be done in a day. Typically, this involves stops to get out and wade through rapids or trails at several large fishing spots.

This trip was Owen’s second visit to Lees Ferry and Ayden’s first trip. The upstream boat ride did not disappoint. Besides the wonderful views of the canyon, we had a great time observing countless ducks, several great blue herons along the shore and in the rafters, and even ospreys. We also saw about six bighorn sheep enjoying the luscious vegetation along the river.

I consider myself adept at knowing where to look for trout in a stream, but I still feel inadequate in this department when it comes to Lees Ferry. Guides are on the river all the time and listen for changes in water depth with dam releases, and where trout are more likely to be found in different water conditions.

An example of this happened on our first stop to fish. On Owen’s first trip a few years ago, the fish were in a particular seam in the raft. This time, according to the guide, this area had not been productive recently. Instead, he made us fish about 100 yards downstream from there, and we caught fish after fish.

We started the day with a big dry fly because our top fly, which besides being able to catch trout, would also serve as an indicator if a fish caught the small zebra midge drifting about a meter below. This platform worked for all of us at first, but I changed to a two midges platform under an indicator, while Ayden switched to a spinning rod. Owen remained attached to the dry fly and midge platform.

Ayden’s switch to a spinning rod and a large spinning top was prompted by the Incentivized Harvest program offered to Lees Ferry to reduce the number of brown trout in this section of the river. The diet of brown trout becomes heavily dependent on fish as it grows. Native fish protected downstream, such as humpback chub, as well as juvenile rainbow trout in the Lees Ferry Reach, could be targets of brown trout.

Ayden was sure he would catch at least a dozen brown trout, and he already had the money (at least $ 25 per fish) in mind. Although he worked hard for most of the afternoon specifically targeting brown trout with the spinners he hoped to get their attention, he only managed to catch rainbow trout, which does not count in the payment of the incentive harvest.

While both boys outscored me, Owen was clearly the best angler of the day. He did well all morning with his dry fly and midge rig, then switched to a sinking line and a big woolly bugger for the afternoon. This rig would work for brown trout as well, but Owen kept shooting rainbows at a good clip all afternoon.

Martha also had a great time on the trip. She hiked a bit along the shore while we were fishing and took pictures of the canyon, wildlife, and grandchildren. She also worked on some watercolors while remaining comfortable under the canopy of the boat.

I look forward to any opportunity to fish at Lees Ferry, and hope my grandchildren will want to continue fishing for me on future trips.

If you would like to learn more about the brown trout incentive harvest program at Lees Ferry, the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area has information at planyourvisit / brown-truut-harvest.htm.

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