{"upriver":"5","walkin":"2","spin":"2","updateDate":"Tuesday, July 29, 2014","upcrowdday":"1","upcrowdend":"3","walkcrowdday":"1","walkcrowdend":"2","upriversum":"

Up-River Summary. By Terry Gunn<\/strong><\/p>\n

Like they used to say on the radio: There\u2019s good news and bad news. What a difference a year can make.<\/p>\n

The good news. The river is healthier than it has been in many years. There is more algae than anyone can remember; a solid mass of green, from bank to bank and throughout the entire river. There has been so much algae that it has made spin fishing virtually impossible \u2013 every cast the line is almost instantly clogged with a gob of algae. This algae bloom is likely a result of Lake Powell being stirred up last year by the large spring runoff which resulted in nutrients being distributed in the reservoir and now are being transported into the river. Algae and the diatoms that it harbors are the foundation for the aquatic food base at Lees Ferry. We had large hatches of black flies which we had not seen in a few years for most of this past winter. The midges began hatching in earnest in early March and these massive hatches have continued on a daily basis. The fish look great and I feel that \u2013 with the current health of the river \u2013 we are going to see some great fishing in the future.<\/p>\n

Last year at this time the river was full of healthy fish of all sizes. This year, we still have a decent population of trout, but everything has changed, including where they are living in the river and where and what flies they are eating. The guides are all catching fish while DIY anglers are struggling. Fish that normally are in the shallow water feeding on the prolific midge hatches are all in the deeper water, feeding on the midge pupae. It took us awhile to figure out that to catch fish we needed to get much deeper than normal. On the weekends, the water is lower and an angler can have some success in the shallower water, but for the most part we have not been wading; instead, we are fishing from the boat, either drifting or anchoring. We have been using much smaller flies than normal because the fish have been more selective and very picky. Our best success has been using a 12- to 14-foot leader with a strike indicator near the fly line. Couple that with a #4 or BB spilt shot 18-inches above a size-18 bead-head zebra midge with a size-20 zebra bead head (or smaller) underneath. If you\u2019re using different patterns or larger flies, you are not going to have much success.<\/p>\n

Fishing is changing daily. It is our goal and desire that everyone have a great trip to the Ferry. Be sure to stop by the shop to see the flies that are currently working. The flies change on a daily basis and every day the LFA guides let everyone at the shop know the top producing flies and how to use them and we are anxious to share this knowledge with you, even where to fish.<\/p>\n

Just because you caught fish in a certain spot in years past, don\u2019t think that you are going to experience the same success in the same spot this year. You might remember that this fishery has changed many times over the years and this year is one of those big change years. Keep in mind that the fish are in the deeper water. The other thing to remember is that the section of river above 7 mile is fishing better than the lower river. We lost a lot of fish this past winter in certain areas. Those most impacted are the walk-in, 4 mile, and Duck Island. There are not many fish in these regions and it is going to take some time for fish to relocate back. In a nutshell, it was warm water, extreme low flows and an artificial flood that came together that changed our fishery. Read on for a more detailed explanation of how that change occurred.<\/p>\n

It all began last summer when there was a very large runoff into Lake Powell which at that time was less than 50% of capacity. I believe that the large runoff mixed up the normally stratified water in the lake and a result, the water that entered the river gradually increased in temperature and eventually went up to 58 degrees, which has happened other years in the past without negative consequences; this time, however, radical water flows were injected into the mix.<\/p>\n

As you likely know, for the past three Novembers there have been HFE\u2019s or artificial floods to allegedly rebuild the beaches in the Grand Canyon. I and many others have been opposed to these fall floods on many fronts, questioning their effectiveness and most importantly, timing. Fall is not a natural time of year for a flood event to occur. We have said all along that these floods can have a negative effect on the trout and the aquatic food base of the river \u2026 just as the canyon is going into winter. Winter on this stretch of river means that due to the low trajectory of the sun and our high cliffs, very little to no sunlight enters the canyon and strikes the river. It can be a long, tough winter even in normal conditions. Throw a flood into the mix and it can spell disaster.<\/p>\n

However, this year was anything but normal. When they conduct one of these flood events, Lake Powell drops more than three feet in 70 hours. In years past, they have taken a little bit of water from the water delivery every day, throughout the year to save enough water to do one of these HFE flows. This year, some nameless bureaucrat or group of them, decided to break protocol and basically stole all the water from November to conduct this flood. In other words, for the entire month of November, the river flows fluctuated from a low flow of 6,500 cfs to 7,500 cfs on a daily basis (with the exception of the 70 hour 38,000 cfs flood event). Normal flows for these months would be 8,000 cfs to 13,000 cfs. Back in 2000, they conducted another low flow experiment (8,000 cfs constant flows, June-October), that was highly detrimental to the fishery and aquatic food base. We all thought that at that time that it was agreed that the river would not drop below 8,000 cfs and low and steady flows would be avoided if at all possible. Obviously somebody was not paying attention or did not care about the Lees Ferry trout fishery.<\/p>\n

The condition of the fish entered into a gradual decline in late October \u2026 this happens most every year as food production declines. Everything was fine until the abnormally low flows began in November. We instantly saw a very rapid decline in fish health and condition and for reasons that I cannot explain some areas of the river the fish were hit harder than other areas. I\u2019m convinced that it was a combination of the radically low flows, warmer than normal water followed by the flood that caused this rapid decline. The fishery would have likely escaped unscathed if it had only been a combination of two of these events, but all three combined to create the perfect storm that will temporarily change this fishery.<\/p>\n

Has the fishery changed? Yes, as it has many times in the past. Is Lees Ferry done for? No, it has always returned to normal after a short down-turn. What can you do to help? We all need to become involved and write letters and attend meetings and let government officials know that Lees Ferry is a special place and that recreational fishing should be enhanced and protected from harmful water flow experiments.<\/p>\n

There has been an ongoing aquatic food base study that has taken place over the past couple of years. The purpose of this study is multifaceted and is studying the relationship of flows on food production, taking inventories of and monitoring populations of aquatic insects and invertebrates that live in the river and other very important aspects of the aquatic food base. I believe that this is by far the most important study that has ever been conducted on this river. Previously, hundreds of millions of dollars have been spent studying sediment while ignoring the aquatic food base and resource. Common sense dictates that fish, birds and animals do not live off of dirt or sand. The aquatic food base and habitat are the foundation for all that lives in the Colorado River. One of the long term goals of the food base study is to determine how to enhance the populations and production of aquatic insects in the river which will benefit native fish, trout, and migratory bird populations. This is a study and a goal that we can all embrace!<\/p>\n

There is currently an El Nino occurring and unfortunately, it appeared too late to bring us any drought relief. However, there is a 65% chance that there will be an El Nino event that carries over through the summer and into next fall and winter.\u00a0 Strong El Ninos almost always bring big snow packs to the Rockies which could help to fill both Lake Powell and Lake Mead. Current snowpack in the Lake Powell drainage in only 55% of normal and we desperately need more snow this late spring to bring the lake up.<\/p>\n

Quagga mussels have become established in Lake Powell and we are now seeing some in the river below the dam. Their arrival in the river happened sooner than I expected. 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.<\/p>\n


Walk-In Summary<\/strong><\/p>\n

We are hearing a few more positive reports on the walk-in area, but it is still very slow compared to normal. Perhaps everyone should follow our lead from upriver and fish smaller flies in the deeper runs.<\/p>\n

I\u2019ll update this walk-in report as soon as we have more information.<\/p>\n","spinsum":"

Spin fishing continues to be much slower than normal due to the massive amount of algae that the river is producing. This will be better when the higher flows in June transport much of the algae downriver.<\/p>\n","waterTemp":48.2,"flowRate":"9620"}