UP-RIVER RATING 5 to 6
If you don’t follow Lees Ferry Anglers on Facebook, you should. We make several current condition posts a week.
Beginning this spring, Lees Ferry Anglers is embarking on a new service. We will be “back-hauling” personal flotation boats, passengers and gear up-river from Lees Ferry to wherever you want to go, even just below the dam. Our new boat dedicated to this service was designed for carrying kayaks, canoes and up to 6 passengers with lots of gear. In the past, you had to schedule your departure around the operations of the guide or service and often had to launch late in the day. This new boat is dedicated to transportation only, so we will coordinate with your schedule and be operating throughout the day with multiple departure times. You can do a day float, a partial day float, or camp along the river on a multiple day float. Call the shop to schedule your trip. We also rent kayaks!
Spring weather has been elusive and cold, winter temperatures lingered longer than any year in recent memory. An El Nino condition arrived in February bringing much-needed moisture. The temporary downside has been clouds and winds which have hampered fishing and suppressed the midge hatches.
We just had our first “break” in the weather with several days of abundant sunshine and warm temperatures; midges responded by hatching in mass. Trout have been holding in deep water for the last couple of months feeding where food (scuds and worms) is when midges are not hatching. On March 18, I observed the first swallows return to the canyon. These birds always arrive the first day of our major midge hatch of the spring … how do they know? This was the latest that these birds have arrived since I started paying attention to them 35 years ago. The earliest that I have seen them previously is Feb 23… the prior latest date for their arrival was March 14.
The midges will now begin to draw the fish out of the deeper water into the shallow riffles; trout will begin to feed on the swarms of emerging midge pupae. This will not be a sudden change, but a slow one as the trout begin this transition. As the midge hatches increase in volume and intensity, more and more trout will begin this move. In the meantime, be prepared to drift the deeper water. Most of our productive fishing has been from the boat, drifting with long leaders and a heavy split shot. If you are not getting down to the bottom, you are not catching fish. Be sure to plan on doing some weighted nymph fishing with heavy shot, a long leader and strike indicator.
Longer rods work better for casting these rigs, so be thinking longer than 9-foot. An 11-foot switch rod works great for these rigs. For fish that are in deeper water, try swinging streamers … a bead-head olive wooly bugger works well. Our most productive flies have been scuds, while you can expect this to begin transitioning to midges in the next few weeks.
The fish have been spawning in deeper runs this spring with no shallow water spawning anywhere on the river. This is very good for survival of the trout eggs and fry as they are not left high and dry by fluctuating water flows. While it has peaked for the year, expect to see some sporadic spawning into June.
I wish I could predict what the fishing is going to be like in the coming months. I can’t! But I can take an educated guess based on 35 years experience and the current conditions.
Educated Guess: I expect the midge fishing to get better in the coming weeks. I think that the best fishing is still going to be in deeper water through April. I expect the midge hatches to explode in May and the wade fishing to improve through May and June. July and August will be great fishing as always as the higher water flows move the large food items (scuds and worms), pitch in the cicadas in early July and it is usually fishing nirvana here at the Ferry
Flows on the weekends, as always, are lower than the weekday with the water rising much more slowly.
The fish are looking healthy and their condition is good. In addition, the overall average size of the trout is larger than we have seen in a couple of years. Trout numbers have also increased compared to the past two years and we are seeing all sizes of fish from little guys to some slabs … looking forward to another great year at the Ferry.
Arizona Game and Fish Department recently stocked 500 rainbows in the lower stretch of Lees Ferry. This is the first time trout have been stocked here since 1996. This is a really big deal since the political environment has prevented any stocking of fish in the river for more than 20 years. By conducting this stocking, the precedent has been set that sport fish are indeed a priority and if the need should arise, there can be a rapid response to introduce fish into the river. Thousands of hours of diligent work by countless individuals working behind the scenes have brought this change in management to fruition … we will be forever grateful for your efforts. This is an experimental stocking …the fish are triploids, which means they are sterile. Triploids generally grow larger and faster than wild trout since they do not spawn; it will be very interesting to see how they do.
There was enough sediment that flowed from the Paria River last summer to trigger an HFE (artificial flood) in November. This event has come and gone and the fish have begun to settle into normal behavior. You are probably aware that we think that these fall floods make little sense. This is not a normal time of year for a flood to occur! These fall floods scour the vegetation and aquatic food base at a time when the river is entering winter; the sun lays over to the south with very little sunlight entering the canyon, so any photosynthesis is delayed until the spring. If these HFEs are to continue, it would make much more sense to occur in the spring, a natural timing for floods and could potentially provide some benefits to the river resources.
Current snowpack conditions are highly favorable and exceed 138% of normal. This is a banner snowpack to make up for the dismal runoff last season. The El Nino generally brings large snow packs to the Rockies and the Lake Powell drainage. Currently, Lake Powell is 120-feet below full pool which is almost 50-feet below where it was a year ago on this date.
Quagga mussels have become very well established in Lake Powell and we are now seeing them in the river below the dam. 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.
For details on Lake Powell conditions and snow-pack, go here:
For a real time graphic view of water releases and ramp rates go here:
Cliff Dwellers Lodge has been proudly serving guests for more than 60 years!
Our lodge has rooms with cable TV (20 channels), in-room coffee and refrigerators, and the basic amenities. Choices of rooms are ONE king-size bed, TWO doubles and TWO queen-size beds and one 2-bedroom unit. Also, our group unit we call the HOUSE, sleeps six with two baths, dining area, kitchen, patio with a view, and cable TV. Rates vary with season.
As for dining, we have some great blackboard specials planned along with our regular menu. Patio dining is available.
As for temperatures at the Ferry – mornings are cool and the days are warm. It’s jacket weather in the morning. As the sun gets higher, you’ll shed clothing, so layer up. Boat traffic is moderate with more on weekends.
Walk-in rating: 5
The walk in is fishing good some days and not so good others. As the water drops in April and the midge hatches continue to increase in intensity, expect this area to continue to get better each day. The deeper water straight across from the big rock has been producing OK. With the low water, you don’t have to get out very far and the drift is nice and slow. The fish are stacked in those deep pockets from the big rock down to the straight away. The straight away has also been fishing well, as long as you can roll cast (due to the trees right on the bank). Traditional nymphing in these two spots has been very affective. San Juan worms and midges have been the go-to flies. When the water rises, olive and black wooly buggers have been working well from the riffle down to the confluence of the Paria River. Keep in mind that the water flows are lower on the weekends and the fishing will likely be better in the lower flows.
Spin Fishing rating: 5 to 6
Spin fishing up-river is an effective way to fish the Ferry. The best recent fishing has been to drift glo bugs from a boat, making sure they are bouncing along the bottom. Casting Panther Martins, Castmasters, Z-Rays (if you can find them), and Mepps spinners toward the bank is a great method in the slower, deeper water. In the shallower water (3- to 15-feet) try drifting plastic worms. Rig with ¼- ounce of lead, swivel, a couple feet of tippet and bounce the lead so your lure stays just off the bottom.
Spin fishing the walk-in is best in the deeper water due to all the rocks. From the top of the boulder field all the way up to half a mile past the boat landing is good. Gold ¼ ounce Castmasters and ¼ ounce Panther Martins are the best. Using the quarter ounce lures you can really cast them out for some distance and cover a lot of water. Small, sinking Rapalas in rainbow trout and original have also been working well. Cast out, let them sink for a few seconds then retrieve them at a steady speed (and maybe even give it a little twitch here and there) to trigger a strike. When spin fishing, you need light line (4 pound test); you can cast further and the fish cannot see it. Remember to set your drag light!
Last Updated: March 8, 2019
The unregulated inflow in February was 256 thousand acre-feet (kaf) (65 percent of average). February precipitation in the Upper Colorado Basin was 150 percent of average. The release volume from Glen Canyon Dam in February was 730 kaf. The end of February elevation and storage of Lake Powell were 3,571.89 feet (128.1 feet from full pool) 9.21 maf (38 percent of full capacity).
To view the most current reservoir elevation projections, click on: Lake Powell Elevation Projections.
To view the 2019 progession of snowpack above Lake Powell, click on Lake Powell Snow Chart.
To view the current inflow forecast relative to past inflows, click on Lake Powell Inflow Forecast.
The operating tier for water year 2019 was established in August 2018 as the Upper Elevation Balancing Tier. As described in the Interim Guidelines, under balancing, the contents of Lake Powell and Lake Mead are to be balanced by the end of the water year, but not more than 9.0 maf and not less than 8.23 maf is to be released from Lake Powell. Under this Tier the initial annual water year release volume is 8.23 maf but there is potential for an April 2019 adjustment to equalization or balancing releases. Based on the current forecast, an April adjustment to balancing releases is projected and Lake Powell is currently projected to release 9.0 maf in water year 2019. This projection will be updated each month throughout the water year.
In March, the release volume will be approximately 790 kaf, with fluctuations anticipated between 8,500 cfs in the nighttime to about 15,700 cfs and consistent with the Glen Canyon Dam, Record of Decision on LTEMP (dated December, 2016). The anticipated release volume for April is 720 kaf.
In addition to daily scheduled fluctuations for power generation, the instantaneous releases from Glen Canyon Dam may also fluctuate to provide 40 megawatts (mw) of system regulation. These instantaneous release adjustments stabilize the electrical generation and transmission system and translate to a range of about 1,200 cfs above or below the hourly scheduled release rate. Under system normal conditions, fluctuations for regulation are typically short lived and generally balance out over the hour with minimal or no noticeable impacts on downstream river flow conditions.
Releases from Glen Canyon Dam can also fluctuate beyond scheduled releases when called upon to respond to unscheduled power outages or power system emergencies. Depending on the severity of the system emergency, the response from Glen Canyon Dam can be significant, within the full range of the operating capacity of the power plant for as long as is necessary to maintain balance in the transmission system. Glen Canyon Dam currently maintains 28 mw (approximately 800 cfs) of generation capacity in reserve in order to respond to a system emergency even when generation rates are already high. System emergencies occur fairly infrequently and typically require small responses from Glen Canyon Dam. However, these responses can have a noticeable impact on the river downstream of Glen Canyon Dam.
Inflow Forecasts and Model Projections
The forecast for water year 2019 unregulated inflow to Lake Powell, issued on March 1, 2019, by the Colorado Basin River Forecast Center, projects that the most probable (median) unregulated inflow volume next year will be 9.93 maf (92 percent of average). There is significant uncertainty regarding next season’s snow pack development and resulting runoff into Lake Powell. Reclamation updates its minimum and maximum projections four times a year: January, April, August and October. The January forecast ranges from a minimum probable of 4.81 maf (44 percent of average) to a maximum probable of 10.38 maf (96 percent of average). There is a 10 percent chance that inflows could be higher than the current maximum probable forecast and a 10 percent chance that inflows could be lower than the minimum probable forecast.
Based on the current forecast, the March 24-Month Study projects Lake Powell elevation will end water year 2019 near 3,592.84 feet with approximately 11.0 maf in storage (47 percent of capacity). Note that projections of elevation and storage for water year 2019 have significant uncertainty at this point in the season. Projections of end of water year 2019 elevation and storage using the minimum and maximum probable inflow forecast from January 2019 are 3,543.56 feet (7.992 maf, 33 percent of capacity) and 3,588.09 feet (11.366 maf, 47 percent of capacity), respectively. Under these scenarios, there is a 10 percent chance that inflows will be higher, resulting in higher elevation and storage, and 10 percent chance that inflows will be lower, resulting in lower elevation and storage. The annual release volume from Lake Powell during water year 2019 is projected to be 9.0 maf under the most probable scenario, and 9.0 maf under the maximum probable inflow scenarios and 8.23 maf under the minimum probable inflow scenario.
Upper Colorado River Basin Hydrology
The Upper Colorado River Basin regularly experiences significant year to year hydrologic variability. During the 19-year period 2000 to 2018, however, the unregulated inflow to Lake Powell, which is a good measure of hydrologic conditions in the Colorado River Basin, was above average in only 4 out of the past 19 years. The period 2000-2018 is the lowest 19-year period since the closure of Glen Canyon Dam in 1963, with an average unregulated inflow of 8.54 maf, or 79 percent of the 30-year average (1981-2010). (For comparison, the 1981-2010 total water year average is 10.83 maf.) The unregulated inflow during the 2000-2018 period has ranged from a low of 2.64 maf (24 percent of average) in water year 2002 to a high of 15.97 maf (147 percent of average) in water year 2011. In water year 2018 unregulated inflow volume to Lake Powell was 4.6 maf (43 percent of average), the third driest year on record above 2002 and 1977. Under the current most probable forecast, the total water year 2019 unregulated inflow to Lake Powell is projected to be 9.93 maf (92 percent of average).
At the beginning of water year 2019, total system storage in the Colorado River Basin was 28.01 maf (47 percent of 59.6 maf total system capacity). This is a decrease of 4.91 maf over the total storage at the beginning of water year 2018 when total system storage was 32.92 maf (55 percent of capacity). Since the beginning of water year 2000, total Colorado Basin storage has experienced year to year increases and decreases in response to wet and dry hydrology, ranging from a high of 94 percent of capacity at the beginning of 2000 to the now current level of 47 percent of capacity at the beginning of water year 2019. Based on current inflow forecasts, the current projected end of water year total Colorado Basin reservoir storage for water year 2019 is approximately 27.45 maf (46 percent of total system capacity). The actual end of water year 2019 system storage may vary from this projection, primarily due to uncertainty regarding this season’s runoff and reservoir inflow.