If you do not follow Lees Ferry Anglers on Facebook, you should. We make several posts each week about current conditions at Lees Ferry.
Winter has arrived in northern Arizona and so has cooler weather. Water flows have increased as they do every winter.
The new flows arrived December 1 and are scheduled to continue through January. These flows are perfect for drifting and the water has been rising throughout the day, making for great fishing conditions. Flows on the weekends, as always, are lower than the weekday with the water rising much more slowly. There are numerous locations that accessible to wading, however, drifting or fishing from the boat is generally more effective in the higher water. For fish that are in deeper water, try swinging streamers or traditional nymphing with an indicator. Scuds, glow bugs, San Juan worms, and midges are all working well with the heavier nymph rigs. Remember, with the slower water these fish get another second or two to check out your fly so smaller flies and smaller tippet sizes are not a bad idea. The high water dislodges larger food items like scuds and worms so be sure to plan on doing some heavy 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-ft and the 11-ft switch rods work great for these rigs.
The fish are looking very healthy and their condition is outstanding. 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 that 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, who have been working behind the scenes has brought this change in management to fruition…you know who you are and we will be forever grateful for your efforts. This is an experimental stocking…the fish that were stocked are triploids, which means that they are sterile. Triploids generally grow larger and faster than regular wild trout due to the fact that they do not spawn; it will be very interesting to see how they do.
Beginning this spring, Lees Ferry Anglers is embarking on a new venture where we will be “back-hauling” personal flotation boats, passengers and gear up-river from Lees Ferry to wherever you want to go upriver, even all the way to just below the dam. We have a new boat that is dedicated to this service and is 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 only transportation so we will be able to 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!
Spin fishing up-river is always an effective way to fish the Ferry. Drifting from a boat, 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 glow bugs and plastic worms. Rig with ounce of lead, a swivel, a couple feet of tippet and bounce the lead so your lure stays just off the bottom.
As for the temperatures at the Ferry; the mornings are cold and the days are cool. It’s jacket weather in the morning and as the sun gets up you’ll shed clothing so layer up. Boat traffic is moderate with more on the weekends. Fishing is great so come see us!
There was enough sediment that flowed from the Paria River this 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 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 HFE’s are to continue, it would make much more sense that they occur in the spring, a natural timing for floods to occur and could potentially provide some benefits to the river resources.
Current snowpack conditions are favorable and currently exceed 100% of normal. We are hoping for a banner snowpack to make up for the dismal runoff from last season. Currently there is a very good chance that we will enter into an El Nino this winter which generally brings large snowpacks to the Rockies and the Lake Powell drainage. Currently Lake Powell is 114-feet below full pool which is almost 40-feet below where it was a year ago on this date.
Bug Flows began May 1. This is great news for the river!
The Department of the Interior implemented experimental Macroinvertebrate Production Flows (Bug Flows) at Glen Canyon Dam May 1. These flows continued through August 31. Early indications are that the bug flows were a success with the largest hatches of midges ever recorded at Lees Ferry. Bug Flows consist of steady weekend releases from Glen Canyon Dam that provide favorable conditions for insects to lay eggs along the Colorado River margins and slightly higher fluctuating releases during the weekdays designed to prevent the eggs from drying out. This experiment is expected to have positive benefits to the food base of the aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems below Glen Canyon Dam. The Bug Flow experiment is expected to provide resource benefits in the near term and will also provide scientific information to be used in future decision making. The Bug Flow experiment will satisfy the Department’s goal to ensure effective and coordinated implementation of important research that the Department is undertaking through the Glen Canyon Dam Adaptive Management Program.
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. We are excited about the winter season and have some great black-board-specials planned. Patio dining is available. (Enclosed in the winter months)
Walk-in rating: 6
The walk in is fishing good, as it has been all year. With the higher water, there is not as much wading access to much of boulder field all the way down to the Paria. The deeper water straight across from the big rock has been producing the best. 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
This is the time of year that the fish are really starting to key in on glo-bugs (egg patterns), which is due to the fish beginning to spawn. The key success is getting the fly to the bottom and drifting along the bottom of the river in a long dead-drift. The best way to do this is from a boat. Spin fishing in the higher water months of December and January is always good.
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: November 15, 2018)
The Department of the Interior completed a High Flow Experiment from Glen Canyon Dam in November 2018. High Flow Experiments (HFE) below Glen Canyon Dam are driven by weather, sediment inputs, and other resource conditions, in accordance with the Long-Term Experimental and Management Plan (LTEMP). The HFE began on November 5, 2018, for a duration of 60 hours with flows surrounding the HFE fluctuating between 6,500 and 9,000 cfs during the evening and daylight hours for hydropower.
The April to July 2018 unregulated inflow to Lake Powell was 2.6 maf (36 percent of average). The unregulated inflow in October was 351 thousand acre-feet (kaf) (69 percent of average). October precipitation in the Upper Colorado Basin was 135 percent of average, but the extremely dry soil conditions decreased the amount of observed runoff. The release volume from Glen Canyon Dam in October was 625 kaf. The end of October elevation and storage of Lake Powell were 3,590.46 feet (110 feet from full pool) 10.86 maf (45 percent of full capacity).
The HFE will not impact the total annual amount of water released from Lake Powell to Lake Mead in water year 2019. Releases, both before and after the November experiment and throughout the remainder of the water year, will be adjusted to compensate for the higher volume released during this high flow experiment.
To view the most current reservoir elevation projections, click on: Lake Powell Elevation Projections.
To view the 2018 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 8.85 maf in water year 2019. This projection will be updated each month throughout the water year.
In November, the release volume will be approximately 657 kaf, with fluctuations anticipated between 6,500 cfs in the nighttime to about 9,000 cfs in the daytime and consistent with the Glen Canyon Dam, Record of Decision on LTEMP (dated December, 2016). The anticipated release volume for December is 740 kaf with daily fluctuations between approximately 8,415 cfs and 15,165 cfs.
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 November 1, 2018, by the Colorado Basin River Forecast Center, projects that the most probable (median) unregulated inflow volume next year will be 7.5 maf (69 percent of average). There is significant uncertainty regarding next season’s snow pack development and resulting runoff into Lake Powell. The forecast ranges from a minimum probable of 4.6 maf (42 percent of average) to a maximum probable of 15.4 maf (142 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 November 24-Month Study projects Lake Powell elevation will end water year 2019 near 3,583 feet with approximately 10.16 maf in storage (39 percent of capacity). Note that projections of elevation and storage for water year 2019 have significant uncertainty at this point in the season. Based on the current forecast, the November 24-Month Study projects Lake Powell elevation will end water year 2019 near 3,573.43 feet with approximately 9.39 maf in storage (39 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 October 2018 are 3,556 feet (8.027 maf, 33 percent of capacity) and 3,636 feet (15.54 maf, 64 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 8.922 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 7.6 maf (70 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 25.47 maf (42 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.