If you do not follow Lees Ferry Anglers on Facebook, you should. We make several posts each week about current conditions at Lees Ferry.
On June 1, the higher summer flows began. As we had hoped, the increased water flows have improved the fishing significantly. The higher flows have stirred up the larger food items (scuds and worms) and we are seeing unusually large midge hatches. For most of the spring, the fish were holding in the deeper water and it was tough to get to them. This, coupled with our crappy spring weather, made our fishing slower than normal. We started to see the fish moving back into the shallow water in the middle of May. Now that the water has risen, the fish are back in the shallower water in mass and are much more eager to eat. The fish are in astoundingly great shape and we are catching all sizes of fish from large to small, The other good news is that we are starting to catch quite a few smaller fish (under 10-inches) which means there are younger generations of trout that are moving out of hiding and into the main channel to feed; these will be the fish that we are catching for the next few years.
The great fishing should continue throughout the summer. The cicadas are going to start singing any day and we’ll be making regular posts on Facebook regarding their hatches.
The best flies of recent have been scuds, worms and midges. Stop by or call the shop to get the most recent hot fly selection. Wade fishing continues to be productive as has been drift fishing from the boat. Weekend flows are lower due to the new “Bug Flows” (see below) and as a result the wade fishing is usually much better those days.
Bug Flows Began on 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 and these flows will continue through August 31, 2018.
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.
The way these flows are going to work is that on Saturday and Sunday the flows will be held steady at 1,000-cfs above the weekday flow. For example, in May the flows would have been 7,000-cfs to 13,750 with fluctuating low weekend flows. The flows now will be 8,000 to 14,250-cfs 9,000-cfs constant on weekends. June 9,000 to 16,250 with 10,000-cfs weekends. July 10,000 to 18,000 with 11,000-cfs weekends. August 10,500 to 18,500 with 11,750-cfs weekends. The flow will end in August.
The river looks great with abundant algae covering most of the bottom. The algae indicate that there is a good nutrient flow from the water above the dam. These nutrients serve as the foundation for macroinvertebrates that support the food web.
The river is a living creature. Just because you caught fish in a certain spot in years past, don’t think that you are going to experience the same success this year. 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 LFA guides let everyone at the shop know the top producing flies and how to use them. We are anxious to share this knowledge with you – even where to fish!
There is 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!
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.
The walk-in area continues to fish better than it has in years. Lees Ferry Anglers is now offering guided half day walk and wade trips in this area. If you have ever wanted to learn how to effectively fish this area, this is a very affordable option to learn from a pro.
Spin Fishing Summary
Spin fishing has improved greatly. For most of the spring there was so much algae that it was practically impossible to get a drift without the lure and line being clogged with algae. The higher flows that began June 1 have helped to clear this algae, so conditions have improved greatly.
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)
MEET THE GUIDES:
The guides and staff of Lees Ferry Anglers have thousands of days on this water, and well over 100 years combined fish-guiding experience. Captain’s Terry Gunn, Jeff English, Skip Dixon, Natalie Jensen,Kevin Campbell, Dale Gauthier, Jimmy Daniels and Scott Keller make up our guiding staff. Lees Ferry Anglers is proud of our fly-fishing guide team!
Walk-in rating: 4 to 6
What a difference a year can make…for the first time in several years we are seeing people walk into our fly shop who have just fished the walk-in area bearing big smiles and anxious to share a fish story or two. We are really excited that this area is once again providing a quality fishing experience for the visiting angler. I’m not saying that it is great fishing every day or all day but if you hit it right and know what to do and have the right flies, you can have a very quality fishing experience here. Be sure to check in with our fly shop to see what the fish are eating and get suggestions for how, when, and where to fish this area. We think that the walk-in is going to really pop this spring when lower water arrives. One thing to keep in mind is that the cliffs are low in this stretch of river which allows the river to get abundant sun so this area often gets the early and abundant midge hatches.
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.
December 7, 2017
GLEN CANYON DAM / LAKE POWELL CURRENT STATUS
High-Flow Experiments (HFE) below Glen Canyon Dam are driven by weather, sediment inputs, and other resource conditions, in accordance with the Glen Canyon Dam Long-Term Experimental and Management Plan Record of Decision (LTEMP).
When sediment conditions during the summer and fall meet specific thresholds as described in the LTEMP HFE Protocol, a fall HFE can occur. Fall HFEs can be scheduled to occur anytime during the months of October and November. In order to facilitate advance planning for a potential HFE this fall, the HFE technical team determined that October 9th was the latest date for which sediment inputs could be considered for a potential HFE this fall. Grand Canyon Monitoring and Research Center (GCMRC) scientists and Reclamation modelers considered cumulative sediment inputs from July 1 through midnight October 9th. Based on these data it has been determined that there is not sufficient sediment to support implementing a high flow experiment (HFE) at Glen Canyon Dam during the fall 2017 planning window; therefore an HFE will not be tested this fall.
The unregulated inflow volume to Lake Powell in November was 388 thousand acre-feet (kaf) (82% of average). The release volume from Glen Canyon Dam in November was 630 kaf. The end of November elevation and storage of Lake Powell were 3,625.29 feet (75 feet from full pool) and 14.33 maf (59% of full capacity), respectively. The reservoir elevation is now declining and is expected to continue to decline until spring 2018.
Most current reservoir elevation, content, inflow and release, click: Lake Powell Data.
Most current reservoir elevation projections, click: Lake Powell Elevation Projections.
2017 progression of snowpack above Lake Powell, click: Lake Powell Snow Chart.
Current inflow forecast relative to past inflows, click: Lake Powell Inflow Forecast.
The operating tier for water year 2018 was established in August 2017 as the Upper Elevation Balancing Tier, with an initial water year release volume of 8.23 maf and the potential for an April 2018 adjustment to equalization or balancing releases. Based on the current forecast, an April adjustment to balancing is projected to occur and Lake Powell is currently projected to release 9.0 maf in water year 2018. This projection will be updated each month throughout the water year. Reclamation will schedule operations at Glen Canyon Dam to achieve as practicably as possible the appropriate total annual release volume by September 30, 2018.
In December 2018, the release volume will be approximately 740 kaf, with fluctuations anticipated between about 7,300 cfs in the nighttime to about 14,000 cfs in the daytime and consistent with the revised Glen Canyon Operating Criteria (27-Sep-2017) (https://www.usbr.gov/uc/water/crsp/studies/GCOC.pdf). The anticipated release volume for January is 860 kaf with daily fluctuations between approximately 9,100 cfs and 16,850 cfs. The expected release for February is 730 kaf with daily fluctuations between approximately 10,500 cfs and 13,900 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 27 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 2018 unregulated inflow to Lake Powell, issued on December 1, 2017, by the Colorado Basin River Forecast Center, projects that the most probable (median) unregulated inflow volume next year will be 7.64 maf (71% 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 7.0 maf (65%) to a maximum probable of 17.5 maf (162%). There is a 10% chance that inflows could be higher than the current maximum probable forecast and a 10% chance that inflows could be lower than the minimum probable forecast.
Based on the current forecast, the December 24-Month Study projects Lake Powell elevation will end water year 2018 near 3,614 feet with approximately 13.2 maf in storage (54% capacity). Note that projections of elevation and storage for water year 2018 have significant uncertainty at this point in the season. Projections of elevation and storage using the minimum and maximum probable inflow forecast are 3,612 feet (12.9 maf, 53% capacity) and 3,654 feet (17.7 maf, 73% 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 2018 is projected to be 9.0 maf under the minimum and most probable inflow scenarios and 13.56 maf under the maximum probable inflow scenario. There is a chance that inflows could be higher or lower, potentially resulting in releases greater than 13.56 maf or as low as 8.23 maf in water year 2018.
UPPER COLORADO RIVER BASIN HYDROLOGY
The Upper Colorado River Basin regularly experiences significant year to year hydrologic variability. During the 18-year period 2000 to 2017, 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 18 years. The period 2000-2017 is the lowest 18-year period since the closure of Glen Canyon Dam in 1963, with an average unregulated inflow of 8.76 maf, or 81% 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 2000-2017 period has ranged from a low of 2.64 maf (24% of average) in water year 2002 to a high of 15.97 maf (147% of average) in water year 2011. In water year 2017 unregulated inflow volume to Lake Powell was 11.9 maf (110% of average), the fourth year to be above average. Under the current most probable forecast, the total water year 2018 unregulated inflow to Lake Powell is projected to be 7.64 maf (71% of average).
At the beginning of water year 2018, total system storage in the Colorado River Basin was 32.9 maf (55% of 59.6 maf total system capacity). This is an increase of 2.7 maf over the total storage at the beginning of water year 2017 when total system storage was 30.2 maf (51%). 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% of capacity at the beginning of 2000 to a low of 50% of capacity at the beginning of water year 2005. One wet year can significantly increase total system reservoir storage, just as persistent dry years can draw down the system storage. Based on current inflow forecasts, the current projected end of water year total Colorado Basin reservoir storage for water year 2018 is approximately 30.7 maf (52% of total system capacity). The actual end of water year 2018 system storage may vary from this projection, primarily due to uncertainty regarding this season’s runoff and reservoir inflow. Based on the October minimum and maximum probable inflow forecasts and modeling, the range of end of water year 2018 total system capacity is approximately 30.06 maf (50%) to 35.47 maf (59%), respectively.