Salomone: Lees Ferry here we come

The Arizona angling destination has great angling and magnificent views

Kelly Bobye with a rainbow trout at Lees Ferry.
Michael Salomone/Courtesy photo

The anticipation has been building for months. Finally the date has arrived. Planning a fly-fishing trip outside of your regular fishing destinations challenges you to learn about a new watershed, different fish and specific locations.

Lees Ferry, Arizona here we come.

The scenery at Lees Ferry is truly world class. If you have never experienced the desert, it holds a beauty not found anywhere else. Combine breathtaking views with spectacular fly-fishing all squeezed in between the towering desert varnish-covered walls, and it’s easy to let yourself go for a while.

Terry and Wendy Gunn pioneered the fly-fishing experience found at Lees Ferry. Owners of Cliff Dwellers Lodge and Lees Ferry Anglers, the Gunns are known around the world for the top-shelf adventures anglers have encountered here for years. And it leaves you wanting to come back.

A rainbow trout at Lees Ferry.
Michael Salomone/Courtesy photo

Gear for the trip includes 5wt and 6wt rods with floating lines for the 5wt and sinking lines for fishing streamers on the 6wt. Most freshwater reels can handle the workload found in the Lees Ferry rainbows. However, there are some larger class brown trout lurking in the depths where electroshocking efforts couldn’t reach.

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There has been quite a bit of debate around Lees Ferry and the culling of brown trout from the river. Electroshocking efforts were employed to remove the fish feared to feed on endangered species that shared the water. Anglers are now the tool for managing brown trout numbers.

The nymph fishing requires leaders that taper down to 6X just to be able to thread the end through the eye of the zebra midges. The water is very clear making fluorocarbon an excellent choice for subsurface fly-fishing. Most of the midge nymphs will be size 18 or smaller. And the flies that imitate them come in a variety of colors from inconspicuous black and dark olive to gaudy silver and flashy wire.

Scuds in olive, orange and rust color work well when the call for electricity increases. Glen Canyon Dam will open gates to generate power daily. The resulting rise in the water washes dead scuds abandoned on gravel bars when the water level was lowered the day before after the need for power diminished. It’s a predictable cycle with the release rates and times well published for anglers to use.

Spring is the spawning season for trout water. Keep your eyes open for spawning activity in deeper water. The daily rise and fall of the water level has the rainbow trout spawning in water deeper than the shallow riffles where they are normally found. Anglers who target the downstream water from spawning fish with egg flies will pick up other pre or post-spawn fish and eager brown trout.

The avocado pie at Cliff Dwellers.
Michael Salomone/Courtesy photo

April is an unpredictable weather month. Anything from gale gusting winds to scorching sun-drenched days and frigid nights can be felt. Packing your gear accordingly can be difficult when saving weight. Fleece, down and wind blocking layers are key for comfort. Sunscreen, sunglasses and SPF shirts cover the heat.

Waders are a necessity at all times. The water temperature hovers around 46 degrees year-round. There will be no wet wading in Lees Ferry in April. Wading boots should be comfortable to withstand a full day on your feet.

We will be camping for two nights, which requires us to pack intelligently. Tents, pads and sleeping bags look heavy but really just take up space. Angling gear and minimal cookware round out some necessities. The plan is to cook fish riverside under the stars with a bright moon illuminating the canyon walls in the magical dance man has always admired. Petroglyph wall art adorns the canyon in multiple locations, evidence of the attraction this area has always possessed.

There are designated camping areas along the river with composting toilets. It’s a first come first served kind of camping. Fire rings are in the campgrounds but there is no firewood gathering in Glen Canyon. Wood has to be packed in with your camping and fishing gear.

Lees Ferry offers good food, great angling and magnificent views.
Michael Salomone/Courtesy photo

Three days on the river floating and fishing. Two nights camping riverside. Between the views, the food and the angling, it’s more than just a fishing trip.

It’s Lees Ferry.

The picturesque views at Lees Ferry can grant perspective to any angler.
Michael Salomone/Courtesy photo

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