San Carlos crappie

The crappie flotilla was out in force this past weekend.  Daryl went up and spent a couple days playing with the slabs.  He did fair Saturday but figured them out and banged them good Sunday. 

He said he must have landed 40-50 crappie with a solid 3 lbr being his biggest.  I made it up late Sunday and missed the bite out in the main lake so we headed up into the San Carlos river arm and he proceeded to land about 10 more while I struggled to catch 1.  My warmwater fishing these past few trips is showing me no love.  Trout anyone???

He used several flies from longtail simi’s and DHS’s to a new pattern Andy Burk taught us called the Tadpole.  This one was tied in chartreuse and the crappie loved it for awhile

It is a pattern used on Pyramid but I think we may have to start tying them for around here as well.  Always something new.  The bass and crappie fishing should be phenomenal this season.  Now if I can just get out of this cold streak!!!

Lee’s Ferry Fishing Synopsis and Forecast by Terry Gunn 2/18/09

Fishing Synopsis and Forecast by Terry Gunn 2/18/09

Come by and see us at the ISE Outdoor Show, Cardinal Stadium, Feb 27-Mar 1.

Recent Fishing Conditions: Spring has arrived at Lees Ferry, I have always considered Feb. 15 to be our first day of spring, not only is the weather warming but the sun is moving higher in the sky and once again flooding the canyon corridor with sunlight. As usual, the midges are responding to the arrival of the sun and the hatches are beginning in earnest and the trout have just this week begun to move into the riffles to feed on the emerging midge pupae. The last few days I have been drifting a worm and a midge in the deep tail-out of the riffles and 90% of the trout have been eating the midge.

The spawn is just trickling along; it started with a bang in early December and has been slowly increasing in intensity the last few weeks. I get the feeling that the fish are currently staging for a major push into a full blown spawn within the next couple of weeks. Although it is important to keep in mind that spawn of the past 2 years has been off the charts in intensity and survivability so the fish may take a break this year.

The current water flows are perfect wading and drifting flows for fishing Lees Ferry and these same flows will continue for the next several months. I expect the fishing this spring to be a banner year and likely better than the last several years. The average size of the fish is the largest of this decade; most of the fish that I put in my net are 16 to 17-in with many that are larger. I recently had a father and son get a double hookup and both landed fish in excess of 20-inches at the same time. It has been more than 20 years since I have seen this happen. A few days before, a client landed a substantial 24-in long fish and I’m seeing a bunch of big fish in the river. We are also starting to catch some of the “little guys” that were part of the mass spawn of last year and the year before, these 12-in fish are growing fast and I always remind everyone that it takes small fish to make big fish.

Is this a peak before another down turn in the fishery? No, this is the beginning of a trend that is set to continue for at least a couple of years, and if nature cooperates and gives us moisture in the Rocky Mountains, and Lake Powell continues to rise, this trend of healthy trout populations and good fishing will continue for the next several years.

The turning point and the beginning for the recovery of the Lees Ferry fishery occurred in 2005 when Lake Powell had the first above normal snow-pack and runoff year since 1997. Last year we had almost exactly the same conditions. The above normal winter snow pack and runoff into Lake Powell in 2007-08, stirred up a tremendous amount of nutrient laden sediment that had accumulated at the lake mouths of the Colorado River, San Juan River, and the Green River. Lake Powell elevation increased 43-ft. and the rivers flowing into the lake mixed the sediment and nutrients into the lake water. It usually takes several months before we see this mixing affect the nutrient load in the water that enters the river from Glen Canyon dam. The increased nutrient load in the lake and river will be evident this coming spring by the enormous and dramatic increase in aquatic vegetation and aquatic organisms throughout the river.

For those of you that remember what the fishing was like in 1999 and 2000…you should be as excited as I am about the current conditions and what the increased nutrient load should do for the fishing at Lees Ferry.

Lots of stuff happening at the Ferry and it is all good!

Recent Fishing: With the water flows once again fluctuating and lower flows; we have been fishing from the boat as well as wading the riffles. The best fishing technique has been using a “heavy nymph rig” which is a 9 to 12-ft leader, strike indicator, split shot, and dual fly rig. I have been using 6X fluorocarbon tippet and feel that the lighter tippet results in a much higher success rate than say 5X. Anglers might argue that they break fish off on such light tippet but my argument is that in order to break a fish off, you first have to first get a fish to eat your fly and you are going to get more eaters with lighter tippet than heaver tippet.

When wading the riffles you need long dead drifts. There are 2 types of drifts; perfect dead drifts and all other drifts. Perfect dead drifts catch fish at Lees Ferry; all other drifts don’t catch fish here. You get a dead drift by mending the line, then throwing slack line on the water. If your line is straight from your rod tip to your indicator or you move your indicator during the drift, then your drift is not perfect and will not catch fish. The key to success is to stay over fish, get the flies down to the bottom, and get a long, perfect dead drift.

Word has it that the “walk-in’ is fishing very well. There are times in the spring that this area actually fishes better than upriver. Look for this area to continue fishing well until the summer high water arrives.

The high flow experiment, 4/08, was basically a non event as far as the fishery is concerned. It came and went with few visible changes to the river or the fishery. For more details and to see my complete comments go here:

The experimental steady flows that occurred in September and October 2008 (12,000 constant) were beneficial to the river and are scheduled again for 2009. In years past, the flows in September and October have been the lowest flows of the year and have reset the “green line” to the 5,000-cfs level from the 12,000-cfs level of the summer flows. This has effectively reduced the food supply in the river by a significant amount. Then the higher flows of November and December arrive; but because of the declining sun angle and the shade of the cliffs, photosynthesis and aquatic production in the river declines and the areas of the river that were desiccated by the low flows do not regenerate until the following spring. This did not happen this year because of the steady flows in September and October the green line stayed high. The current fluctuating flows (7,500-cfs to 13,000-cfs) are continuing to keep the green line higher than in years past. There have been prolific midge and black-fly hatches every day and it appears as though the scud population has a higher density than any time since 2004.

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:

New guides at Lees Ferry Anglers: The last couple of years we have had several long time guide staff move on to bigger and hopefully better things. Last year we had 3 new guides join our team, though new to our organization they are not new to guiding. Luke Blaser, Tom Jones, and JD Miller have joined our team. They bring with them a couple of decades of combined guiding experience on various waters around the world, college degrees, and an enthusiasm for guiding that is contagious. I’m proud to introduce these fellows and I’m sure that you will agree that they are a great addition to our team.

The AZ Game and Fish Department has detected whirling disease in a very small percentage of Lees Ferry trout that were collected for a random sampling. A more recent sampling turned up no sign of the disease, which may mean that it was a “one time” exposure, where the disease was not established or that the disease is present but at a very low prevalence.  Anglers should still use caution in cleaning their equipment both before and after they have fished here or in other waters. For more information visit: 


Fished Friday and Saturday with no hookups.  Covered water from Cholla, Windy Hill and the Grapevine area.  Fished hard, they just didn’t want any fly or technique I had.  The lake looks great, bigger than I’v ever seen and the bass were eating spinnerbaits but you had to chuck them right into the brush.  I had to break off at least 30 times…good thing I tie.  I fished with my buddy Mitch half the day and he landed 8.  He finished the day with 19 more after I left…..spinnerbaits.  Saw guys with huge crappie, like the ones we caught last year at San Carlos.  Gonna be great when it gets warmer, the bass will start eating flies…just not this time.

Lees Ferry Feb. 6-8, 2009

What do you get when you combine 16 fly casters, 5 guides, 7 boats and 15 miles of spectacular, trout-infested river?

A great time at Lees Ferry, that’s what.

While the fishing was not off the charts for all, it was not too shabby either. Everyone caught fish and a few sticks put up some big numbers. A variety of techniques were working.  Wade fishing the bars during  periods of rising water was effective. So was sight fishing in side channels. During the afternoons, drifting produced and a few trout were sipping midges in the foam.

Most of the hook-ups were on on the standard Ferry patterns: glo-bugs, worms, and zebra midges.The sippers liked a small indicator dry with a short dropped emerger.

The weather was spectacular on Friday and Saturday. Highs were pushing 60 degrees with light winds. On Sunday a storm was brewing.

As you can see, Lees Ferry has not lost any of its scenic grandeur.  I imagine you noticed that some nice fish are showing as well.

A huge thank you to all those who came along!  Also a shout out to the guides and staff of Lees Ferry Anglers / Cliff Dwellers Lodge.

It was a blast.

See you at The Ferry!

Havasu (Again)

Just got back from Havasu, third time this month.  Never got into the smallies again but at least this time we saw several big ones.  They are starting to move.  We had the best lmb fishing so far with 15 largies and 1 striper boated.  I took the boat up this time and had problems so we didn’t get to cover the water we wanted to.  Ended up catching the bass in the same area we had found on earlier trips.  Daryl put the hurt on me early and had 4 in the boat caught on longtail simis before I got the message and switched out my baitifsh pattern.  All the bass we got were either on longtail simis or Ultra foxy minnows in crawdad colors.  The shad patterns didn’t do it this time, although there were lots of shad around……bass, go figure!

Largest boga’d at 3 lbs and a couple 2 1/2 lbr’s as well.  The fish are in extrememly good shape and the smallies we saw went at least 3 each and fat as footballs.  Can’t wait.  With the weather as nice as it is, there should be some great warmwater fishing thoughout AZ.  It’s going to be tough to choose between Havasu, Rosey and San Carlos.  Decisions, decisons!!!


Daryl and I hit the Bill Willliams area on Havasu this past weekend.  Same story as last time only tougher conditions.  The wind blew us off the lake the first afternoon after we had blanked that morning.  Full moon, cold snap, rough winds….my excuses can go on and on and on but that should cover it.  We took the time to explore and hit Topock, interesting but I like the lake better.  Next am we got up and hit some docks where the previous evening we had found a jillion 4″ shad (I’m not joking) and no fish bothering them.  Same result that am, maybe because of a strong cold wind coming out of the East…maybe because we are dealing with bass.  We hit the river and went quite aways up, no fish.  Ended up back where I was a couple weeks back and Daryl finally hooked up a 3 lb striper and we both landed a few lmb’s.   Still too early….not a smallie to be found and the locals are just as mystified.  Nobody is finding them yet.  They’ll show up overnight and boom….game on.


I just have to make sure I’m there when they show. 

Lake Havasu

Hit the Bill Williams arm of Lake Havasu searching for smallies.  Seems I was a bit early, which is usually the case, but I did find some stripers and largemouth bass.

Water temps ranged from 49-54 degrees, the water was clear and up higher than I have seen there before.  I saw one other fisherman in the area, so it was a great way to end ’08 and bring in ’09.  The smallies must still be out but catching nice stripers and lmb was allright by me.

This area is a huge no wake zone called the Bill Williams Wildlife Refuge.  It even has a ramp especially designated for no motorized watercraft.  It is a kickboaters paradise so big it would take a week to fish it all.  The smallies will eventually come in and I’ll be there waiting.

Canyon Lake

Kevin, Brandon, Daryl and I decided to try and see what’s going on at Apache Lake.  Hadn’t heard any reports and we were curious as to how the smallies were doing and the trout that were planted last season due to the low water conditions at Canyon.  No big bass around to chow on them so we decided to see how big they had gotten.  After a few hours of bouncing around in the wind and no takes at all we bailed.  I think I see now why I am not hearing any reports on Apache.  Don’t know where Kevin and Brandon ended up but Daryl and I hit Boulder Cove on our way past Canyon Lake.  Nobody but us on the water and the weather calmed down to boot.  We found lots of stocker rainbows back up the end of the cove where LeBarge Creek dumps in.  When the lake was down they must have done some dredging because the upper cove is much more open and deeper than I have ever seen it. 

We even caught a few on top water that were coming up eating midges at the very upper end of the cove.  They wised up pretty quick and we ended up going back to simis, getting hits on pretty much every cast. 

The fish weren’t big, mostly 9″-10″s but if you got one that had a real tail it almost went 12…a real monsta.  All in all a nice afternoon.  If you want to just go get a tug, it’s pretty convenient and I don’t think they’re going anywhere….unless there are still some big bass in there.  They were the perfect size for them.  Let’s hope.

White Mountains Report 11/30 and 12/1

Headed up to the Whites Saturday afternoon to fish a couple days with Mike F. and Mike M.  I hit Horseshoe-Cienega lake for an hour on Saturday evening and managed a few stocked rainbows in the 10-12″ range.

 The next morning we headed out to Reservation to try and find some Browns cruising shorelines.  The wind was howling and when we arrived it looked like this…

Not excactly the optimum conditions for spotting fish.  We headed to a back cove where the wind was not so bad and we managed to catch some stockers, but did not see the big browns.  Mike M. did manage to catch a nice rainbow and broke off a big fish on 3X.

We hit Crescent on the way out and it was just a ton o fun.  Mike M. had the hot hand and landed about a dozen brookies in an hour.  Mike F. and I managed 5-6 fish each, a great way to end the first day.  Most of the brook trout were in the 10-13″, a couple that were a little bigger, but all were little fatties that were extremely aggressive.


Monday we headed over to Hon-Dah to secure dates for some outings in 2009 and then over to Hawley.  I got nailed a couple times on my first few casts and Mike F. saw some big fish cruising.  From there it turned into stocker city for me, it seemed like I was getting hits on every cast for a while, just not the kind I was looking for.  Mike F. landed a brown pretty early on.  I ended up rolling over to Earl Park at about 11 and saw some big fish cruising at the dam, just could not get a shot at them.  Rolled back over to Hawley to check on the Mikes and they reported a bunch of stockers caught.  Then of course when I left to go check on the Earl Park fish again, Mike M landed a couple nice browns.  We did not get the monster fish we were looking for, but a great couple days in the mountains…


Whites at Thanksgiving ’08

Made it back up to the Whites for turkey day again this year.  Daryl and I hit Reservation Lake on Tuesday in great anticipation of big browns.  Needless to say they didn’t disappoint us.  We saw a brown that was bigger than the 10 lb’r Daryl landed last year.  It looked like a shark.  There were at least 9 other big browns of 5 lbs or bigger along with her.  Hammer, rock, scissors gave me the first shot so I tied on a egg sucking simi and went to work on her.  The hard part of the situation was not buggering all the others around her with a cast and not let one of the smaller guys get to it first.  I had about 6 shots at her and finally a fish of 6-8 lbs ate the fly.  Unfortunately she was coming right at me and opened her big white mouth and the fly popped off.  That was the end of that.  They all vanished not to be seen agian in 5 days.  We managed to pick one up around five pounds on an egg pattern, nice fish but not what we came up for.

We went back again the next day and never saw the big fish all day.  Caught lots of rainbows but no big browns.  Hit Hawley on Thanksgiving and lasted until about 1 pm. The big browns were in there again but didn’t seem to be in the thick of the spawn as much as last year.  They didn’t hang around very long.   The snow and wind got pretty brutal that day so we headed in early and met up with Bobby Domings.  Bobby was nice enough to let us stay with him and whipped up a great turkey dinner to boot.

We fished for the next few days at Hawley, Reservation, Crescent and Tunnel and caught fish everywhere but the big browns eluded us this trip.  Crescent was the highlight with the spawning brookies and fat chunky rainbows up to 18″s on simis off the dam.

The water temp’s weren’t that bad so I think it will be awhile before the lakes freeze up especially if the winds continue.  Should be enough time left for one more pass at the big boys.  I’d love to see that shark again.