Lower Provo River – On The Fly

Planning a short business trip to Utah, I wondered if I could make enough time for some fly fishing.  I had heard of some great water in Utah, mainly the Provo River, but wasn’t sure if it would be close enough. I was headed south of Salt Lake City to a town called Lindon, which is next to Orem.  Business was going to consume the majority of two full days – Thursday and Friday… do I stay and extra day, fish Saturday morning and take a later flight home Saturday evening?  Hmmm… never having spent any time in Utah, as mentioned I didn’t know what rivers were close (if any), nor what the license requirements were for a non-resident. Nor did I know what the time of year would offer – early November, 60-ish degree temps, would there still be bugs coming off the water, all nymphing, or streamers?  So of course, I did some research.

I was pleasantly surprised to find out that the Lower Provo River was only a couple miles from where I was staying, easy to get to and offered an abundance of public access spots along the highway through Provo Canyon.  O.k., so one hurdle down, there was a fly fishing river close by.  Even better, is that the Lower Provo is a “blue ribbon” stream and called the “home water” in the state.  I was encouraged but not sold yet.  Of course most sites promoting fly fishing in UT are going to pump up their assets, so I checked on a couple of local fishing reports – a great resource by the way, managed by the Utah DNR supporting direct input from locals with dates fished, conditions, what flies/techniques were tried, and any fish caught. Now, I’m getting excited.

Provo Canyon and Lower Provo River Map
Provo Canyon and Lower Provo River Map

Slow your roll I told myself, check on a license, it may be too expensive.  You know how non-resident fees are.  I went to the online Utah DNR fishing license page and was pleasantly surprised to see that they offered a 3-day license for only $24… not bad I thought.

I’m all in I thought.  And then reality struck, and I forgot I had commitments at home that Saturday.  Damn.  But hold on.  It wouldn’t be a wasted exercise, I could use this trip as a scouting effort for my next visit.  So I did, and was super stoked.  What an amazing area.

Thursday afternoon, November 7th, I took a couple of hours and drove out to the river to scout it out.  Taking highway 189, the road winds through the Provo Canyon. It is a divided highway with a myriad of parks and turn offs along the way on both sides.  The scenery alone was worth the effort, but I was on a mission.  Would it be worth hauling all my gear out for maybe a day on the river as an extension of a business trip?  In short, the answer is yes.

I stopped first at Vivian Park.  Vivian Park is, well, a municipal park just as you might expect one to be near a populated area.  Mom’s with their kids, couples on bikes riding along the trails and the Lower Provo running maybe 50 yards off highway 189.  I know what you’re thinking… seriously, how can a river off a common city park offer any really good fly fishing? Well, you might be surprised. Pulling in, and parking I noticed two guys just getting into the river to fly fish.  And me being the amiable visitor I walked over and started up a conversation.  I did ask if they minded my intrusion, and they said “not at all.”  Turns out they were a father and son who had left work a bit early to get in some fishing before the sun set.  It was a beautiful day, bright sunshine, about 56 degrees.

We talked about this section of the river.  Being only a few miles outside of Orem, the father mentioned it got a lot of traffic from fly fishermen, canoers, and tubers during the summer months.  However this time of year, they said, was great because there wasn’t any river traffic, and the number of fishermen eased up considerably.  They were fishing stonefly, midge, and pheasant-tail nymphs, and the son had a couple of fish on, but didn’t land either.  Frustrating yes, he said, but evidence the fish are there and feeding.  After about 30 minutes he switched to a streamer.  The father stuck to nymphing.

The river isn’t very wide, maybe 30 feet across.  The water was cold, clear and running about 1200 gps.  When I asked about the wadability, they mentioned that much of the river was very wadable, with a few deep holes.  Most of the fish caught in the Lower Provo are Rainbows and Browns they mentioned, with an occasional whitefish.  “There are some big fish here,” stated the Dad.  That I have no doubt as I took mental notes of all their local wisdom. 

Lower Provo River
Lower Provo River

After a while, I thanked them for their time, wished them luck, and wandered on.  There was more river I wanted to check out before heading back into town for a business dinner.  I jumped back in my car and drove to a couple of the other pull offs and parks.  Each of the other 3 areas I stopped offered river access and appeared to be similar promise for fly fishing with some water being faster, some slower.  It was peaceful, (even with the highway being close by), and I could’ve swore I heard a voice in the wind whisper to me saying, “you moron, next time bring you gear!”

All in, it was a success.  Did I get to fish? Well, no, but in spirit, I fished through the father and son, whom I’d met.  Did I enjoy some phenomenal time in the outdoors, learning great local info on where to go, and what to use?  You bet.  And I guarantee the next time I’m out on business, I’ll be packin’!

Tie one on!

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