FLY FISHING THE MIDDLE PROVO RIVER, JUST OUTSIDE PARK CITY, UTAH, OFFERS APPROACHABLE AND SCENIC WINTER FISHING
Regardless of your skill level, the Middle Provo River, in the Heber Valley just outside of Park City, Utah, might offer the most approachable and scenic winter fly fishing in America. Whether you come to Provo as a novice or an expert, you will find something here to challenge, inspire, and reward your visit.
To start, “The Middle,” as it is locally known, has a truly unique and successful restoration story. The dynamics that challenge riparian conservation came together earnestly in the Heber Valley between 1999 and 2008. The State of Utah, The Feds, the local ranchers, and the NGOs all worked together to comprehensively restore the Middle Provo. They reduced the ditch banks, fenced the herds, silenced the motors, added miles of a new channel, and restored a postcard-worthy high valley. Today it is 13 miles of the most beautiful and healthy blue ribbon tailwaters, perhaps anywhere outside of a Wilderness Area. And there is no time of year more suited to experiencing this accomplishment than deep snowy winter.
The Provo is well known for challenging rocky straights interrupted by perfect pools and lots of small “buckets.” Thanks to the restoration, it enjoys healthy and robust all-season hatches. The Fishing pressure is also well known and for a good reason. The pressure eases off notably in the winter, but be open to walking the next bend. (Cross-country skiing is the only other use allowed along Provo). The days are shorter and slower, but the beauty and rewards of staying focused are unequaled.
All the poetry of fly fishing will welcome you to the Heber Valley in Winter. One of the best-kept secrets is how easily visitors can sneak away from “shredding powder” at Park City’s mega ski areas and “slay the browns” on the Provo.
The minute you get your waders in the water, you will be standing amongst 3000 fish per mile. The stream holds mostly well-educated healthy mid-sized Browns. You might have a surprise Rainbow or a Bonneville Cutthroat from time to time, and there is always a chance larger fish could come up from Deer Creek reservoir. The fish in the Provo are very catchable for every skill level if you don’t take shortcuts, but you will earn every fish you catch.
Imagine casting to snow-banked waters a mile above sea level. The Middle Provo is a perfect river to expand your mobility and climate comfort zones, but start your winter fishing trip focused on staying slow, comfortable, and safe.
The Provo is an easily accessible river. The trails are obvious, and the few fences are all pass-through gated. The parking areas have excellent maps and information kiosks. You also won’t be alone. The scene on the Provo tends to be as friendly as it gets, so local information is typically easy to obtain.
Daytime temperatures tend to be mild by Midwestern standards, with highs between 35 and 40 (F) commonplace. Lows can dip towards single digits. Don’t let the postcard beauty distract you, though. Temps can drop quickly in the early afternoons, and mornings can be bitter. Keep your belt tight, and be aware of the consequences of even a mild dip.
Mountain tailwaters have other benefits for winter anglers. The flows from Jordanelle reservoir are predictably moderate to low. More importantly, since flows come from the bottom of the lake, the water temperatures are very consistent. Remember, fish are much less likely to feed or rise when the water gets below 40 degrees. A thermometer comes in handy when winter fly fishing. The Provo usually has enough daytime warming to support good fishing all winter.
In the Winter, Provo midges maketh the man. Come prepared to up your rig discipline, improve your entomology awareness, and shrug off the Hollywood casting. Snowbank sessions on The Middle will present enjoyable opportunities for new and intermediate anglers to advance their confidence and skills. Local nymphing rigs are iconic and are referred to as the “Provo River Bounce Rig!” You’ve seen this rig before if you have been at the nymphing game long. It was supposedly invented on the Provo but is similar to earlier rigs like the “Right Angle Nymph Rig.”
Wild Water Deluxe Fly Fishing Kit, 9ft 5/6 weight Rod and Reel Combo is perfect for nymphing the Provo. This kit features a 5/6 weight, 9′, 4 Piece, medium-fast action fly rod and 85 mm diameter spool, die-cast aluminum, adjustable disc drag reel, preinstalled with chartreuse, WF-5F, weight forward 5, floating fly line, 20# orange backing, and 9′ 5x tapered monofilament leader.
Here’s how to build a “Provo River Bounce Rig”:
Start with a heavy section of Maxima Chameleon or any other stiff monofilament to build the leader’s butt section. Attach the strike indicator and then a tippet ring to attach a long piece of fluorocarbon tippet material. The mid-section of the leader should be about 12-24 inches longer than the depth of water you’re fishing. Use whatever knot you like best to tie on another section of tippet material, and leave a long tag to tie on your top fly. Then tie another 12-18 inches of tippet to another knot with a long tag. Finally, the bottom section of tippet should only extend about 8 inches below the last tag. Then tie a square knot at the very end of the tippet, so the split shot doesn’t come off the tag end easily. Use several small split shots on the bottom section of the tippet above the square knot, which creates the bounce weights. Now tie flies on the two tags from the tippet knots above, and you’re ready to fish. Wild Water Fly Fishing has excellent tippet material for building a “Provo River Bounce Rig.”
In slow winter waters, fish can be very selective. Dry or submerged, fly choice matters every time. Especially if you are new to the Provo or nymphing, you need to be prepared to change your flies to match tiny differences in hatches or the feeding action. If the nymphing gets frustrating, don’t stress. Winter on the Middle is about the season, not the rig. Streamers, terrestrials, or even simple surface drys can always have a place.
The Middle is great for trying new techniques or confidently enjoying simpler casting styles. The safe access, experience levels of the fish, need for focussed fly selection, and the abundance of less pressured overgrown shoreline sections make the Provo one of the most beautiful places anywhere to shed the gear and flow into tenkara, especially in winter and spring conditions. If you are visiting for a snowsport vacation, remember: No matter what your travel situation is, there is always room to pack for tenkara.
The Middle Provo runs 13 miles between Jordanelle Dam upstream and the Deer Creek reservoir downstream, easily accessible from Park City and less than an hour from the Salt Lake City airport. The growing rural town of Heber is minutes away from the Middle Provo. You can find excellent guides, fly shops, and necessities in Heber and Park City.
For more detailed information about topping off your winter packing list for safe winter fly fishing on the Middle Provo or anywhere else, please visit www.wildwaterflyfishing.com
About Wild Water Fly Fishing
Wild Water Fly Fishing represents a dedication to bringing friends and family together by providing everything you’ll need to gear up for a trip to the lake. If you’re a parent or grandparent wanting to nurture a kid’s interest in fly fishing, Wild Water provides the best tools to make your fly fishing trip an unforgettable experience. Wild Water Fly Fishing is the only company to focus exclusively on affordable, easy-to-use fly fishing starter packages for all species of fish.