Gorgeous canyon vistas, a beautiful river, and a lot of trout. Lees Ferry is one of the prettiest places to fish. Although I don’t get there as often as I would like, I always look for any opportunity to get back to this blue ribbon rainbow trout fishery.
Lees Ferry is in Glen Canyon National Recreation Area. We typically know it as the starting point for white-water river trips through the Grand Canyon. It is about four hours away from Payson, so outside the range of most fishing plans for many in Rim Country, but well worth the trip.
There is a walk-in fishing area in the stretch of the river a mile or so just below the raft trip departure point down to the Paria Riffle, which is the start of the Grand Canyon National Park boundary. I catch fish in the walk-in section, but for me, it is tougher fishing than heading upriver by boat. I still enjoy fishing the walk-in area because like the rest of Glen Canyon, it is absolutely breathtaking scenery every direction you turn.
The bigger issue from a fishing standpoint at Lees Ferry is that all the water looks good! In reality, like any stream or river, there are places that fish will congregate and are more likely to be caught.
I am quite successful in figuring those places out on most streams and rivers. Big rivers like the Colorado, however, are extremely challenging for anyone who hasn’t fished there before.
If you have your own boat, it might tempt you to launch it and fish the 15 miles of river upstream of Lees Ferry up to the Glen Canyon Dam. Even though the river has no rapids in this upstream section, there are complicated riffles that change with river flow conditions. Sometimes the river gets quite shallow and could damage your prop. There are also numerous grass beds in certain sections that you would want to avoid.
Many folks who come to fish at Lees Ferry use the guide services in the area to fish the river upstream. That is what I would suggest if you want to catch a lot of trout while soaking in the incredible scenery.
How you successfully fish the river varies from site to site, and is greatly influenced by the river flow conditions that day. Sometimes you absolutely will want to be fishing from the boat. Other times wade fishing is the ticket; and when you are wade fishing, the fish are often surprisingly close to shore.
There are certain spots where a big dry fly will work. Often, a two-fly rig with a scud and a midge under an indicator with just the right amount of weight to keep it in front of the fish hugging the bottom is best. In certain sections you might strip a big woolly bugger to catch the most fish.
That is a lot for someone new to the river to have to figure out! When I have fished with guides at Lees Ferry I have always been successful. Your guide will offer the best option based on years of fishing the river and recent success with clients.
We only stop at the most productive beaches or fish the runs from the boat that will get us the most strikes. Guides know what they are doing! I took my oldest grandson up to Lees Ferry for the first time last fall. He is a skilled roll caster, which is quite useful at Lees Ferry fishing scuds, nymphs, and midge patterns.
He had never caught a trout on a dry fly. At lunch just below the Glen Canyon Dam, Owen got a casting lesson from our guide in preparation for catching his first trout on a dry at our next stop several miles downstream. Owen proceeded to catch three in a row on a dry fly and had an absolute blast.
I told Owen that although he is used to listening to my advice when we fish, that both he and I would be doing everything that our guide suggested. That is sometimes tough for experienced fishers to do, but a critical piece of advice for you to be as successful as you can be on the river.
I encourage you to give Lees Ferry a try. If you have never been there, you will be astounded by the beauty of Glen Canyon, and you will have the opportunity to catch a lot of fish!