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FISHERMEN BENEFIT FROM BONUS TIME ON PROVO

There aren't many bonus times in fishing. But this is one. A time when it's too warm to freeze, but too cold to sweat; a time when its warm enough for bugs to hatch, but cold enough to keep snow in place.

Bonus time, indeed, for fly fishermen on the Provo River.These days on the Provo, bugs are hatching and the water is running clear, and as a result, the fishing has been good, especially for the always-popular browns.

Certainly, it's no secret. Any fishermen who has tossed flies before on the Provo knows these are good times, evident, of course, by the large number of men and women in chest-high waders standing in the middle of these chilling waters almost any day.

Fishermen covet the section of the Provo below Deer Creek Dam. It is among the few miles of "Blue Ribbon" waters left in Utah. And for good reason - there are fish there.

Fishing regulations have, of course, helped keep it that way. For one, only artificial lure and flies can be used. No hooks with worms or cheeses can legally touch the water.

It helps, too, that fish are beginning the transitional stage in their lives. That is, coming out of colder winter water into slightly warmer spring conditions. This makes them a bit more active. And, because waters are still clear, they are still able to see foods clearly to eagerly bite.

When the weather warms up in earnest, the hot days will begin to reduce the snowpack and flood the tributaries with water and silt. When this happens, the waters in the Provo will begin to cloud and run too fast for good fly fishing.

The stonefly hatch will come off as the waters rise and start to cloud. The off-colored waters help protect the bugs from feeding fish. And, while stoneflies are good now and through the high runoffs in May, come June the hatch is off.

For now, however, fly fishermen are doing well with some of the smaller stoneflies, Nos. 12 to 14, in gold and black.

As with all nymphs, they need to be fished along the bottom, so fishermen need enough split shot to bump the fly along the rocks.

Most of the fish hitting the stonefly are browns.

Also working well are the smaller nymphs, like Pheasant Tail, Hare's Ear, Sow Bugs and Scuds in smaller sizes, like Nos. 18 to 22.

"The more heavily fished a water is, the better smaller flies seem to work. Maybe it's because with all the flies it's harder for them to tell the smaller flies aren't real. Whatever the reason," says Byron Gunderson of Fish Tech Outfitters, "the smaller the fly, the better the success."

Here, too, the fly needs to be bumped along the bottom. Fish won't leave the lower levels and take likely-looking food.

Part of the secret to the Provo, confirms Gunderson, is being in the right spot. Which, with all the traffic these days, isn't always easy.

When fishing nymphs, says Gunderson, "Look for riffles on water three to four feet deep. Find a place that gives you enough room to make a cast and allow the fly to get down on the bottom.

"If you're fishing dry flies, then look for quiet water next to shorelines."

Lately, some of the fishermen coming off the Provo have claimed better days than recorded on the Green River below Flaming Gorge. Catches have been more frequent and the fish larger.

All part of the bonuses for fishing the Provo between winter and runoff.