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Where can you get a "fishing fix" in the Rockies this time of year? One place is Lee’s Ferry on the Colorado River below Glen Canyon Dam in northern Arizona. Lee’s Ferry is unusual in that many anglers actually prefer to fish here in the winter and spring rather than in the summer because of the 100-plus-degree heat that bakes the canyon then. According to the folks at Lee’s Ferry Anglers (*), the fishing has been very good through the 1996/97 winter months, with anglers averaging six to 35 fish per day. These are mostly healthy rainbows, with the occasional rainbow/cutthroat hybrid, averaging three pounds in weight.
One thing to keep in mind when visiting Lee’s Ferry is that the fishing can be affected by releases from Glen Canyon Dam. In fact, the US Bureau of Reclamation increased the flow out of the dam to 27,000 cfs on February 18. This release was intended to ward off the threat of flooding when the above-average snowpack in the Upper Colorado basin begins to melt. The Bureau planned to continue this flow rate through April 1, and then gradually slow down to 20,000 cfs, if not lower, as summer approaches. Lee’s Ferry Anglers predicts that the high flows will make fishing more difficult than usual, as sandbars will be under water and slots harder to find. However, they have been guiding here for over 10 years, and it shouldn’t take them long to find the fish.
Lee’s Ferry Anglers and other area guide services mainly use boats to take anglers fishing in this 15-mile stretch of the Colorado, but there are a few footpaths down to the water if you can find them. I do not recommend taking this approach without a thorough knowledge of the area, or a fishing buddy who has made the hike before. However, Lee’s Ferry Anglers does offer full-day guided trips into the "Walk In Area" for $160 for one angler, or $210 for two.
Another shop that serves this fishery is Blue Rivers Fly Fishing Specialists (*) in Flagstaff. Owner Paul Shearon was as frank as Lee’s Ferry Anglers about fishing conditions and prospects. He also said that anglers who have time to spend closer to Flagstaff might want to check out the fishing that’s available year-round for native brown trout and stocked rainbows in nearby Oak Creek Canyon, a 25-mile-long spring-fed tributary of the Verde River near Sedona. – Bill Cenis.