Fly Fishing The Colorado River at Lee’s Ferry

The spring runoff season in the Rocky Mountains is a great time for a fly fishing road trip, and Lee’s Ferry is one of my absolute favorite spring fly fishing destinations. The 13 mile stretch of the Colorado River known as Lee’s Ferry lies just outside Page, Arizona at the top of the Grand Canyon and just below Lake Powell’s Glen Canyon Dam. The nine hour drive from Eagle County takes you on a scenic tour of some incredible desert terrain and follows the Colorado River for much of the way.

A Rainbow Trout Paradise

Lee’s Ferry is known for its robust population of healthy, hard-fighting rainbow trout. Average fish sizes vary from year to year, but it is not uncommon for anglers to hook up with monsters in the 18 to 22 inch range. Like most tailwater fish, the trout at Lee’s Ferry enjoy consistent water temperatures and prolific midge hatches all year long. Ideal conditions make strong, healthy fish and the Lee’s Ferry rainbows are no exception.

How to Fish Lee’s Ferry

There are several different ways to approach this relatively short stretch of river, but the best way is by boat. An aluminum jet boat allows access to the entire 13 mile stretch of river from the dam to the Lee’s Ferry ramp. It can be used as a way to get to the deeper runs that you could otherwise not reach from the bank. You can either hire a licensed guide or rent an aluminum jet boat . Outfitters in Marble Canyon rent these for around $200 per day. Drifting below Lee’s Ferry is not an option here. Since there is only one boat ramp that fishermen and Grand Canyon rafters share, the fishing is all upstream from there.

Most of my success at Lee’s Ferry has happened while drifting a standard nymph rig with small western tailwater flies (midges, BWOs, worms, etc.). I use these flies through riffles and along the soft, inside edges of seams. To most high country trout fishermen, this section of the Colorado can be intimidating. The large size and incredible volume of water make it easy to see why. The thing to keep in mind is that there are fish almost everywhere, and if you break it down and focus on the small section of water within casting range, you will start to find feeding fish pretty consistently.

Where to Stay/Other Attractions

Whether you choose to stay at one of the small lodges in Marble Canyon, or at the National Park campsite, a night’s stay at Lee’s Ferry is pretty affordable and convenient. Each option is close to some terrific wade fishing, hiking, and dining. Because Lee’s Ferry marks the beginning of the Grand Canyon, it can be used as a starting point to reach a multitude of hiking, canyoneering, and camping opportunities. It is a good idea to plan an extra day or two at Lee’s Ferry. Doing this allows you to check out Paria Canyon, Horseshoe Bend, or the Hanging Garden above the Colorado.

Lee’s Ferry is home to some of the most breathtaking fly fishing scenery in the world. The deep blue water flows over green moss covered rocks and beneath towering cliffs of pink, orange, and red. Combine that with the outstanding rainbow trout fishing and beautiful weather, and you have an unbeatable spring fishing destination. While the majority of western fly fishermen are toughing it out through cold, wet pre-summer weather, Lee’s Ferry fly fishermen are hooking rainbows. They are basking in sunshine, spectacular desert views, and dry, 80 degree temperatures.

Andy “Otter” Smith, Guide and Content Writer