Lees Ferry - Guided Trip
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We left Utah after several days of very windy and cold weather that froze fly line to rod guides between casts. Add to that the constant frustration with the lack of accessible fishing waters in Southern Utah, and you have a darn good reason to explore Arizona. We had been driving most of the day, taking in the beautiful landscapes, before passing through a small town nestled against a huge cliff wall about 10 miles from the Colorado River. Sandra hollered at me that I had just passed a fly shop (a good sign that there is fishing nearby), so I pitched the RV into a turnout with a nasty drop-off that nearly toppled us - then executed mid-highway u-turn, and headed back to the Lees Ferry Anglers Fly Shop.
I was impressed with the depth of knowledge in the shop, and Sandra was enthusiastic about the prospect of me hiring a guide for the following day. After a small bit of arm-twisting on my wife's part, I gave in and booked it. Honestly, I was reluctant to book a guide for two reasons; the price and my pride. The price I knew was in line with what is commonly charged since I have looked into guides for other areas. The latter, my pride, was an obstacle because I was afraid that I didn't have the skill to make good use of a guide, and well... I didn't want to look like a dork.
I let Sandra talk me into it because she seemed so excited about it for me. If I had entered the shop alone I would have never booked a trip, and I would have missed one of the most incredible days of fishing I have ever experienced.
My guide, Capt. Natalie (Nat) Jensen, was amazing. She spent her day at my side coaching each cast, every drift, my line management, hand positioning, everything. Since I learned on small creeks, this style of big river fishing was like starting over. Add to that; Lees Ferry trout require nothing less than a completely dead drift, with an exceptionally long leader/tippet.
The view was breath-taking, and the trout were eager to bite. We were the first boat off the dock so the water was like glass - perfectly reflecting the steep canyon walls around us. Our first spot was the easiest of the day, I think it was the "lets see what I'm working with" guide/client discovery spot on the river. Here Nat demonstrated the Lees Ferry method of fly-fishing and I knew right away it worked - even the exaggerated demonstration drifts got takers. I had hit after hit the first two hours, landed a couple, foul-hooked more. I was slow to get the line off the water and unfortunately fouled several. I've never foul-hooked more than one on any given day, it was embarassing.
Nat taught me how to drift 80+ feet with enough line slack to dead drift, without having too much slack which makes the hook-set nearly impossible. By the end of the day I got better at it, but it's an art form. The techniques I learned on the Colorado will be practiced over and over, since so many fly-fishing destinations require a dead-drift. I managed to catch about 6 or 7 on the day, but missed 20+ strikes. I would have more fish photos, but to be honest there wasn't much time - I wanted to be in the water, not shooting pics... and I was holding out for the trophy shot.