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Stuart Johnson, Deseret Morning News
Curtis Fry of Cedar Hills fly fishes on the Provo River. The fish are becoming more active as the water warms up.

PROVO RIVER — It's not often people look forward to seeing bugs hatch. But if you want to catch fish along one of Utah's most popular sections of the Provo River these days, it pays first to see what's hatching.

And, right now, daily hatches of blue-wing olive are bringing fish to the dinner table. That is, to surface flies that curiously resemble the blue-wing.

Fishing below Deer Creek Dam, especially just above and below the Sundance turnoff, has been good . . . and crowded at times because of it. Too crowded, some say.

Some call this time of year the "Awakening" . . . bugs are hatching, fish are becoming more active as a result of the warmer water and fishermen are starting to think about wading in water rather than snow.

This is also a time when new menus are being presented to the Provo River brown trout.

Along with the daily hatches, insects and worms are being picked up by runoff waters and deposited into moving rivers. Fish, after having limited morsels during the winter, are starting to feed their voracious appetites.

Longtime Provo River anglers Ray Sudbury and Rob Pannier of Salt Lake City jokingly admitted they'd sooner keep the Provo fishing secret.

"No. No fish. Fishing's bad," Sudbury said with a smile. "Well, actually we've enjoyed this section. This is our third visit this year and we've done OK. The blue-wings are hatching and we're fishing on top. I did OK with a glow bug last week."

In the evening hours, the two sometimes like to play what they call "our 32-second" rule. It's a made-up game where the two fish with a single rod.

"You get the rod for 32 seconds and if you don't hook up, you pass the rod," said Sudbury. "There have been nights when I don't think either of us has missed a turn. We catch fish, so I guess we can't be doing too many things wrong."

And, indeed, anglers are catching fish. Most seem to be in the 16- to 18-inch range.

Davey Compton said he's been fishing this section of the Provo since childhood, "and I've done pretty well. I'm here because the blue-wing are coming up and the fish are rising."

"Most of the fish are around 16 inches, but I've had some good days on this section catching 21-inch fish."

The secret to catching fish is most often centered on the different bug hatches. Fish tend to be fast learners and know when the dinner bell is ringing. And they know where the best dining is, which at this time of year is closer to shore where insects and bugs are being washed into the river.

Another key element, said Byron Gunderson of Fish Tech Outfitters, is to look at the size of the bugs coming off the hatch.

"This year there are some pretty good sized blue-wings, so anglers can use sizes 16 and 18. Other years they've been smaller, sizes 20 to 22. The larger flies make them easier to tie on and easier to see as they float on the surface."

Once the water is a little higher, and has a little more color from the runoff, watch for the stoneflies to start moving out of the water and onto shore. This tends to be another good time to toss flies in the Provo River.

Some of the best fishing is between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m., which is also when the bugs are hatching.

Currently, surface flies tend to work best. Darin Jensen of Spanish Fork and Jamie St. John of Orem were drifting nymphs along the bottom and reported fishing was "slower than expected."

For now, the fishing along the blue-ribbon section of the Provo remains good — and even better for those watching the bugs hatch and throwing imitations.