100 Best: Provo River
Location: Northeast Utah
Type of stream: Tailwater
Angling methods: Fly, Spin
Species: Browns, Cutthroat, Rainbows
Supporting Services: Park City, Heber City
Short take: Trout see so many patterns they ought to know better than to suck in yours
Handicapped Access: Yes
Closest TU Chapter: Stonefly Society
Originating in a bowl of post-glacial lakes surrounded by a quartet of mountains, the upper Provo flows for about 35 miles before being impounded in Jordanelle Reservoir. The tailwater below the dam runs for about 12 miles through Heber Valley until it reaches Deer Creek Reservoir. However, due to diversion for agriculture and urban purposes, this tailwater does not brawl as it drops about 700 feet in 11 miles before entering the city of Orem. You can reach the uppermost river and headwater lakes from Rt. 150. Most of the river downstream from the national forest border is privately owned until you reach Rock Cliff Recreation Area where the Provo enters Jordanelle Reservoir.
The 12-mile middle section from Jordanelle Dam down to Deer Creek Reservoir has undergone a complete makeover. The Provo River Restoration Project, initiated by the Utah Reclamation, Mitigation, and Conservation Commission, resculpted the river in perhaps the nation’s most comprehensive trout stream restoration effort. Prior to the start of the project in 1999, this run had been contained in a straight-jacket of levees and bulldozed channels. By the conclusion of the project in 2008, a new floodplain ranging in width from 800 feet to 2,200 feet had been created. Natural meanders, braids and side channels have been recreated. Banks have been planted with native vegetation. Where once public access was limited, anglers can now fish the entire section.
As it comes out of Deer Creek Dam, the Provo runs hard by US 189. Considered by many to be “Blue Ribbon” water, what the Provo River Canyon lacks in ambience it more than makes up for with its 4,500 trout per mile. Deep runs, pools, and pocket water characterize this run of river, but you’ll also find small islands, side channels, and riffles. Trout don’t seem to mind the incessant roar of trailer trucks or the growling pulse of a fully laden freight train climbing up the valley, why should you?