If you are an avid angler, Grand Canyon fishing can be an amazing addition to a rafting adventure. You may bring a fly fishing or a spin fishing collapsible rod as long as it is contained in a hard shell case. Typically fishing is best before the Little Colorado River confluence (the first 60 miles below Lee’s Ferry) or during the non-rainy season when the river water is running more clear. Although trout is often the most desirable catch, there are also bass, catfish, carp, and the famous humpback chub. The Humpback Chub and the Razorback Sucker are endangered species located within Grand Canyon National Park.
The main foods for trout are freshwater amphipods, aquatic worms, midges and small fry. We practice catch and release with artificial lures and flies. De-barb your hooks and bring pliers for easy fish release. The Grand Canyon Monitoring and Research Center requests if you catch a tagged fish, please report it. Read more about reporting a tagged fish. You are required to have a fishing license. You may purchase your Arizona fishing license in advance online or by calling the Arizona Game and Fish Department 602-942-3000. Licenses are also available at Wal-mart if you are in Flagstaff prior to your trip.
To read more about fishing in the Grand Canyon from the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and the Grand Canyon Monitoring and Research Center, please refer to the USGS website.
Our very own Grand Canyon river guide and avid fly fisherman, Jerry Cox, gave us a few pointers on fishing the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon. He takes his rod on every trip in hopes to find a little free time for one of his favorite hobbies: fly fishing. He said fishing in the main river of the canyon can be excellent! Primarily you are fishing from shore at camp in the evening, or during the day when stopped for lunch or hiking. This is a tailwater fishery; however, the Colorado through the Canyon fishes more like a freestone in that the fish are not that picky in fly selection. That said, he said you can fish scuds and midges or just tie on a bugger until it wears out. The only hatch will be midges – fish do sip midge clusters off the surface.
There are two side creeks that offer great fishing in cold alpine like creeks flowing through a desert canyon: Tapeats Creek and Bright Angel Creek. The bad news is that we don’t always stop at these places. However, throw in some attractors, big caddis or hopper patterns just in case. Fishing is restricted in the Little Colorado River or 1/2 mile upstream and downstream of the Little Colorado River. The Park Service occasionally changes the restriction areas so please ask your trip leader for updates.
Jerry tries to keep his setup as simple as possible. He packs a 3-piece 5 weight in a hard-shelled case, a box or two of flies, 3- 6x tippet/leaders/indicator, gink, and nippers, bugs, scuds (12 to 16 green, pink, orange, tan), midges (pupa, emergers, drys [if you are fishing midges just bring ones for whatever midge water you fish at home]), San Juan worms, buggers (6 to 10 black, green, a little sparkle doesn’t hurt), nippers, hemostats, weight and a strike indicator.