Photos and Story: Summer Cicadas on the Colorado

Written by: Chuck Coolidge


Horseshoe Bend is a famous photo-op spot, but most folks don’t realize how great the fishing is at the bottom.
Photos by Chuck Coolidge

Arizona has always been known for the Grand Canyon, Tombstone, and the Painted Desert, but more recently, places like Antelope Canyon, Monument Valley, and Horseshoe Bend have surged in popularity in the social,media world. Fortunately, one of the best kept secrets is in the background of some of the most visited sites in Arizona–the Colorado River. As a matter of fact, if you google “Colorado River,” a picture of Horseshoe Bend is the first photo.


Here’s our Horseshoe Bend photo, from down where the action is.

Holly and Chuck fish an outside bend directly below the photo point of Horseshoe Bend.

The best part? Everyone spends their time getting to the top of Horseshoe Bend for a photo 1,000 feet above some of the best fly fishing in the state. With the summer cicada hatch going on, it was an opportunity we couldn’t pass up. Unfortunately, one the famous summer monsoons had made a mess of the Paria River, where the boat launch is. Luckily for us, we were able to get out on the river and make our way to the bottom of the bend.


Holly snagged this big fella on a San Juan Worm at the end of a large riffle bend.

Chuck fights a big rainbow that ate a Greek Drake Nymph behind a boulder pocket.

We worked the Horseshoe Bend area from 6:30 a.m. until around 1 p.m., before knocking off for lunch. After a successful morning at the Bend, we decided to move downstream a few miles. Unfortunately, we weren’t only catching rainbows that morning; we also caught a rock . . . with our propeller. Luckily, we always carry a spare for tough, rocky areas like this. A quick swap and we were back on the water.


Chuck shows off another feisty trout that didn’t mind the high flows.

Late afternoon was upon us, the sun was setting, and the cicadas were starting to sing, so it was time to work the top water. Cicadas don’t like water, so we made sure have our flies hit the water hard. A dead drift with an occasional tiny twitch or quick pull was the best presentation. We always run a small midge below the cicada, on a dropper line about two times the depth the water.


Courtney caught this monster on a red midge using her cicada as bait and a strike indicator..

Lee’s Ferry offers amazing fishing when the cicada hatch in full effect. Put in a full day and make sure to overnight just up the road at Marble Canyon Lodge. They recently refreshed the rooms, the rates are cheap, and you can be back on the water within 10 minutes. It sure beats driving all the way home or up to Page!

Chuck Coolidge lives in Phoenix, Arizona, and travels a lot to feed his fly-fishing passion.


Propellers hate rocks, so it’s always best to be prepared.

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