by Carl Evenson
With plenty of snow shining in the peaks, the freestone sections of the Big Wood, Big Lost, and Salmon Rivers are forecast to be higher than average, especially during May and June. It is too early to predict fishing flow levels beyond June because the May and June weather influences flows so much. This spring, we have had much warmer nighttime temperatures than most years, melting off much of the lower watersheds very early. If this trend continues, the snowpack will melt sooner than other large snowpack years. Whatever happens, the ground water is being recharged, which means higher low season flows in all our streams. In the long run, this is very positive for fish and fishing.
Fishing in our region will be different from the last couple of drought years, especially during the first half of the summer. I would not expect to fish the same places at the same time of year on the Big Wood with the same dry fly as last year to get similar results. In fact, the same pool may be structured very differently by the high stream flow. However, I also would not be surprised if some places will fish better in the beginning of this season. Increased stream flows in the Silver Creek waters will give fish more habitats to spread into, and thus give anglers more fishing options. Similarly, the higher mountain streams will have more holding waters for fish to move into later in the summer. We are fortunate to fish in a very unique region with a lot of diversity within the fisheries. With desert rivers, multiple spring creeks, multiple tail-water rivers, lots of mountain lakes, reservoirs, and several freestone rivers and mountain tributaries, I have been surprised time and again that there is almost always some place that is fishing well. The challenge is finding when and where.
As an example, this spring’s March meltdown doubled daily maximum flow records during what is usually the best month of the year to catch large trout and start steelhead fishing. I thought the spring season was going to be a blowout, especially with the dams releasing extra water in preparation for flood control. But early spring still produced some of the best days on the Lower Lost and some good steelhead fishing as well. One of my guests was concerned with the high stream flows and cancelled his first two days of steelhead fishing. He booked again two weeks later and, with river flows even higher, he ended up getting three fish to eat dry flies and several other fish on standard subsurface flies. Those were the first steelhead this season I saw eat dry flies. Nature is hard to predict.
While the snowpack will make for challenging wading, it’s also a boon to the health of the fisheries. This season will open our eyes to the still water fisheries around us. I also expect some great late summer and fall fishing opportunities on the rivers. Get out and enjoy it!