During drought years in the West, one often hears the common refrain: “Whiskey is for drinking, and water is for fighting.” As we await the opening of fishing on many of our local waters on May 25th, all eyes are on the the dwindling snowpack and the impact this will have on river and reservoirs throughout the season by both fisherman and irrigators. The first casualty of our lower than average snowpack is the Little Camas Reservoir. Fish and Game has already declared a fish salvage in anticipation of a complete draw down by mid summer. To understand the impact of the lower than average precipitation this year on fishing in the Wood River Basin, we need to look to the remaining high altitude snow pack. As of the beginning of May, the snowpacks are 71% of normal in the Big Lost and about 80% of normal in the Big Wood drainage. As compared to the low altitude drainage for areas like the Little Camas Reservoir which are already done, we are in pretty good shape heading into summer. Still, for fisherman, the lower than average snowpack means the fishing on many of our rivers, like the Wood and the upper and lower portions of the Lost, are going to shape up much earlier than previous years.
The Big Lost
The water below Mackay Reservoir has just recently moved from its winter flows of 108 CFS to about 320 CFS. This is a good level for this river, but much higher and it becomes a bear to wade. It is difficult to predict if these flows will go up over the next week, so if you plan to fish here keep your eye on the Idaho River Flows page (use the link on our website). Also, these higher flows will slow the hatches of the midge and Baetis, but you can still expect to find some top water action. Still, with the higher flows, nymphing is going to be your best bet. Take an assortment of big bugs like Rubber Leg Stones, standard and beaded Prince Nymphs, and San Juan Worms. A double nymph rig with one of the aforementioned big bugs trailed by a smaller Baetis, Zebra Midge, Rainbow Warrior, or Bishop’ Dynamite in size 16 or 18 would be a good idea as well. Also, the road up and over Trail Creek Pass is now open.
Magic, Mackay or Duck Valley are good options right now whether you want to float tube, pontoon, our fish from a boat. Be sure to always have a safety whistle and a life jacket. And watch out for those high winds which can blow this time of year. In May, I like to pull Seal buggers and Pops buggers in black or olive off of a sinking line like a type 3 or 5 or suspend a team of nymphs off an indicator like Prince nymphs, Copper Johns, or classic Chironomids with a floating line. This also a good time to consider going to CJ Strike to chase carp or the Bruneau Sand Dunes for bass and bluegill. Whatever you decide to do, come on by the shop and we will hook you up with the best flies for your situation.
Many men go fishing their entire lives without knowing it is not fish they are after.~ Henry David Thoreau