Jun 15th, 2011
Trout season has officially begun throughout the American West. As we all dust off the five-weight fly rods I’d like to take a look at what we have to look forward to this year. It’s been a tumultuous winter and spring for river systems throughout the western states. Here on the west coast January and February brought warm, clear skies followed by the wettest spring months in recent history. The same precipitation that fell on Oregon as rain has steadily accumulated near-record snowpack in large portions of Idaho, Montana, Wyoming and Colorado. Right now large portions of Montana are experiencing record floods in the major river basins. It’s safe to say that everything will be blown out for the next two weeks.
As we look to the fishing season the next 6 weeks are really anybody’s guess. The areas with high snowpack are really hoping for warm summer days to appear gradually. Any sudden rise in temperatures will unlock all that snowpack and cause rivers to rise to an unfishable level. The ideal situation would be for cool weather throughout the month of June, which could cause rivers to maintain a “high but fishable” flow. I’ve learned before that “less than ideal” conditions at many of our destinations is still better fishing than a lot of other areas.
In many cases, higher than average water brings fish closer to the riverbank and makes them more opportunistic in their feeding patterns. I’ve fished plenty of rivers during high and off-color water that were experiencing a “red hatch”, when you can throw any red nymph tight to the bank to catch fish. The most common fly in this situation is a red San Juan Worm, which works incredibly well on any river that has swollen flows. In addition to the worm, Rocky Mountain trout anglers fishing June and July should carry a few red copper johns, bloody mary’s or other bright attractor-type nymphs.
High water is also a good time to work on streamer-fishing techniques. Many of us have a 6 or 7 weight fly rod that doesn’t get nearly enough use. This is a good year to put a sink-tip or full sinking line on those heavier rods. When I visited southwest Montana at the peak of runoff last year, I was able to successfully fish a streamer in everything from big, brawling drift boat-sized rivers to spring creeks barely wider than the length of my rod. I’ll admit I had previously never made such a point of fishing a streamer everyday and what I learned was priceless. Aside from improving my casting and fishing skills with a streamer rod, I found the streamer to be an effective way to find where fish are holding in high water. If the trout in a given system had moved into high-water holding lies I could find out fairly quickly by fishing a variety of water types with a streamer.
For the avid dry-fly angler this summer, all hope is not lost. Most aquatic bug hatches are triggered by a combination of water temperature, air temperature and available habitat for the aquatic species. Although cold snowmelt may change the timing of some hatches throughout the Rockies, most major hatches will still happen this year. Anglers looking for dry fly opportunities in June and July will have to be willing to move around the river in search of rising fish. This often means exploring extremely shallow areas of the river that may normally be dry this time of year. That being said, anyone looking to time their trip around dry fly opportunities should focus on the later season (August – October).
The highlight of all this snow will most likely be the late summer and fall fishing. Grasshoppers in early August will likely mark the beginning of dedicated dry-fly season in much of the Rockies. September will bring the tricos, mahoganies and blue-winged olives that we’ve been tying flies for all winter. Higher water flows usually mean heavier fall hatches. The last three years of good water mean that most river systems are holding large populations of big fish. This is the year to hook a monster pre-spawn brown trout in the fall.
We have a lot to look forward to this trout season. Keep in mind that too much water is much better than too little and be ready to adapt when you’re out fishing this year. Know that the trout are in there somewhere and they’ve got to eat. These high water years are the perfect conditions for what I call the “technique grand slam” which is catching a fish on a streamer, nymph and dry fly on the same day. Here are some of the areas to think about trout fishing this year.
El Rancho Pinoso, Colorado
Available Dates: August 19-23, August 29-31 (hopper time!), September 6-16 (smorgasbord of bugs), September 21-24 (mayflies!)
Elk River Guiding Company
Fernie, British Columbia
Available Dates: We have good availability throughout August and September in Fernie.
Crane Meadow Lodge
Twin Bridges, MT
Available Dates: August 12 – 18 (hopper time!), September (room for 2-6 anglers all month)
Upper Klamath Canyon
Available Dates: We have good availability throughout October.
Tom Jenni’s Reel Montana
Available Dates: August 22 – 24 (Yellowstone/Blackfoot hoppers), August 28 – September 7 (great dry fly on all rivers!), October 1 – 5 (Tom’s favorite time of year!)
Available Dates: We have good availability August – October.
Black Canyon of the Gunnison
Available Launch Dates: August 10, 14, 18, 20, 22, 23, 27 (hopper time!), September 1, 5, 10, 12, 17, 18, 23, 24, 25, October 1, 2 (mayflies, streamers, October caddis!)
Available Launch Dates: August 10 – 15 (room for 4 anglers), September 22 (room for 1 angler)
Give us a call at 800-552-2729 to book your trout fishing adventure!