Monday, April 30, 2012

The Smith: Extreme Edition

 Our saying for the trip was, "Not that it really matters..."   Here's why.

We got to the put in mid-morning on Wednesday, with sunny skies and probably 8 inches of water visibility. No prob, we thought. We'll still be able to stick a few, and we're wearing shorts and Chacos; spirits were high. It was a gorgeous float. JB and I tried the big streamer game for a bit. We remembered trying to nymph out of the boat from last year. Good way to lose all your nymphs in the first 10 miles. Well, the fish weren't able to see our streamers unless they hit them in the face, thanks to Sheep and Rock creeks spewing cattle erosion. We got two trout, both pretty nice sized, but it was rough. Visibility decreased throughout the day and the water was on the rise.

First night we stayed at Syringa, just above the main canyon. There were skwalas and worms crawling all over our camp.  

Unfortunately, most of the fish weren't seeing the skwalas, due to the mud.  We changed tactics in the morning.   Jason had a few large worms left from the insane high water on the Mo last year. We decided to tight line big streamers off the boat, then hit soft, grassy, banks with a rubber legs and the worm. It saved our trip. A few banks gave up multiple fish and I stuck a big one on a black bugger.

Second night, we rolled into Crows Foot hopeful that we could salvage a few the following day if the heat didn't wreck the water too much more. But the river was already over 800, and the weather was about to change. About midnight, it started to rain. It really didn't stop raining either. It was still raining when we pulled out at Eden, Saturday afternoon. We pretty much just rowed from Crows Foot to Ridgetop, barely fishing. The next night it got worse. The snowline dropped and it was sleeting most of the morning. Needless to say, the river maintained its opacity of under 6" of vis, too. While we had a hard time staying dry, we still had a great time. Lots of stories were told and plans of next time were already being made. Can't wait to do it again, and one of these times we're going to hit it right!

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Late Spring Fun

Now that the rivers have decided to go nutso around Zootown, and the trout are trying to find breathing room, I figured I'd post some shots from the last few weeks. I've been busy starting a new job, helping Dwight finish our deck, and other stuff. Here are some of the better pics. Featuring Al Pils, Jay Dixon, Jasama Brin Ladin, and Will.

Some thoughts leading up to run off...

For the folks that were able to get out and fish over the past couple of weeks, you probably figured out that the fishing was subject to variability. It has been an interesting spring thus far, with occasional pulses in increased flows, unseasonably cooler temperatures, mixtures of precipitation, to the current warm temperatures we will be experiencing over the next week.

With the variability we experienced some days of great fishing and other days of experimentation and exploration. Days ranged from explosive hatches of march browns on Rock Creek from the upper sections all the way down to the lower sections. Up until the last couple of days, it could be said that the creek was fishing quite well. Times spent on the Bitterroot were either productive or a complete riddle depending on the sections of the river we floated. The upper sections around Hannon, Wally, and Anglers provided solid dry fly fishing during the increasingly productive skwala hatch over the last couple of weeks, to downright mysterious days on the river below Bell Crossing. A lot of this can be attributed to the volume of ground water and influx of water from various springs in the lower section of the 'root. Furthermore, the lower 'root can be highly susceptible to barometric pressure change, and slight bumps in volume. Despite the inconsistency on the Bitterroot at times, we started to see a positive increase in bug production, from the previously mentioned skwala hatch, to march browns, to gray drakes, to the recent experience with Mother's Day caddis a couple of days ago. We even found ourselves on a couple of adventures on the lower Blackfoot. The 'foot was close to shaping up in the lower sections before the recent increase in flows, with some success being found during our annual Spring streamer adventures. The photo above of a nice rainbow that Billy caught on a streamer is indicative of the potential in the Blackfoot during this time of year....if you're willing to work for it. Word on the street is that the upper 'foot was fishing fairly decent as well, despite above average flows coming out of the tribs around Helmville.

So, where does this leave us heading into this first major run-off event? Well, the Spring fishing has been decent thus far and there is some evidence suggesting that we are due for a pretty solid late Spring/early Summer start with the productive hatches beginning to pop lately. One could even speculate that if things continue at the current rate, we may be able to fish a productive salmon fly hatch for the first time in a few years. Personally, I'm looking forward to the golden stone hatch this year due to the potential stabilization of flows heading into June and early July.

As for the snowpack and available moisture, opinions are all over the place depending on who you talk to around town. Some will say that we will be doomed in August due to an "average to below average snowpack." Others, myself included, will tell you that this season is shaping up to be potentially great. If you look at current snowpack in the surrounding ranges it is either average, or slightly above. I believe the key is to look at the water equivalency in the snowpack, as well as the previous seasons' snowpack and the impact that has had on our fisheries.

Depending on where you look in the area, there is between 80-90" of snow remaining in the higher peaks, with a water equivalency in the 30+" range. Most of the low elevation snow has melted off and we are now entering the phase of losing a lot of our mid-elevation snow in the surrounding mountains. Despite a somewhat early run-off comparative to last year, we are still within our average for this time of year and we haven't even discussed the potential for rain. This, in combination with record snowpack last year and the retention of a lot of groundwater due to a mostly mild, dare I say cool, spring and summer last year, should set us up for a solid season thru the summer. This should provide us with more consistent hatch cycles and incredibly healthy trout due to last season's abundance of aquatic insects (particularly sub-surface) and consistently cool water temperatures thru the majority of last year.

Until then, hit the vise, get creative, and prepare for the potentially great stone fly hatches coming around the corner. We'll be launching on the Smith this Wednesday, so look for a report when we return this weekend.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Yurtski: Fun in the Swans

Saying farewell to winter with a few shots from our late March trip to Yurtski. If you haven't been up, I recommend it. Great terrain, great location, and a lot of fun. Carl, Adam, and the crew are pros, and wonderful to deal with. Can't wait to go back, and hoping for some pow next time. With 8 to 12 feet a winter, you have a good chance! Thanks to everyone for your support during ZCA'a first winter season. Cheers!