*Editor’s Note: This is a special guest post by Chris “Jigidy” Jensen
Growing up fly fishing the South Fork the traditional season was from Memorial Day weekend through November 31st. While fishing could be pretty good for the opener a lot depended on runoff and because nobody had been out on the river you never really new what to expect. That all changed in 2004 then the river opened to year round fishing.
It’s been fascinating over the years to watch individual anglers and guides learn how to fish the South Fork in April, May, and June both before runoff but especially during runoff which traditionally was not a productive time of year. I remember many years during runoff when there would be no guide trips and outfitters would turn clients away. That seems to be changing as the guides at The Lodge at Palisades Creek have learned that not only can you catch fish during run off but some of the biggest fish of the year are being caught during this time.
My first experience with true pre-season fishing came more than 10 years ago. It was early June and the flows looked good for a day trip I had scheduled for Saturday. On Thursday the flows increased out of Palisades Dam to over 20,000 cfs. For many years this type of flow was considered unfishable and even dangerous to some. Rayna, our beloved “Lodge Momma” called the guests to see what they wanted to do but could not get a hold of them. They showed up at the lodge Saturday morning ready to fish! Rayna told them that it might be more of a ‘scenic’ trip considering the flow but I told them we would bring fly rods and give it our best shot. The rest as they say is history. By only fishing in the best looking water and using big juicy flies that I knew the fish would see even we were pretty successful. The first place I stopped to fish was on the lee side of a newly submerged island. We caught a 20″ Brown on our first cast and found several other fish in that same spot. It was clear that the fish were enjoying their time feeding in the slower water behind all the newly submerged terrain. The rest of the day was a piece of cake as it was easy to find these spots as we made our way down the river.
The moral of this story is we now know we can catch fish during run off and the fish are clearly seeking out food and eating well this time of year. If you’re on the fence about your fishing dates as they might fall during runoff don’t fret too much the guides at The Lodge at Palisades Creek will find a way to keep your rods bent.