A very warm hello to all! How has the long winter treated everyone? As for myself, ski patrolling season is almost over and all I can think about is fishing! I have even managed to get a few fishing days in the last few months. So what kind of fishing conditions can we expect in the coming months? That is a very tough question to answer but I will begin with a recap of last season.
Last season high, dirty water was the theme on the South Fork of the Snake for the first half of the season. Early and mid May was somewhat inconsistent, then mid- late May and early June the nymph fishing was fantastic at times. June was full of high dirty water, but the fishing was ok. That being said, the dry fly fishing was non-existent in June and early July last year. Fishing really started to come into its own from late July onward, which put us back about a month behind schedule (or more). Fall fishing last season was tough weather wise, but the blue wing hatches were thick in mid to late September. Streamer fishing was great as well at the end of September and the beginning of October.
The culprits behind the abnormal year last year were twofold. We had an above average snow year combined with a fire in the Hoback drainage in the summer of 2016. Thus when the reservoir was drained in the spring it then filled with very silty water from the ashes of the fire. This led to our poor clarity which inhibited the dry fly fishing in the early season.
This year things are slightly different. We once again have a snowpack that is above average; however we have had very little snowfall below 8000 feet this winter. Palisades Reservoir was almost full the entire winter, providing higher winter flows and more fish habitat than we have seen on the South Fork in more than a decade. Trout population numbers near the Conant access site increased from 3758 trout per mile to 4196 trout per mile, an indication that the high water is helping with habitat.
So what does that mean this year will be like? Well from the early recon I have done I can say that the trout populations are very healthy right now, and the fish are fat and happy from the large winter flows. But what will run off be like this season? That is a much more challenging question to answer. Right now the reservoir is 75% full and they are decreasing that number to make space for the runoff that should peak sometime late May/ early June. As long as the reservoir doesn’t get completely drained and there is less silt in the Hoback (probable) we will not have the clarity issues that we had last year. However, I would expect flows to be above average in the late May/ early June time frame. Remember, big water = big fish.
Below is a month to month breakdown of the types of fishing I would expect in the coming months.
April– A great time to be on Section 1 of the South Fork. The water is clear and the fish below the dam are very hungry. The rainbows are beginning to spawn and the cutthroats have not left to go up the tributaries yet. The weather can be challenging. This is also a great time to go after big browns on the main Snake below section 4. Streamer fishing can lead to some true giants this time of year due to the uptick in their metabolism after a long winter.
May– This month is always a bit of a crapshoot. When it’s good the nymphing is the best of the season, but dirty water can change things. Early to mid May this season should be a good time for streamer and nymph fishing on the South Fork. The streamer fishing on the Salt River and the Green River in Wyoming can be phenomenal this time of year. Did you even know that we can fish those rivers? Well we certainly can!
June– Historically the beginning of June is high water with decent clarity, leading to many big fish caught on the banks with various types of rigs. If the water comes into shape the last third of June can be some of the best dry fly fishing of the season with the emergence of the Green Drakes and the Salmon Flies. With the deep snowpack I am crossing my fingers that the clarity holds for the end of June. The Salt and the Green should fish well all of June, with runoff being much less of an issue on the spring fed Salt.
July– This July should start off much hotter than last July, and hopefully the Pale Morning Duns will be in full swing by the end of the first week. This is often the busiest time on the river but also some of the most consistent weather and fishing. Bugs we can expect include PMDs, Golden Stones, leftover Salmon flies, yellow sallies, caddis of various kinds, and much more!
August– Often times late August can be slow with warm water temperatures. This was not the case last year and is not going to be the case this year with ample cool water. Mutant stoneflies and various types of mayflies and caddis flies are all on the menu. August is often busy but the fishing is very consistent on high water years.
September– The beginning of September is hopper season, and it can also be a bit slow if the water temps are warm. Mid September is when our famous fall fishing really kicks into gear with the arrival of the mahogany duns and the blue winged olives. Last year the weather in September was tough but the fishing was awesome. I would expect great fishing this year due to the reservoir being full of cold, clear water.
October– This month is synonymous with big brown trout, though often I prefer April/May or the first half of November. October is fall fishing at its prime, with beautiful scenery and great dry fly fishing. Hoppers, bwo’s, mahoganies, caddis, and juvenile fish are all important food sources in the fall. This is a great time to go after trophy browns on the main Snake below Lorenzo.
November– This is the end of our fishing season, but more often than not the biggest browns of the season come to hand in the first 2 weeks of November as they prepare for their spawning ritual. The weather can be tough, but the fish are so worth it!
Well that is pretty much all I have for now. I hope to see you all on the river this season or in the seasons to come, 2018 is shaping up to be a great one at the Lodge at Palisades Creek! Please reach out to me with any further questions you have about fishing, fishing guides, or life in general.