When combined with frigid temperatures, a record snowfall has extended the confinement of winter far beyond what is normally experienced on much of the Henry’s Fork. Breaking free from that restraint has been a slow process that continues to suppress much of what is expected at the end of the long, cold season.
In the Rocky Mountain west we have trout, and we have trout because we have water. But before either can exist there must be snow, and this year there has been a lot.
Only recently have we left the period when iced rod guides, chilled legs, and stiffened fingers are not the condition of a day spent on the water. Fortunately, the improved temperature that brings relief to that discomfort has also caused recession in snow depth. Together, these elements have allowed welcome improvement in the ability to access and enjoy the river.
While early Baetis have yet to become a factor, small showings indicate that significant hatches are not too distant. However, small dark stoneflies join reliable midge activity in filling in for the first mayflies of the year.
As the water warms, productive fishing opportunity is not lost on bright days when surface activity can slow. Small nymph and larvae patterns can fill in nicely for dry flies on days that might be a little too pleasant for hatches that favor cool and overcast days.
It is spawning time for the rainbows of the Henry’s Fork and most anglers will avoid disrupting this important spring ritual. Less sensitive to the sanctity of renewing life are the big brown trout of the lower river. Pestering their spawning cousins is an act devoid of conscience but so too is the human temptation to capitalize on the visibly aggressive marauders.
An egg pattern or streamers will almost certainly gain the attention of a hungry spring brown.
While winter remnants continue with a serious volume of snow being most prominent, it appears that we finally have turned the corner on a new season. And the freedom that comes with spring could not be more appreciated.