From: A-Bar Warming Hut
Location: Exactly 6.7 miles East of the Continental Divide (6,250’)
Words: Chris "Grizz" Andelin
Images: Bryan Gregson Photography
Autumn arrives in early morning, but spring at the close of a winter day. ~ Elizabeth Bowen
Good news fishy friends, I believe we’re starting to see a light at the end of the frozen tunnel here in Island Park. Currently, we’re recording more days with temperatures above freezing than below and for the most part, it’s been a fairly mild winter, just long……… and mild. March arrived with a mighty roar and clawed its way in with a 4 day blizzard of epic proportions, but that’s since past and this last week has felt a lot more like spring than winter for sure. The snow floors are dropping out all over town and what a mess it is. The consistency of this chunky muck is more like liquid hot magma than a frozen slushy, making getting in & out of parking lots a real treat. On the bright side though, it’ll all soon melt and we’ll be that much closer to our summer season when the bugs awake from their deep winter sleep & the fish take ready advantage of their lazy abundance. Preparing with anticipation, the local trout geeks are tying feverishly at the vise to secure full boxes of feather & fur. Our summer outlook is looking super sweet; thanks to above normal snow-pack, we haven’t seen flows out Island Park Reservoir drop below 480cfs all winter, ensuring a hungry-healthy population of fat sassy Trout as we move gleefully toward the warmer months. Get ready kids, this is going to be a banner year here on the ‘ol Hank.
Enough talk of what’s left of winter, nobody who swings a fly rod really cares anyhow. Let’s talk about the fishing a little bit….. February turned out to be a rather exceptional month in regards to fishing, bringing a solid Midge hatch almost daily & strong numbers of Baetis when the weather turned for the worse. If an angler could handle a little snow and wind, the Blue-Wing fishing was magical. In between the reliable dry fly action, streamers have begun to play a more important role in our day-to-day fishing approach. A few early February days brought absolute brutes to hand on Double Bunnys, Sculpin patterns and a wide array of articulated nastiness. It’s been a welcome treat to have the opportunity to bump up in rod weight, tippet & fly size to lure truly alpha fish from their winter haunts. That’s right kids, it’s time to hop on the Streamer bus and jump off at all your favorite spots, because big spring Trout pay attention to the big food…… and eat BIG, often times attacking with reckless abandon. In addition, the Stonefly nymphs have begun to move about more freely as well. A heavily weighted Rubber-leg pattern is a sure-fire recipe for success as we move through spring. Pair one up with a smaller Beadhead and odds of hooking up increase dramatically. As it goes with the Streamers, get deep for the most consistent and reliable action. Moving through March, all the above techniques will only improve as the water temps warm and the fish become more active. As an added bonus, the Skwala’s should make an appearance any day now, so keep your eyes peeled for these early season trout snacks. It doesn’t take many to get the Trout all riled up and in a full blown feeding frenzy.
As prime as the fishing has been lately, access to floatable water is a different story. We’re probably looking at another month before you can get a vehicle in to float Box Canyon or the Warm River to Ashton stretches, but with a little creativity & adventurous approach, boats can still be launched via snow machine. Putting a boat in using the "sled-drop” method is a crafty approach and will ensure solitude and the opportunity to enjoy these floats…and fishing, with virtually no one else around. Walk wading is definitely an easier and more viable option on the upper River right now. The launches on the lower river however, are a little easier. Most access points are free of any threatening snow & relatively inviting. I’d still recommend having 4 wheel drive when planning to drop a boat, because the weather & conditions can turn on a dime. Again, even though the lower river ramps are clear, odds are you’ll have the water all to your self and encounter an increased number of bodacious Trout. So, with a little tenacity, die hard anglers are sure to persevere. You can bet on that.
Effective and solid patterns for early spring fishing include:
- Single Midge & Midge cluster patterns in sizes #16 -#22
- Baetis dry & emerger patterns in sizes #16 - #20
- Skwala Stones (dry) in #10 - #12
- Stonefly Nymphs & Rubber-legs in sizes #4 - #10
- Beadhead Nymphs in sizes #16 - #22
- Streamer Patterns in sizes #Big, Bigger & Articulated Big
So, in a nut shell, March rolled in a like ferocious Lion. We’re hoping she rolls out like a lamb, but the fishing here is on the up ‘n up and will only get better as we move ahead toward summer. So stop by the TroutHunter or give us a call to get up-to-date fishing conditions, we’re open 7 days a week