For much of Idaho and other states in the Rocky Mountain west, March represents the connection point for spring. At lower elevation, folks are often anticipating the opening of golf courses and trading cross country skis for bicycles as seasonal change seems to obey the calendar. But it is a different story at high elevation where March is just another month of a long winter.
At a mile or more above sea level, it can be hard to find encouragement when most precipitation continues to arrive in its frozen form and the typical March day begins with a temperature below the freezing point. This is particularly true in the upper reaches of the Henry’s Fork where three months of winter can represent only half of its usual longevity.
While little else is certain with respect to seasonal progress, the increasing hours of daylight serve as evidence of forward movement that distinctly expands with the change to daylight saving time at mid-month. Equally uplifting for those seeking relief from winter’s harsh extremes is a lowering likelihood of subzero temperatures once the Vernal Equinox is reached.While the toughest of mountain people are undeterred by extremes of snow depth and temperature earlier in winter, most residents will choose the lower Fork over the Last Chance area when venturing out with a fly rod. With snow receding back from the water’s edge and boat launching again possible at public access points, the lower river begins to attract more angler attention as March progresses.
As a general rule, winter will arrive around a month earlier and depart a similar number of days later at St. Anthony than in Island Park, which lies nearly two thousand feet higher in elevation. But while distinctly more comfortable in terms of temperature and access to the water, the quality of fishing at lower elevation is not necessarily superior to its upstream counterpart. This applies in particular to early Baetis mayflies which can actually begin to emerge earlier and in better numbers at Last Chance than at Ora or Vernon thirty miles downstream. It is for this reason that, on the right day, I can be found working the water near TroutHunter Lodge when an extra half-hour drive can be easily justified.
Though imperfect in most ways pertaining to outdoor comfort, March represents a breakout from deep winter and its most repressive elemental extremes. And what directly lies ahead just gets better.