As can happen in Henry’s Fork country, the vernal equinox arrived with a winter storm that served as a reminder that nature is fully in charge of seasonal affairs.
Though it began as heavy rain on the evening before, the first day of spring welcomed several inches of heavy, wet snow to cancel any evidence of progress toward bare ground in our yard at St. Anthony. Loaded with moisture to bolster a slightly below average mountain snowpack, the storm spanned five days with only a brief wink or two of sunshine to disrupt its constancy between Friday and Tuesday of last week.
While certainly welcome with regard to ensuring healthy summer stream flow, the setback of reasonably pleasant weather prior to the squall had residents once again searching for signs of eventual escape from winter.
Along the lower river, access to the water continues to be hampered by knee-deep snow and only a few boat ramps allow the use of a vehicle for loading or launching. Even the best days through the end of March saw morning temperatures in the mid-teens and lower while afternoon highs struggled to creep above 40°. On the upper Fork, fishing at Last Chance was suppressed by persistent winds of a force and chill that kept the river mostly empty through much of that period. And snow depth at that location is more than double what lies at lower elevation.
On a promising note, growing hours of daylight bring relief through the gloom of winter’s darkest days while providing an extended sunset when fishing can be at its best. Missing thus far are migrating flocks of waterfowl and Sandhill Cranes that will grace the landscape in great numbers as snow becomes transformed to water in the agricultural fields. However, an occasional confused robin can be spotted plucking midges from the river’s edge and a small assortment of other early arrivals can be observed in similar habitat.
Not delayed is the spawning ritual of rainbow trout in isolated riffled stretches along the length of the Henry’s Fork. This entertaining event has an uplifting effect as the sacred process of renewal plays out in a most dramatic way. Hours can be spent observing the conflict of competing males as they vie for the attention of fertile hen fish that flash in the act of constructing spawning redds.
Warming water temperature spurs an almost instant elevation in feeding activity for trout long-chilled by the impact of ice in the river channel. And it is perhaps the same influence that sparks the first appearance of early Baetis mayflies.
As profound as any other indicator of a new season are the bright smiles and freshly tanned faces of those members of the TroutHunter family that just returned from visits to Mexico and other salt water destinations. Freed finally from the Covid-19 constraint to resume these treasured adventures, the prospect of another spring holds even more significance than usual.
Moving into April, the pulse of the Henry’s Fork community experiences rapid acceleration as the snow recedes and the busy time draws near. By month’s end there will be full resumption of all activities associated with warmer days, rising trout, and the reunion of a population scattered by the long months of winter. And as life resumes a more normal pattern, it is the sense of freedom that we celebrate as much as the arrival of another spring.