While the pronouncement has not always been supported by representative weather, spring has arrived on the Henry’s Fork.
Perhaps the most notable seasonal indicator is a sizable increase in drift boat traffic on the lower river now that launch sites are finally free of snow. In a year of less than excessive snowfall, a persistent northerly weather pattern has kept temperatures swell below normal readings thereby preserving low elevation snow accumulation well into April. Though certainly disruptive to convenience, this condition did not prevent anglers from accessing an otherwise productive month of fishing.
Even days of marginal human comfort seemed to yield satisfying rewards for nymph and streamer fishermen, and dry fly fishing with midges was remarkably consistent. For the past several weeks, spring Baetis have improved the fortunes of those not immune to the intimidating intricacies of fishing midge patterns size twenty-two and smaller on 7X tippet. Though seldom larger than size eighteen, the mayflies commonly referred to as Blue Winged Olives, or BWO, have the ability to increase the size range of trout willing to feed on the surface while permitting considerably more visible fly patterns and stronger tippets.
In any year, we will look for positive indicators in attempting to predict with some degree of accuracy the condition of the fishery and what might be expected in the coming months. Water is always foremost in any observable factor of early appraisal. While slightly less than the past few years, winter release from Island Park Dam has been adequate in preserving juvenile trout in the vulnerable section directly downstream. This occurred while allowing the reservoir to fill to more than ninety percent as of May one. A mountain snowpack that fell a bit short of average for the year has been preserved due to unseasonably cool spring conditions. Even lower elevation runoff has been slowed as a result, and forecasters predict adequate water supply for agriculture in the area dependent upon the Henry’s Fork for irrigation.
Highly encouraging is a continued expansion of rainbow spawning activity and a resulting improvement in the condition and numbers of this treasured resource. When matched with consistently productive fall spawning of browns, the blend of the trout population on the lower Fork appears to be well balanced with healthy populations of both species.
While well advanced along the lower river, the community of Last Chance is now only beginning to awaken to the new season. In a year of slow-departing snow and a shortage of truly comfortable days with respect to wind and temperature, an added sense of urgency is being felt at higher elevation.
For TroutHunter, there is much to accomplish in the limited weeks separating winter from summer business. Word of good fishing travels fast in today’s society and the guide boats are already rolling out at a fairly consistent pace.
Early May brings the return of seasonal residents and by mid-month the community will be buzzing with activity that brings immediate end to the quiet time in Island Park.
Even with the prospect for another excellent year of fishing, it is the anticipation of relief from the pressures of the Covid virus that most strongly elevates the confidence and optimism for residents and visitors alike as another summer season in Henry’s Fork country gets underway.