It’s a different year than the last few because of our winter with abundant snowfall in the high country. Not only is access difficult or impossible because of road conditions, and with warmer weather coming on, most streams are high and with discolor. For example, last year at this time the lower Blackfoot River was worth fishing with flow around 100 cfs at the Shelley gage. This year with roads mostly blocked and nearly 500 cfs at the same gage, it is time to go somewhere else.
Our 9-24-16 small streams fishing report offered some thoughts about the effects of significant rainfall on stream flow. We currently have a repeat of the weather conditions prevailing around 9-24. So again looking at USGS flow gauges on streams not influenced by an upstream reservoir reveals flow increases because of current storms. Current weather has been just what is needed to optimize seasonal aquatic insect activity for certain species, but it also adds food forms because of temporarily increased bank and bottom erosion. So it seems a good idea to once again include patterns imitating these food forms as well as streamer, caddisfly and mayfly life cycle, and terrestrial insect patterns in that fly box.
Flow out of Blackfoot River Reservoir has been reduced to 67 cfs. Not good for resident trout in the river below. Some good fishing on the Teton River in the Basin remains with BWO, mahogany dun and terrestrial insect activities bringing action on the river here. More good news here is that daytime recreational boaters are diminishing as cooler weather proceeds.
Observing USGS flow gauges reveals much information, even for streams not hosting such items. The big rain we had the last few days increased flows significantly according to readings on these gauges. So it is likely that a temporary flush happened on all these streams including those upstream of a reservoir (most of which are just beginning or soon to be impounding water). The increases are enough to bring about a temporary change in fly-fishing strategy by causing enough bank erosion that such as worms and immature burrowing insects are temporarily abundant food forms. So for the next few days, be sure to have such as San Juan worms, Suede Juan worms, and wooly buggers in that fly box.
Flow out of Blackfoot River Dam was reduced yesterday resulting a drop at the Shelley gage from 128 cfs to 87 cfs. This flow is not good for hosting fish and means they will face a tough time this winter. Let’s hope for their sake there are no further flow reductions.
Look for terrestrial insect patterns to be important flies for action on most any small stream until a killing frost comes along. Another consideration is that with shortening days and cooler weather, and absence of AM trico activity, afternoons will be the best time to find action. Also consider that with the uncertainties of a good snowfall this coming winter any tail water fishery (portions of Big Lost, Blackfoot, and Portneuf Rivers) will have low flows for the remainder of the season because of actions to fill depleted reservoirs.
We note that the flow out of Blackfoot River Reservoir was reduced significantly early today. Flow at the Shelley gauge is 128 cfs. Whether the flow stays at this level or not remains to be seen, but if it does, good fishing conditions are coming to the river about a month early. We will keep watch on how this develops. Meanwhile although the river above the reservoir is quite low, water temperatures are ideal. This makes for fish responding well to early AM trico activity and later in the day to terrestrial insect activity
Many of our small streams are impacted by the hot dry summer and therefore have lower than normal flows for this time of year. Given that condition, they heat up more quickly during daytime hours resulting in less dense aquatic insect hatches and lower fish activity. Thus the best time to fish these can be during morning hours when waters are coolest. Some of these streams feature morning trico spinner falls which adds to their early in the day attraction.
There is a great and, when you think about it, attractive resource that we in the fly-fishing community make not much use of. That resource is the U. S. Forest Service rental cabins. Many of these structures were originally built in relatively remote places for housing personnel assigned to fire watch, law enforcement patrol, and other functions. In our area Caribou-Targhee National Forest offers several of these. Some of these are adjacent to places to fish which for the most part are small streams. So it is worth taking a look at these in particular.
Perhaps the one with which folks are most familiar is the Warm River Cabin situated at Warm River Spring. It appears most of its use is from winter time activities. Being only a moderate cast away, it offers a most convenient base for fishing the river above and below the spring. Being not far from the Cardiac Canyon reach of the Henry’s Fork or the Harriman Fish Pond, it offers not only tranquility, but convenience for fishing these waters.
The Squirrel Meadows Guard Station is another one frequently use for winter time and hunting activities, but being just off the Ashton-Flagg Road just inside Wyoming, it is a great base for accessing Fall River and Beula and Hering Lakes in Yellowstone Park. Not far away are Fall River in Idaho, the Boone Creek beaver ponds, Cascade Creek, Fish Lake, Lake of the Woods, Tillery Lake, and Grassy Lake Reservoir in Wyoming. That array of nearby waters makes this cabin extremely attractive for those wanting to fish back country waters.
The Stump Creek Guard Station would make a great base from which to fish Idaho’s Salt River tributaries. It is on the Lander Cut-Off of the Oregon Trail just inside the Idaho border with Wyoming. Stump Creek goes right by with Tincup, South Fork of Tincup, Jackknife, and Crow Creeks not far away.
The Al Taylor Cabin is west of Kilgore and off Forest Road 006. Not many folks venture to this area. Nearby West Camas and Cottonwood Creeks offer fast fishing for small brook trout. Think of a weekend at this cabin while catching enough brookies for an evening fish fry!
Johnson Guard Station on the Diamond Creek Road offers a base from which to fish the upper Blackfoot River and its tributaries. The Blackfoot River Wildlife Management Area is only a few miles away. Nearby Diamond Creek offers small stream and beaver pond fishing for brook and cutthroat trout.
Each of these cabins has particulars with respect to facilities, what is offered, and what is required, Fees are similar for each and each is really convenient and a bargain when compared to more distant commercial accommodations. You can view particulars for each on the Caribou-Targhee National Forest web site home page. Click the cabin rental bar to see these particulars. You will see that there are other rental cabins in the Forest.
Our hot and dry summer has impacted fishing on many of our smaller waters. For example, flow in the Blackfoot River above the reservoir is almost half of normal. That means high water temperatures which make it tough for trout to recover after being caught and released. Below the reservoir high and discolored water of varying flow prevail and will continue until the first of October. Thanks to Warm River Spring inflow, Warm River offers very good fishing for miles below where brookies, browns, and ‘bows are responding well to caddis life cycle and terrestrial insect patterns. Teton River in the basin is fishing well if you are willing to put up with the recreational boaters. You can get away from most of them by fishing downstream of the State Highway 33 Bridge. There is not as much water here as above the bridge, but enough to be a destination. Terrestrial patterns will be your best bet for action. The afternoon flav emergence on Big Elk Creek continues to offer good fishing with kokanee entering the creek in good numbers. Palisades Creek is another good bet to try with caddis fly life cycle, traditional attractor and terrestrial insect patterns bringing action.