Flows on the South Fork have been bumped up to 17,00cfs out of Irwin. Flows into the reservoir have been fluctuating up and down with the warm weather. Its going to be about 6 days before the reservoir is full, so I talked to the Bureau of Reclamation today and they told me that the Flows out of Palisades will be increased to 19,000 cfs. Will the flows be increased more? Who knows, I hope not, but most likely it will happen. I wish I could give you better news for the flows on the river but I don’t have any to share.
Fishing on the river is all nymphing. I have had reports of Salmon Flies, golden stones and Yellow Sallies on the lower section of the South Fork. However these reports have not had any luck catching fish on the dry fly. Nymphing is producing the most amount of fish on the fly. With the water being increased you will want to fish deeper with your nymphing rig. I would have at least 10 feet between the indicator and your first fly. Also be sure to fish with some weight so you can get those flies down to the bottom quickly.
I wanted to add to Jimmy’s report from yesterday. The Outfitter that I guide for had 5 boats on the South Fork yesterday. They had boats through both sections of the canyon and the upper stretch. There is a hatch of Yellow Sallies beginning to hatch on the river. One of the boats fished dry flies all day yesterday and caught 2 fish. The other boats fished nymphs and caught many more fish. Whitefish and trout have been the mix on the nymphs.
So here is the deal. Despite the color of the water the South Fork is actually pretty fishable right now, despite the less than marginal conditions the water is in. I have been told the streamer fishing is pretty good right now, hit it in the mornings and evenings. Nymphing is a different game right now. Typically we would be throwing size 4 or 6 rubberlegs with a #14 or 16 beadhead dropper. With the dirty water I would fish a Orange Rubbeleg size 4, with a #12 Pheasant tail or a #10 prince nymph. Copper Johns and San Juan worms are working as well. However the key is to fish the larger fly in the dirty water.
As Jimmy mentioned things are really unpredictable right now. We all want the inflows to decrease but we have a few days of super warm weather headed our way. Once that is over we should have a better indication of what will happen with the flows. Keep you fingers crossed, hope, pray or whatever that the inflows into Palisades will begin to decrease. As Jimmy mentioned we will keep you updated as things change. Questions, please feel free to call the shop.
South Fork (what we would like it to be)
The flow is steady at 12,000 cfs and clear. The big stones are out around Twin Bridges in good numbers. Heavy hatches of yellow sallies, golden stones and pale morning duns are in the riffles. Some green drakes in the late afternoon. If you want to get a head start on the crowds consider launching before daylight and fish streamers against the bank until the sun comes over the canyon rim.
South Fork (what it really is)
The flow is 15,000 cfs and very off color. There are good hatches of yellow sallies and some golden stones but the fish are not looking up and probably won’t until the water clears some. We have been fishing san juan worms, bennetts rubber legs with a small nymph dropper with fair success on trout and good success on whitefish. On the lower river below Heise the flow is 9,000 cfs and there are more places to get out and fish.
There is 32,000 cfs running in to Palisades Reservoir and at this rate the reservoir will fill around July 11th. We are hoping that the inflow will drop so that inflow will match outflow by the 11th. Please hope with us. Meanwhile we’ll continue to monitor the flows and pass along any additional information we get.
We have some news for the South Fork. First off the clarity is starting to clear up and you have about 2 feet of visibility, until you get down to Fall Creek Falls. The visibility goes downhill from there. The good news is we feel like the peak of the runoff has happened and things should start shaping up and clarity will improve greatly. Insects have starting hatching on the lower river. We have pretty good reports of fish being caught through the canyon on nymphing rigs. Rubberlegs and San Juan Worms have been producing fish. So despite the water clarity being less than desirable the fish are still eating and we catch them. I prefer to fish a larger and brighter fly when the water is off color. The large silhouette of the fly in dirty water makes it stand out to the fish.
The lower river is floatable but it is dangerous. Jimmy floated it this past weekend and he can help you if you have specific questions. The river has completely changed and channels that used to be floatable are no longer. As always we have encouraged people to get out of the boat and walk channels before floating them. I can’t emphasize how important this is right now on the lower river. I would also bring some type of saw with you. If you want to float this section please feel free to call us for any questions.
I was driving through Hoback and Swan Valley last night so I got to put an eyeball on the river. The Snake river above the reservoir is muddy. The lake is starting to settle out and there is about 2-3 feet of visibility at the Dam. The South Fork looks somewhat clear coming out of the Dam with possibly a 12-18 inches of visibility, until Palisades Creek. At the Spring Creek Bridge the water is off color but you could fish with a large stonefly nymph, bright streamers and glo bugs. It appears that the runoff in starting to back off and the water from the tributaries should be clearing off in the next week or two. Once the tributaries clear up the river will become a aqua green color it will have a few feet of visibility and will start fishing really well. Dirty water will actually produce more fish on the fly with the water this color. Very similar to an overcast day, the fish will feel more protected which means they will eat more aggressively.
If I was going fishing today on the South Fork I would set up a nymph rod with a big bright streamer/leech type of pattern and a rubberleg as a dropper. I would also have a streamer rod set up with a sink tip and a big meaty fly. I would fish the upper section, Dam to Spring Creek.
The flow has dropped to 15,100 cfs which means many of the islands won’t be flooded. Generally flows of 16,ooo or higher cover most of the islands. The best patterns to use in these conditions are #4 Bennetts Rubber legs with a San Juan or glo bug dropper.
Things have changed once again on the South Fork as far as flows are concerned. Due to the higher than expected amount of runoff the BLM has decided to increase the flows coming out the Dam to keep a larger buffer in the reservoir to catch water. The run off has come down faster than they expected this week. I am actually happy to see them do this because it would really suck to have water at 15,000 cfs in the middle of July with hatches and good fishing than have the river bumped over 20,000 cfs cause the lake is full and they need to match outflow with in flow.
The upper river is actually fishing with Rubberlegs and San Juan Worms. Look for fish in the usual places like gravel bars, slow banks, and banks with structure. As the water temps warm up the fish will also move into the holes below the gravel bars and the nymphing will really get good. Don’t let the color of the water discourage you from fishing the South Fork. These fish have to eat. Larger brighter flies will help when it come to catching fish in these water conditions. Try a white zonker below a strike indicator, glo bugs and rubberlegs will be the ticket as well.
Flows have leveled out a 15,000 cfs. We have now been told that the flows will stay at this level so they can fill the reservoir. Expect 1,000-2,000 cfs higher than normal flows for the summer time. This means instead of flows around 12-14,000 cfs in July they will be 14-16,000 cfs. As far as water clarity goes the water will be somewhat dirty for awhile because dirty water is dumping into the reservoir, you also have the tributaries dumping in muddy water as well. I suspect the water clarity will be fishable by the time Stoneflies start hatching.
Fishing right now will be mostly nymphs and streamers. Big rubberlegs and bead head nymphs. Big streamers stripped from the bank will produce fish on the right days.