The high side of our fishing season is beginning. Already the South Fork is being visited by drift and jet boaters, the numbers of which are increasing every day with nearly all launch sites open and fishing success picking up. Drift boaters are floating the lower Henry’s Fork where launch sites are becoming more and more crowded, particularly those below Ashton Dam where the river offers excellent dry fly, streamer, and stone fly nymph fishing. Even the main stem Snake River has a drift boat-jet boat population pitching streamers. So we at Jimmy’s are seeing the beginning of floating fishing season.
Increasingly we get inquiries on “where to go”, “what is it like”, information from folks new to or outside of this area. We pass on as much information as we can, but in the interest of safety we have to stress that there are some basics that anyone should consider if not experienced with any water to be boated.
First, being a responsible boater requires thorough character knowledge of the river section to be floated. If unfamiliar with launch and take-out sites to be used, visit these beforehand, especially if they are of primitive nature to detect short falls or hazards. Consult with someone familiar (reputable fly shops and resorts should have character and hazards information on all these) with the physical nature of the section of interest.
Second, even after obtaining character information on the river section to be visited, it is prudent to stop while in the act of floating to observe its downstream character during an initial visit. It is also wise to do so during a first trip of the season because many places on the river change character. The lower South Fork is notorious for cutting new channels and abandoning old ones. Going down a channel that has been cut off from the main river and the necessary walk back out pulling a boat can ruin a visit, especially with little daylight left. Uprooted trees, brush piles, and barely submerged rock features can be unpleasant, even dangerous surprises. Irrigation diversions are particular dangers especially on lower reaches of the Henry’s Fork and South Fork and throughout the main stem Snake River. For example, there are four irrigation diversion on the lower Henry’s Fork from the Fun Farm Bridge down through St. Anthony.
Third, many of us rely on such as Google Earth or Maps software to observe a river’s character. We suggest not doing so. Here is why: changes in river channels occur almost annually. Uprooted trees can happen any time especially during the high flow of irrigation waters and even or run-off. Depending on irrigation demands flow particularly in the South Fork and main stem Snake River change considerably. Such changes can make new hazards and delete those in place. Detailed launch and take-out sites character and up to date hazard identification are not given. Electronic media is incapable of identifying these changes.
We offer these thoughts in the interest of having unforgettable positive experiences floating our rivers to enjoy some excellent fishing. We ask that you consider these in order to increase the chance that you will return to have another great experience.