Ramblings from the Rockies


Random musings comparing year-round fly fishing regions

By Gabe Cross

This is always one of the worst times of year to be a fly fisherman in Idaho. Spring seems to take an excessively deliberate pace with respect to warming up, and when you are privy to a nice day, the options for getting out on a river are extremely limited. Most of the state’s best stretches of trout water are closed from April first through Memorial Day Weekend. These closures do serve important conservation purposes, but the situation can seem cruel to those who just want winter to end. When the general season finally does open in late May, many rivers are still in the grips of runoff, so there can be even more time spent waiting for decent fly fishing conditions to emerge. High country fly fishing in Idaho presents a very small window of “prime” opportunity in July and August – that’s about it (of course, there are many exceptions to this in a state as immense as Idaho).

When I was a guide in the Ozarks, I loved the spring. The weather was tough to beat, and the trout on the White River and Norfork Tailwater were usually active on all water levels. I always knew that the majority of the country still had a couple of months before really good fishing was a possibility, so it was comforting to think that I may indeed be in one of the best place that I could be for the season. My last few springs on the White were characterized by unrelenting high water, and fishing was good, but I missed the dry fly opportunities that made a low-water spring so special. High water fly fishing became work, and that is one of about 500 reasons that I had no business being a guide anymore.

The anglers who call the White and Norfork their “home waters” are very lucky in the respect that good fishing is a 365-day a year possibility – if you are willing to adapt techniques. I am interested in learning about other year-round trout fisheries where the action is consistent, even in the colder months. The mild winter weather in Arkansas makes these fisheries appealing to anglers everywhere who suffer from long bouts of cabin fever. Water temperatures fluctuate very little on the White and Norfork, and this unique attribute allows for a true, four-month growing period. These trout only know what season it is by the changing amounts of daylight. The staple food sources like scuds, sow bugs, midges and sculpins are always abundant, so fish on the White and Norfork are stimulated to actively feed throughout the year. The Ozark coldwater tailwaters posses quality trout habitat and a biomass like no other place in the world (is this true?). Where else can trout lazily feed on varied food sources every day of their life?

Even though the most well known fly fishing opportunities of central and eastern Idaho are usually limited to summer and early fall, southwest Idaho has a unique climate that is often misunderstood. Boise is in an arid valley and winters are mild. This means that low-elevation rivers in the area will normally run free of ice and air temperatures are often in the upper 30’s, which can be pretty comfortable with the proper apparel. The Owyhee River, the Boise River and the South Fork of the Boise River all fish well during the winter, but the trout definitely become less active at these times. Dry fly opportunities are limited, but midges and BWOs can provide some action. Although it is nice to have a few places nearby to get a winter fishing fix, the experience in Boise is quite subdued compared to the often hot and crowded fishing of an Ozark’s winter – I would call it “slow and crowded” around here, but the situation regarding high numbers of fishermen in the Boise area cannot be compared to anything that I witnessed in the Ozarks. What a relief.

I know, this blog post does not make much sense. There will be times when I more or less use this place to think aloud. My ultimate point to all of this is that fly fishing is an effective game of give and take, and the sport will rarely let you have your cake and eat it too. Ozark fishermen are able to experience productive trout fishing all year long, but there is little in the way of varied coldwater resources in the region and constantly changing water levels will frustrate even the most patient of souls. In Idaho, cold-weather fly fishing opportunities are far more limited than in the Ozarks, but when the weather does get nice in the summer, there are literally hundreds of world-class options when it comes to choosing a fishery.  Boise may offer up the best of both worlds with the local year-round tailwaters and the city’s proximity to the central and eastern Idaho mountains. I’m still searching for that perfect residence for trout fishing. The Ozarks and Boise meet many of my personal criteria, but Boise holds a nice edge from a livability standpoint because of the mix of urban amenities and green space, the incredible fisheries, the number of great people and the geographical variety. It seems that most of the jaded anglers don’t burn out and quit in Idaho. Rather, they become reclusive and guarded. One of best things about trout fishing is that there is always a new place to wet a line when you get disgusted with your current locale, whether one moves across the county or across the country.

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~ by troutdoctor101 on April 12, 2010.

2 Responses to “Ramblings from the Rockies”

  1. leave the owyhee alone…go back to the ozarks and stop tyring to rape our river.

    • Ahhhh…

      Another enlightened response, no doubt from someone who thinks I am far more powerful than I really am. [Start rant] I guess my words are so strong that they are capable of causing detriment to this fishery that we obviously both enjoy. Without my blog, the Owyhee would be a secret honey-hole, only to be fished by the select few who happen to be “in the know”. Just in the last week, Southwest Airlines has reported a huge spike in checked fly rods on flights headed for Boise, and I’m sure a check of the other airlines will show a similar trend. Concierge services around the Treasure Valley have experienced a serious influx in calls asking for directions to Owyhee Dam, and the traffic going to the river through Parma the other morning was reminiscent of scenes I thought only existed in Southern California. Darn that cursed Internet [end rant].

      Obviously, the scene sarcastically described above is what people fear will happen if fly fishermen hear about the Owyhee, and to a degree, it has already occurred. Strangely, I was able to find plenty of information on all of the area rivers on the Web – including the Owyhee – before I moved here. Perhaps, this is why there were quite a few anglers fishing the Owyhee prior to my blog posts. Some of the stuff I located was helpful, but very little actually described the experience of fishing the Boise area. According to the stats for the blog, it appears that people are indeed searching for that very type of information, and I see no harm in providing an objective view of the Owyhee and other fisheries. If I start talking about fishing the spawn, illegal guiding, poaching or any other unsavory activity, I would expect to be lambasted. But what have I done at this point to deserve being told that I am hurting a river I love and to leave Boise? This is ‘fishing’ we’re talking about, correct?

      What is it with these people that have nothing better to do than criticize how someone approaches their passion? It’s doubtful that these tough guys would have the audacity to make such comments to my face. Please elaborate on how my writings over the last few weeks constitutes raping a river. So again, JR, I invite you to explain yourself. A lot of fly fishermen do not understand why a few sad souls like to fire off at their mouths before asking questions. If I did not think that I had something of value to offer the fly fishing community as a whole, I would not be making this effort to educate. It’s so sad that some folks choose to alienate and disrespect complete strangers before trying to see where that person is actually coming from. There are know-it-alls everywhere who think they can tell others what to do, and JR is no different. Attitudes like his will be the demise of quality trout fisheries, not the sharing of information regarding a well-known and established recreational resource. You will never meet someone who cares more about conservation than myself, but JR thinks that my legal fishing, along with a few musings and reports, is raping a river. If this guy wasn’t so pathetic, I might be insulted…

      JR TOLD ME: “Go back from where you came [shakes fist]…we don’t need no help from anyone who wasn’t born in Idaho.” If everyone had this attitude, very few people would ever experience the joys of fly fishing.

      Please people, if you are going to post trash like this, understand that I will take great satisfaction in providing a one-sided reply that will make the author of such comments look like a complete fool. There is no obligation on my part to publish any subsequent replies, but I probably will, just to keep hammering my points home. I am 100% against attitudes like JR’s in MY sport, and I will not stand by idly while someone tries to intimidate others from doing what they love. It is great to want to protect our cherished fisheries, but without new blood in the sport, conservation-minded anglers will no longer have the spectrum of resources needed to protect and enhance our favorite fisheries. There is a right and wrong way to approach fear – JR obviously took the lack-of-class approach, which is a lot easier than trying to get to know the people you are in *supposed* disagreement with. Who knows, maybe something read on this blog will inspire the next great figure in the fly fishing world, and that possibility inspires me. At one point in time Dave Whitlock, Lefty Kreh, Gary LaFontaine and the likes were new to the sport. What would our fly fishing world be like today if our sport’s greatest figures had been met with JR’s hostility and “homerness” when they started asking questions, making observations and fishing new waters?

      Misguided efforts to “protect” a river through threats will cause far greater harm than something anyone could do on the Internet. So JR, I will kindly ask you to leave Idaho (or wherever you live, if it’s close to Boise), and I think they would like you in the Ozarks, if you’re looking for a new home and crusade. Your ignorant comments are a threat to the rivers I love, so I would appreciate that you keep your mouth shut if the conversation ever turns to fly fishing. You are the real threat to our sport and our resources.

      Fly fishing is supposed to be about having fun in a beautiful, outdoor setting. If a few folks think the sport is about exclusion and self-gratification, that is their loss. One or two left-field accusations are not going to stop me from fishing and sharing my experiences; no one is being forced to read this blog. If you have proof of my participation in any behavior that could be deemed unethical, illegal and a “raping” while on the river, bring it on. Otherwise, keep your thoughts in the peanut gallery where they belong, if you have nothing of value to contribute. Constructive discussions and lively debate are welcome here – foolish comments will be picked apart.

      Gabe

      Click Here to read my reaction to an equally as idiotic reply to an article I wrote

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