Photo by Mark H. Anbinder
A group of friends had meticulously planned a big float of the upper Henry’s Fork from Big Springs to Mack’s Inn this past weekend. It’s been a hell of summer — we went the better part of a month without rain and here in Idaho Falls, we went through the latter half of June and almost through the whole month of July with daily high temperatures over 90 degrees.
So the float seemed like a great way to beat the heat. We weren’t going to fish. We were just going to put our inner tubes on the river and ride the gentle spring-fed current down to the highway. And maybe drink a few beers along the way.
And then the first tinges of doubt began to show up on the group chat. The weather, miserably hot and dry all summer long, was forecast to change. There were lots of face-palm emojis and some sad faces. But, honestly, I was thrilled.
No, I wasn’t thrilled that I’d likely miss the float. I love a good flotilla of friends and family chit-chatting a gorgeous sunny day away as the river pushes everyone gently downstream to our destination. I was thrilled that, after an epic summer of heat, we might finally get a break. That the mules ear, all dried and crinkly, might catch some much-needed water and that the dust on the gravel roads might abate just a bit.
But mostly, I was thrilled for the trout.
I had consciously let them be during the heat wave. It was the end of June when I first noticed, even in the backcountry, that our local trout water was much too warm, much too early. Playing a trout and then releasing it in water that felt just a bit too tepid didn’t feel like the right thing to do.
So I chased some bluegills in a nearby reservoir, made some plans to head south for some bass and sunfish in Texas later this month, and spent some time with friends camping and enjoying the woods. I tied a few flies and organized some gear. But I stopped fishing for trout.
Then, a day earlier than originally forecast last week, the skies on the fringes of Yellowstone National Park opened up, and the rain came. It came in day-long constant drizzles, build-an-ark downpours and in fits and starts accompanied by thunder and lightning. But it came. And the float was off, due more than anything to simple bad luck.
And our daytime high temperatures dipped, too, sometimes struggling to hit 70 degrees, with lows up in mountains dropping into the 40s.
Trout weather. Finally. And looking ahead, it looks like the worst of summer might be behind us, and that fishing once again for trout might be something I can do with a clear conscience.
To everyone who gave the trout a break, I say, “nicely done.” And good luck on the water.