Surviving runoff sometimes means heading to the desert to chase bass or carp. Chris Hunt photo.
I live in trout country. Scratch that. I live in the heart of trout country. In fact, Trout Country deserves proper noun status around these parts. But this is the time of year when living in Trout Country is both a blessing a curse.
Tailwaters like the South Fork and the Henry’s Fork are certainly fishable, but if you want to get higher into the hills, or fish a freestone river, like the Teton or the Snake through Grand Teton National Park, this is more of an anticipatory time … we wait and we watch. Depending on the severity of the snowpack and how fast it comes off the shoulders of the mountains, carrying sediment and debris with it, it could be six weeks before in-earnest high-country fishing starts.
Some of just buckle down, knowing that weeks are better than months, and that this time of year, it’s really just about surviving runoff. Some of us make do with the tailwaters, even though they’re flowing faster and higher in order to meet the needs of downstream irrigators. Some of us just can’t wait, and we look beyond trout … we expand our horizons. We head to the steppe country of southern Idaho, where smallmouth bass are busy defending nests and willing to hit streamers out of sheer anger. Others, like me, dive into true “dirtbag” fishing and seek out carp in the shallows.
Or … we don our face coverings for cross-country flights or undertake long road trips and change it up altogether. My buddy Kirk is driving to Michigan over the weekend, where runoff isn’t nearly the thing that it is in his home state of Colorado. A few weeks back, I braved the COVID-complicated international travel process and spent a week on the flats of remote Long Island in the Bahamas. Later this week, I have the opportunity to spend a long weekend in the Everglades where redfish, trout and other salty critters swim.
Some may call these far-flung adventures acts of desperation — why can’t we just wait? If you’ve ever survived a long Rocky Mountain winter, and you don’t ski anymore because your back is fused, you get it. And you especially get it now, with warming weather and the itch to fish while the local rivers and streams are the color of chocolate and ripping through canyons and meadows at an impressive clip.
So we explore. We move around. We put miles on the truck or cash in those air miles and try something new or different.
The water will come down, and the trout will be there when we get back. And, maybe it’ll even be nice outside when we go and find them.