We have just come off the water here at 4:30 p.m. The story is the same from all boats—challenging water and some hard-fought catches. Without our expert guides and attentive campers, it could have been a historically low day of catches (spoiler alert: it wasn’t). Here is what our guides explained to us on the way to our launches.
Most winters, the remaining snow pack atop key mountains is at around 25% at this time of year. Just two weeks ago it was still around 80%. This was due to a snowy and erratic winter, followed by some cold spells in early spring. The officials who manage the flow of water coming out of the Palisades dam knew there would be more snow than usual to melt, but they didn’t know that an early summer heat wave would melt it so fast. The flow is usually around 10,000 cubic feet per second around this time of year. That is where it hovered last month. After this heat wave the flow had to be raised to 15,000 cfs. And today it is flowing at 18,000! That means a fast and muddy river. Even though the Snake has over 5,000 fish per square mile, they have to see to eat, and the bait moves so fast in this flow that it challenges their reflexes as well.
As such, our guides’ strategy was to move quickly through unfishable fast portions and to work any slower spots as close to the bank as possible, even if it meant losing a few flies on the banks or in submerged trees. We took a very quick lunch in the boats, where some of us were more open to discussing our fish totals than others.
You learn all kind of things on the water with the Lodge guides. Did you know the pelicans that travel to the Snake River in search of food from the Great Salt Lake are the second highest flying bird in North America; that trout can feel when food is near because of their lateral line; that the cutthroat trout has a close relative that has a different appearance but no known genetic differences; or that bears survive mostly on a plant and insect diet?
Halfway through the day, my partner was beginning to feel wary of the sun, until he saw this waterfall. Then he became emboldened, perhaps a bit too much. I coaxed him back to the boat while snapping a few pictures.
After dinner of salmon and lemon vinaigrette salad with quinoa and peppers, we announced the fishing contest winners. One boat (The River Kings) caught 11 trout for the Lights Out Award and also produced two Grand Slam winners. Another boat (Trout Slayers) caught only two fish, but combined they were the biggest total of the day, 35.5 inches, which means they won the Hog Award. Although it has become compulsory, we should mention that Founder Steve Davis helped his mentee (The River Tanks) achieve the “Friend of Whitey” award with 10 white fish.
We shifted to a more somber, yet hopeful tone as one of the peer mentors shared a personal story about surviving the disintegration of family and learning forgiveness through faith. Some of these kids have had to process adult circumstances and make mature choices early in life. More impressive still, they can speak about it.
Tomorrow we’ll be off the water, building skills for the next fishing day with a series of activities called “Fly Fishing Olympics.” For now, campfire and s’mores.