The year is 2015, and the prior winter's snow pack was unusually scarce. It really puts things in perspective the impact that little snow shows on the following fishing season. The first sign of the upcoming small water is the timing of the spring melt/blowout. The raw power of the snowmelt that typically happens in mid to late March happened in mid-February. The North Fork of the Coeur d'Alene River set its rage at almost 20,000 CFS. The blasting brown water, filled with logs, carved the river bottom out to reveal a whole new set of drops, side channels, log jams, troughs, and deep inside seams. This re-shaping of the river bottom not only gives the trout new places to hold and feed, it also gives us, as anglers, a new canvas to paint our mental picture of what that river bottom has turned into, and how to figure where these aquatic creatures are holding for the season. Like fly fishing itself, we are constantly learning. No matter how many years an angler has under his/her belt, the next season will bring new knowledge to our fish-filled minds.
The Texaco Hole, February 15th
The Texaco Hole currently, August 15th
With this low water, no rain and 95+ degrees comes the dreaded warm water. Obviously every artery of this earth has a different source. Luckily the North Fork of the Coeur d'Alene is filled with natural springs and aquifers that either trickle in from the bank or push up through the river rock. This is apparent while wading through different runs in the 15 miles above the south fork confluence.
Above that, the waters become warmer, until you hit the next 30 miles of the upper river where it is fed from about 100 creeks/tributaries. These little gems are not only holding decent trout, but are breathing life into the main stem with water temps that are 15-20 degrees cooler. This is where anglers really should concentrate their efforts. Below every creek the river has been split in two sections, the creek side and the warm far-side. The creek side will have a higher oxygen content with the cooler water and a healthy habitat for lively trout.
Hatches... These are something overlooked when the “strange” season happens. Not only are we dealing with the lackadaisical fish population we are also dealing with a confused population of entomology. For example, the Mahogany Dunn was showing themselves a month early in only particular stretches. We had a very weak Grey Drake hatch this spring, which I like to refer to as “firework hatches.” While you are scanning down river, it looks like a 30 foot mortar of bugs have exploded in just that area. If you are able to sneak your way close enough for a cast above and drift into the explosion, bug first of course, you're able to connect with many eager top feeders. We have seen a handfull, at times, of the lumbering Golden Stones. The Skwala Stones were out in force at the end of February, but their arrival wasn't anything to write home about. Black Body Caddis barely showed themselves, and the Case Caddis still cling the rocks to this day. Waiting for their own time/temp to emerge, if ever, this season. On a brighter note, the Grey Callibaetis, Mahogany Dunn, Pale Morning Dunn and a bit of BWO have been fishing incredibly well for a month now.
Streamers, aka “Meat” did us justice all early and late spring to say the least! The big cutties and some bows were very eager to grab the stripped and swung sculpin patterns. So remember cold water = oxygen witch = a highly active fish! To those anglers that have contemplated brushing this season off on the North Fork, I tell you to find that healthy cool water and fish it the last 4 hours of daylight. The river has produced amazing fish all year; it will test your mental capacity when thinking like a trout.
Until next time my friends, Fish On!