by Terry Ring
We have become accustomed to dry years here; this year, however, has been far from dry. Since early December, snow painted the peaks and the valley floor bright white leaving us with a record snowpack in the Big Wood, Big Lost, and Salmon River basins. Even the Silver Creek valley was covered with snow from December well into March. It was a spectacular winter.
Throughout the spring, a colder and wetter than normal weather pattern has increased and preserved the snowpack at higher elevations. The Big Wood River is flooding and will likely continue to stay at flood stage until sometime in June. It has already set many daily records for flow; the river is dangerous at these levels. Stream flows are forecast to be 200 percent of average and may even reach 270 percent of average through June. The closest year for comparison is 1983; that year the Big Wood River came up to 2,000 cubic feet per second (CFS) in early May, averaged about 3,200 CFS in June, and did not come down below 1,000 until the end of July. To put this in perspective, at the beginning of July 2016, the Wood was flowing at 500 CFS and dropping.
Clearly, June and early July will be challenging on our freestone streams. Keep in mind, Silver Creek opens on May 27th and because the Creek is spring fed, it will be clear and fishable. The Creek is certainly a beneficiary of the wet winter as the runoff recharges the aquifer that feeds it. As for freestone fishing, there will be plenty of opportunities this season after the rivers calm down. We can predict that conditions from August on will be very good, including spectacular fall fishing.
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Conversation this winter was all about snow. Now the conversation revolves around water. You are welcome to call the store anytime for the latest information. Our guides are on the water every day. Todd, Murph, Chris, Joe, and John can be reached at 208-423-1738.