New water was explored by my fishing partner/guiding boss and I yesterday. We have been wanting to float the lower stretch of the South Fork for several years now. Stories of this awesome brown trout section has peaked our interest. Our over all impression of this stretch is awesome in spite of not hitting at it's peak condition.
This section has a reputation of being difficult and dangerous to float for the inexperienced oarsman. Between Greg and myself we have a combined 35yrs of floating experience so we were quite confident in our ability to handle what ever came our way.
Fortunately the water flow levels right now make floating this stretch relatively easy and safe. The lower water level reduces the river to one main channel that occasionally splits into a couple of smaller side channels. The river is also running slow right now giving rowers plenty of time to make the right choice on which channel offers the best route. It also allowed Greg and I to evaluate what the river would be like during periods of higher water and identify potential danger zones.
During normal summertime water levels and especially in runoff/high irrigation releases this stretch poses a higher risk to the inexperienced floater. The normal flow water marks are 4 to 5 feet above the current level with the high water mark being several feet above that. Under these higher water conditions this stretch of river will braid up into numerous side channels. There are many snags through out this section. Two such sections I have heard referred to as the Cottonwood Graveyards. In these areas the river shallows up and splits into multiple channels. All the trees washed down by high water come to rest here. Choosing the right path through this obstacle course will take an experienced oarsman. Also thrown into the mix are numerous irrigation diversions that should be avoided.
The difficulties in this stretch also offer great fishing potential. This stretch presents a lot of structure for the fish to use. From undercut banks, log jams, riffles and side channels. One is presented with awesome brown trout water during normal summertime flows! I will be floating this stretch more this season for sure.
Now to how our day on this stretch went on the 16th. We only boated about 6 fish total. We missed out on hooking up with about 4 times that many fish. Short takes on streamers and slow hook sets on dries were the cause of the missed fish.
The streamer action was sporadic throughout the day. The most active streamer color was Black. The takes were slow and at depth of a couple of feet mostly. If you hit this stretch on the right day the streamer action would be awesome. I'm looking forward to going back next week!
As for dry fly action there was a very good but short lived BWO hatch in the early afternoon. Greg boated a couple of Cutthroat and missed a couple more during this short hatch. As days go on and the water warms up I'm sure this hatch will get better. Maybe by next week the BWO's will be in full swing.
With only one main channel for most of this stretch and lack of a hatch it ended up being a rather short float. We put in at 10:30AM and took out at 5:00PM. Our put in would have been earlier but the one we planned on using was dry and would have required carrying the boat across a gravel bar to the river. We had to headed upstream to the next boat launch. During high water we will use the lower launch in order to avoid an irrigation draw that cuts more than half the river about 1.5 miles down from the upper launch.
Here are a couple of pics. None to write home about I'm afraid.