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Raging rivers finally calming for summer anglers

A Lochsa River angler tries his luck in the mid-July high water runoff of 2011. (Steve Hanks)
A Lochsa River angler tries his luck in the mid-July high water runoff of 2011. (Steve Hanks)

Slow onset of summer fishing season means good times ahead

A fly fisherman conjuring trout from a stream is usually a common scene come July in Idaho’s river country, but with the exception of the upper Coeur d’Alene River, it’s been a rare sight in July 2011.

Some anglers say the slow start to the season likely spells good things to come.

Rivers boiling at nearly triple the normal flow rates blew out the late spring and early summer season, said Jim Lowther, president of Kelly Creek Flycasters, noting that last weekend was only be the second time he had ventured out in the Lewiston region’s waters.

“I have no idea where to go or what to do until it subsides a bit,” he said.

Mark Lamb, owner of the Traditional Sportsman in Lewiston, told customers to stay clear of the water for the month of May when flows were moving too fast for safety.

Only last week did the water begin getting down to levels he said would typically be seen at the beginning of June.

Lowther said he still doesn’t plan on wading out too far. Flows in some streams are still at twice the normal rate for this time of year.

But even as the season starts to come on, the cooler temperatures and cloudier water have set the clock on hatches back about a month and half, Lamb said.

“Look at the weather; look how nice it is,” Lamb said last week. “It should be dying hot and everyone running to the water to play.”

In a normal year, Lamb said anglers would be trading mayfly patterns for grasshopper flies by the end of July, but they may be just dusting off their blue wing olives and pale morning duns.

The story is the same over the mountains in Montana. Lowther’s wife, Sandie, returned last week from a weekend trip to the St. Regis area with eight other women casters in the club. Not normally a fan of subsurface fishing, Sandie Lowther said she got versed at heaving bead heads into back eddies.

“It was more like slinging the Christmas-tree hardware that you fish for kokanee with,” she said, but added the group got decent results.

Brad Veis, with the Kingfisher fly shop and guiding service in Missoula, said mayflies were just starting to come on about two weeks ago, and he was getting reports of people starting to get some results from brown and tan caddis patterns.

While half the season may be under the bridge, the slow onset could mean a solid trout season from August through October, Lamb said.

The change also could affect steelhead, Lowther said. He figures the higher flows and colder water might negate the thermal block that usually holds the fish in the Columbia River longer.

“I think they’re probably enjoying this large amount of cooler water,” he said. “That’s right up their alley.”

But there are no sure bets in fishing, and even well-rationed guesses don’t always hold water, or fish.

Lamb said stimulator patterns should be good for trout pretty soon as well as light-colored caddis. Terrestrials, such as black ants, would be a good thing to have in your vest, too.

When Lowther hit the Lochsa last weekend, he took a little bit of everything and his tying gear just to be prepared.

“You have to fish different when the water is different,” he said. “I guess that’s what makes it fishing and not catching.”

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