The Shoulder Seasons of Jackson Hole

June 18, 2009 by Will W Leave a reply »

A frequently asked question during the busy summer fishing season is: what do I consider to be the best time to fish our rivers in the area?  I generally have to laugh as the angler up front hooks yet another nice fish on a large dry fly and the person behind me is so awe struck by the scenery and cobalt sky that he or she is not too concerned about the catching.  My initial thought is what most everyone prefers, the peak summer months, which are July, August and September. Then I begin to recall truly incredible excursions almost every month of the year, so after releasing a solid 15inch trout from the net I look at the guy and comment that April and October are the best times in my opinion.  Again, I laugh as he looks back and says “but is it not snowy and cold then,” as everyone assumes.

By now we are breaking for lunch  on a nice gravel bar or island and it allows me to elaborate on one of my favorite subjects, the changing seasons and how our rivers and trout respond to those changes and thus, how motivated anglers do not put the rods away, they adapt as well.

The fact is that there truly is fantastic angling in our region year round, with the exception being the coldest periods of winter.  What you have to consider is if you are up to the challenges of the shoulder seasons, referring mostly to early spring and late fall.  The first challenge being that outside of  July and August, snow and colder temperatures are a real possibility.  Obviously, the closer to winter the better the chance for these conditions to arise.  As a guide, this is the easiest challenge to overcome, just be prepared for anything.  A good guide will have everything you need and then some.  During this time the most valuable clothing I end up loaning out is a fleece ski hat and fingerless fishing gloves, these two articles can make or break a day if the weather decides to turn foul.

Before July and after mid-September the pace is much more relaxed and the big morning rush for the river is absent.  Most activity will be concentrated between noon and 4pm when the optimum water temperatures are present.  A typical day would have you on the water by 10am, fishing for seven hours or so and making it back in time for dinner without missing any of the action.  This time of the year is a great opportunity to brush up on technical angling skills, like streamers and small dry flies, which can help you shine in the summer months.  During these periods ninety percent of the hatches you will encounter will either be midges or baetis (BWO), in sizes #18-22.  May sound challenging, as it is, but very exciting and many are surprised by the size trout that take these minute insects.  On the other end of the spectrum there are streamers, these imitate larger food items, such as minnows and sculpins and require another level of skill in itself.  Because the shoulder months coincide with some spawning periods (never fish to active spawners) you  could find yourself battling it out with a real trophy trout.  The main challenge to fishing a streamer is often the need for a longer cast, sometimes with sinking lines or shooting heads.  In addition, good line handling skills are a must but in any case a good guide can really help you with these techniques.

River flows at these times are generally low which has positive and negative effects.  On a good note it concentrates trout in slower, deeper runs taking the guesswork out of where to fish; sometimes it can be quite obvious.  On the other hand some sections of the rivers are just too long or shallow to navigate which can be heightened by the shorter days.   Wade fishing at this time can be excellent if you know what holes have winter habitat, otherwise you could spend a lot of time in fishless water.

Lastly, what I consider to be the best benefit to trout hunting at these times is the quietness and solitude.  Over the years all these rivers will see an increase in traffic, possibly to the point where they need to be regulated more but the late and early season months can give you a sense for what it was like many years ago, no crowds and often eager trout. Also, do not forget our area lakes at these times, they are terrific fisheries and in general are not utilized by most fly fishermen.

So, if you are looking for an alternative season to go fly fishing in the Jackson Hole area take a closer look at the months not listed as “peak”.  There may be a few new challenges but you will certainly see the benefits and reap the rewards.  Keep in mind to check for off season rates not only with accommodations but with guide services and dining as well.  Pay close attention to the weather in the west while at home, sometimes it can be real nice in April or October and airlines often offer great deals during the slower seasons.  Last tips are to be open minded, consider lakes, and always listen to your guide and go on his or her suggestion.  Always embark with the attitude to learn and take in the entire experience and the fish will follow.

Looking for water properties? Also, check out Wyoming ranches for sale.

Comments are closed.