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Current Conditions and a Wacky Spring


The conversation at this time of year turns to spring run-off and questions about how high the flows may get and how long run-off might last.  Well, this year it’s going to be pretty much a crap shoot in terms of trying to make any sort of prediction because of our relatively dry winter, at least in some parts of the state, and our current snow pack.  Our resident and expert entomologist Robert Younghanz, “The Bug Guy,” weighs in regarding current conditions.  


Let’s start with where we are now.  The snow levels that feed our major river drainages range from relatively normal to alarmingly low.  The SNOTEL chart below reveals how the southern part of the state – The Arkansas, Rio Grande, Gunnison, and Animas – have snow levels that may dangerously impact our rivers in the summer months.  As the angle of the sun steepens and night air temps stay at or above 40 degrees, the flows will increase – but what those may actually look like is still anyone’s guess.  



Yesterday, Robert pointed out that we are currently seeing four conditions that typically increase stress on our cold-water species:  high water temps, premature insect hatches, low dissolved oxygen levels, and excessive aquatic vegetation.  


Though not as extreme as we see in our summer months, the early high water temps in cold water fisheries stresses fish.  Most anglers set the 70 degree mark as “No Fishing” conditions. It’ll be important to keep an eye on the water thermometer as we move through the spring and into summer. But early high water temps mean that the fish are feeling it.  


Higher than normal water temps has another effect – premature insect hatches.  A bug’s life cycle is contingent upon water temps, so our abnormally high water temperatures are moving that cycle up.   Things are out of whack and that stresses fish, too. They like predictability and routine.  


Two other conditions are impacting the health of our fisheries and the fish who live there.  Dissolved oxygen refers to the amount of oxygen in the water – and rainbow and brown trout thrive on higher levels of dissolved oxygen.  Warm water lowers dissolved oxygen amounts. In addition, the higher than normal aquatic vegetation reduces water velocity – which further impacts both oxygen levels and bug life.  


Robert reminds us to “be a steward and a caretaker for the resource.  Use heavier tippet, land the fish faster, take fewer photos (if any), and let them go even faster.”  


We’ll keep an eye out on the flows and forecasts as we head further into spring.  Watch this blog for more.  


And if you want to learn more about bug life, sign up for our Intro to Aquatic Entomology and Fly Selectioncourse on May 16.  And check out Robert’s two-day course, Aquatic Entomology, offered throughout the season – next class is May 23 / May 27!


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