Jon Easdon, our Director of Services, shares his recent experience on a local fishery and considers the weather outlook as we head into winter.
I watched BWOs and Tricos hatch in flurries while I stripped off another layer of clothing. I had an ear-to-ear smile throwing dry flies in December. My watch read 11:00am, and I was almost down to a T shirt. The weather was magnificent. It was an unseasonably warm day, and the temperature hit 74 degrees before the day was done. While strong dry fly hatches and great weather are always welcome sights to any angler, it felt quite odd to experience this in early December.
It’s no secret that this fall has been dry throughout Colorado. We often hear in Colorado, “Wait five minutes and the weather will change.” Sure, these 70-degree days have been awesome awesome, but we need some balance … and we need it soon.
While most of the state isn’t officially in drought conditions, this is as close as we can get without that designation. Last winter’s below average snowpack didn’t help things as we rolled into summer. With the low run-off, we saw water restrictions, hoot owl rules, and even closures of certain fisheries.
The thing is, it’s not just here in Colorado that we are experiencing these conditions. Because of low water in the Colorado River basin this past summer, Blue Mesa Reservoir west of Gunnison was drawn down 30 feet to send water to Lake Mead. The interconnectedness of our water systems in the west is far-reaching. The entire western US has seen similar conditions this fall. In fact, there is not one basin in the west that is at average snowpack for this time of year.
Weather experts have stated that in Colorado, we will need to finish around 160% of average snowpack to have a NORMAL water year this coming summer. That’s a tall task in any scenario but seems especially important this winter. I can’t imagine what things will look like next summer if the weather continues this trend. Southern Colorado basins are getting hit especially hard and they have not had anything close to average snowpack for several years.
Believe it or not, our current below-average snowpack is not completely out of the ordinary. Historically, two of our past six winters had a similar snowpack at this time of the year. Looking back even further over the past 20 years, 1/3 of our winters have started out exactly like this one. While the current situation is eye-opening and unfortunate, it is not unprecedented.
According to weather experts, one or two good storms can bring our snowpack closer to average. The question is, when will that happen?
For the short term, it doesn’t look like there is an end in sight. While some weak systems are forecast to move through Colorado at the end of the week, and with a glimmer of hope of active weather patterns at the tail end of the month, we may see some moisture-heavy storms when the calendar approaches “First Day of Winter” on December 21.
Do that Snow Dance
Whether you’re a fan of heavy snowstorms or not, the moisture content is vital to our lakes, rivers, streams, and ecosystem.
The snow we get now will ensure happy fish later. So as you’re preparing for the holiday season or time off from school and work, do those snow dances while enjoying this fantastic weather.
And while it may not seem like winter fly fishing conditions are yet upon us, swing by the shop and let our staff help you with anything you may need for your gift-giving or for your own fly fishing adventure.