river thermometer

I’ve been waiting for a break in the hot weather. The last few days have been somewhat cooler. Somewhat. So I got up early and made the long drive to my favorite river on the Plains. I’ve been avoiding it due to the intense heat and waiting for an opportunity. When I arrived I checked the temperature in the main flow. It was fairly cold. In the shallows it was passable. A kid was standing mid river smiling and casting frenetically. I saw no rises. He said he had the whole day to fish.

I can’t remember a past season where I used my river thermometer as much as I have been. It seems I’m checking water temperatures several times a day. And I’m watching river levels and flows, the 7 day weather forecast and the 14 day forecast at night on the internet. I feel more like a Weatherman, than an angler. And it’s only July 6th, the start of the summertime angling season. Prime time. The best the year has to offer. I can’t imagine what temperatures are going to be like in mid August. Fires are already burning in British Columbia. Smoke could be on the way as I write.

I walked several pools I know well and carefully watched the water. Nothing. I waited until lunch for a hatch. Nothing. The air temperature started climbing. The river pelicans landed and hunkered down.

I decided to venture to a different stretch of the river and hiked back to my car. The kid was still on the same pool smiling and casting away at the same pace. As before I saw no rises.

At the new location I checked a long straight bank where I missed a great fish late last season. I looked it over from high above. The lighting was good for spotting. The trout was there. It was also rising occasionally to small minuscule, invisible stuff. I dropped down and checked the river temperature once again with my thermometer. It was still good.

The trout refused my first offering, a size 14/16 ant. Absolutely no interest. Then a tried a size 18/16 PMD dry fly with some segmented wire wraps on the slim body to make it sit low (in the water). I think any fly the right size and sitting low would have worked. When I finally got the fly on target the fish ate. Luckily the small fly held and I landed it. A wonderful trout. With that I decided to call it a day.

I looked over the river and thought that with the heat I might not get back to it until mid to late September. I pointed my car towards the mountains and drove home windows open thinking about the kid casting away, about how the tiny hook held on a great trout, and about the river I was just on. My favorite one. It could be the best sight-fishing trout river in North America (that you can drive to) if water (reservoir) management slightly increased the flow throughout the summertime, and if ranchers kept their cattle out of the water. On the Plains ranching and farm irrigation take priority over trout and other things but that’s an old story.


That kid is probably still casting. That kid was me fifty years ago…

9 thoughts on “river thermometer

  1. That’s cool, spotting the trout that you saw late last fall. Then getting him with little to no activity Up and Down the River. Sweet.

    • Jim: It’s an interesting river. On many of my best days angling there is little hatch activity. I watch the pools from above or on flat terrain close in. Sunny is good. Fish often cycle in a pool. They leave the deep and check out the edges/shallows for leftovers and terrestrials then return to the deep water and repeat. Their hunting cycles are often quite predictable and after watching the feeding route/pattern once or twice you can intercept them. They are cautious feeders. Fun stuff. all visual. Not a lot of them but all good size. I haven’t seen much of this feeding so far as possibly the shallows are too warm, or little food….pools are also much smaller and have only been to the river 2 x so far. Also beetles, hoppers, crickets are just getting going now….so not a lot of them yet on water; being blown in. Many fish are down 3 or 4 feet in flow/O2 water nymphing at head of pools and staying there not cycling out. I saw some large shadows in that type of water other day. Tried pulling them up with big item but no go. Sometimes that works but not so far. Anyway, I hope things cool at some point and river livens up. In august, some years, good trico hatch and they are on them. You always have an invite…

      • Thanks Bob. I always have that passport with me, but the border is still shut down right now I think. I sure want to get up there. Maybe fall.

  2. I have to agree, I had a great early spring on a small Brown trout stream near me. More hatches than I’ve seen in a long time with March brown flourishing along with BWO’s and Midges. But by the end of May the water temp zoomed up and water levels plummeted, Browns disappeared into deep pools. It is to the point that I have not had the heart to fish a few of the lower streams. I’m heading out tomorrow to a high mountain stream to try to beat the heat. Rainy day so I do have my mopes up.

    • Lornce: I saw some of those impressive browns you caught this spring on alberta facebook site. Good looking fish and nice tying as I’ve commented. Good luck tomorrow! Hope water is cool. Thanks for commenting.

  3. Bob, a great fish, well caught. And, a memory to get through the coming “dog days”. Funny how we looked forward to summer on all of those cold, windy, spring days. Now we can hardly wait for fall.

  4. Hi Bob,

    A stream thermometer can be very useful. I remember reading an article once by Bob Scammell about taking water temperature in streams. He recommended you should always let your fly, leader, and line trail downstream as you kneel down to get a reading on the thermometer. If you catch a fish on the dragging fly, it’s definitely the right time to go fishing. If you don’t catch a thermometer fish, it’s probably time to go for a cool beverage.

    • Vic: I got a chuckle out of that story from a Bob Scammell article. I’m sure he wrote many similar pieces as I’ve heard he wrote a book called: Good Old Guys, Alibis and Outright Lies. Those “Legends of the Angle” were always looking for a reason to go get a “cool beverage”. I remember reading that he had a little fishing place called “Stump Cabin” or something like that. I hope some angling organization purchased it when he passed away and it is now some sort of sanctuary/shrine. Hope all is well.

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