JACKSON, Wyo. — Early mornings on the river offer unmatched tranquility. They’re also becoming ecologically necessary.
Amid record-breaking visitation this summer, rivers and streams are also reaching record-breaking temperatures. Flat Creek opened to fishing Sunday, Aug. 1, amid a severe drought in Teton County. And as warm water threatens native cutthroat trout, fishing guides have had to adjust.
“At the end of the day, the resources we fish and utilize are in a pretty vulnerable position this year,” said Chris Littauer, vice president and guide at WorldCast Anglers.
Once water temperatures approach 70 degrees Fahrenheit, fish get stressed. Even a short amount of time out of the water can be lethal. Already this summer, Yellowstone National Park has closed their waters after 2 p.m. due to “unprecedented low stream flows” and high water temperatures. Wyoming Game and Fish urged anglers to adjust fishing practices in mid-July.
Meanwhile, the demand for fishing is higher than ever. This is the biggest boom in demand since “A River Runs Through It,” a popular movie staring Brad Pitt, came out in 1992, Littauer said.
WorldCast is booked through September and reservations are even spilling into next July, Littauer said. Grand Teton Fly Fishing is booked through September and Grand Fishing is booked weeks in advance.
“This is the busiest we’ve ever been, especially for last minute bookings,” Bruce James, manager for Grand Teton Fly Fishing, said in an email. “I turn down at least a couple dozen bookings each day.”
The upside, outfitters agree, is that guides are unofficial experts on fishing conditions, and it’s in their best interest to act accordingly.
“I don’t think anybody cares more about fish than outfitters, and even more their guides,” said Mike Rheam, owner and operator of Grand Fishing Adventures. “It’s not just their livelihood, it’s their passion.”
So guides have adapted. WorldCast has already stopped fishing some stretches of water like lower Henry’s Fork. Trips are on the water by 7 a.m. Grand Teton Fishing has a contract with the National Park Service and pulls their trips as soon as the water hits 68 degrees, which isn’t happening until later in the day, said owner Scott Smith. Still, they’re not offering afternoon half-day trips. Trips start early and end around 2 p.m. Grand Fishing guides won’t let guests take fish out of the water for the traditional “grip-and-grin.”
But these adjustments are just good practice, guides agree. It’s a close community, Littauer said, and they know that one season of “misuse” can have serious consequences.
“Good guides and anglers are always paying attention to the water,” Smith agreed. “It’s a little more intense this year, but it’s nothing new.”