Coastal fisheries are ruled by the tides. High in the northern Rockies though, the productivity of an outing can be made or broken by timing the snowline. Unlike the tides, no reliable lunar cycle can forecast the elevation and condition of the snowpack. Rather you have to cobble together your own charts from investigatory day trips, second-hand anecdotes, and your own personal brand of calculus (The derivative of afternoon storms, divided by the asymptote of midday sunshine, multiplied by the inverse of weeks until the trip. Don’t forget to carry the wind). Miscalculate one way and you may slog through rotten snow only to find that your fishing destination is an alpine hockey rink. Err in the other direction and you squander those magical early days of summer returning to the high country. Time it just right and you can find ravenous fish celebrating ice-out with exceptionally bad decisions.

In that sense it’s a high stakes calculation, so I’ve been crunching the numbers and watching the mountains for weeks. In all honesty though, trying to plot the intersection of snowline with a place on the map and a square on the calendar is really just an academic exercise; a way to keep my mind in the hills when my body can’t yet be. Legendary sportsman Teddy Roosevelt said it best. “In any moment of decision the best thing you can do is the right thing, the next best thing is the wrong thing, and the worst thing you can do is nothing.”

In other words, come hell or high snowdrifts, I’m heading for the mountains.

4 Comments on “Snowline

    • Thanks Mike. You can’t win if you don’t play right? Turns out it was a heck of gamble this go around. We timed ice-out about as perfectly as one could hope for and had a great trip.

  1. Just made this gamble yesterday in the snowies. it was 40 degrees and hollowing hard up top.
    my family opted to stay in the car while i snuck a few small brook trout from the only shelter i could find.

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