The Changing Course of a River

10 February 2007 By Dan Bachman • Day-Spent-Fishing • Comments (4)

Big Wood in Winter ‘My rod swings through season and time.
Across the trout cline.’ -Me

Fishing the same runs, holes and stretches of a river or stream each season is normal for even the most casual fly fisherman. While I love to explore new sections of a river, there is solace in fishing what you know and tossing flies near the same large rock year after year.

Spring flooding changes rivers over time and part of the excitement for me each season is to see how a river has been altered. My very first trout was caught in a deep hole on Trail Creek behind a boulder along a steep embankment. Within 5 or 6 years the hole had dissappeared as the eroding bank filled in and made the river shallow.

So when I hit the Big Wood yesterday for a little winter fishing, I expected the river to be a little different from last winter’s trip. What I wasn’t expecting was how much it had changed. But then again, maybe I should have considering the great water year that most of Idaho had in 2006. The Big Wood ran at nearly 7,000 CFS at one point near the end of May and since April the flow has been well above the 90 year median. Flows that big are bound to push around a lot of river rock and gravel, erode banks and fell trees.

Holes that were 4 or 5 feet deep last winter are now gravel bars that are a foot higher than the river. Quite a few newly fallen trees laid in the river and claimed several of my stonefly nymphs. And new runs exist where last year they were shallows.

As I fished along a couple miles of the river in Bellevue the most dramatic evidence of the power of this past springs runoff was above a bridge where the river now runs at least 80 feet east of where it did last year.



  1. 11 February 2007 Tom Chandler

    One of my favorite stretches of the Upper Sacramento river has filled in and changed enough that it really shouldn’t be one of my favorite stretches, but loyalty still exerts some influence, even on fickle fly fishers.

    Interestingly, one of my most productive stretches of the Big Wood in winter two years ago was relatively flat and uninteresting last year. I don’t know if I’ll get back to check it this year.

  2. 11 February 2007 rod crossman

    Dan, Please send me an email so I can write back to you… love your site I paint about flyfishing also.

  3. 12 February 2007 Alistair

    Lovely post Dan, I too love watching how a river changes each year. This year there will be big changes on my home stream as before Christmas it was in full spate for around 3 weeks.


  4. 13 February 2007 Dan Bachman

    Tom-Let me know if you make it up this way.

    Rod-email sent.

    Alistair-It’s fun to figure out where the fish are again.

Back Cast
Feed: Back Cast