The charts don’t lie. California’s winter’s snowpack has quickly become one of the worst in recent history:

California 2013 snowpack

Quickly becoming one of the worst snowpacks on record…

In the interest of turning lemons into a refreshing lemon-flavored beverage, Older Bro and I are kicking around the idea of a highly speculative, opening weekend assault on one of our normally off-limits-by-reason-of-snowdrift alpine streams.

Last year — which turned out to be a slightly less than normal snow year around Mt. Shasta — we tried to reach one stream on May 14 (2+ weeks after opening day), but fell well short.

“This year,” we keep telling ourselves, “things will be different.”


It’s the kind of longshot that oddly leaves us cursing the small amount of snow that actually did fall, suggesting us mountain fly fishermen are pretty fickle.

I spend the fall hoping for a good winter snowpack, then spend the winter cursing the snow as it falls on my driveway. In the early spring I’m thrilled by a hefty snowpack, which means the little streams will see good flows through the fall — but then I want that same snowpack to get the hell out of the mountains because the runoff interferes with my spring fishing.

Late in the summer, I’ll look at my little streams and wonder where all the water went.

A fly fishermen’s perspective, it seems, is mutable.

The Backup

The downside to trying to reach this particular alpine stream is that the Emergency Backup Stream isn’t all that great. You don’t want to necessarily plan for failure, but once the snowdrifts loom in the windshield, it’s nice to know you’re not wholly screwed.

Still, no reward comes without risk, and lacking the realtime satellite intel us alpine small-stream fishermen so clearly need, Older Bro and I are left to speculate endlessly about our choices, gathering data (or what passes for it in the fly fishing world) and researching forecasts.

A week of really warm weather would help.

In the end, we’ll discard almost all the data we gathered and make a decision based on what we want to happen instead of what actually might, proving once again that fly fishing isn’t a sport (or an industry) driven by dollars or logic as much as hope.

See you digging through that final snowdrift, Tom Chandler.