Friday, February 23, 2018

Joe Caton

Fishing remains good, even in fast-running river

A conversation with Joe Caton
BHCN: Good afternoon, Joe. 
Joe: Yes, it’s a beautiful day, a little breezy.
BHCN: Sounds like you’re outside.
Joe: Yeah, it has been an interesting day picking morels, picking the wood ticks off and stepping over snakes.
BHCN: I noticed the ticks were out yesterday. I came in and found two of them on my jeans.
Joe: Let me get behind a tree here somewhere so I can get out of this wind. You’re probably having a little trouble hearing me.
BHCN: There’s a bit of static but, other than that, I can hear you.
Joe: The river is up about the same, it’s not much higher. It’s still probably at 10,000 cfs-plus (cubic feet per second).
BHCN: You’re really close. I’m looking at the lake’s website and it says the flow is at 10,500 cfs now. 
Joe: That’s a bit more than last week.
BHCN: I also see they’re holding the reservoir just below 74 percent. I also see the inflow is almost 9,500 cfs and the outflow is just below 10,500.
Joe: Well, if they’re at 74 percent full, we’re probably not going to see any higher water, and that’s okay.
BHCN: Ten thousand five hundred is pretty high and fast.
Joe: We’ve got enough. I don’t think we can handle much more than that without some serious problems.
BHCN: That’s true. What kind of success have you had on the morels? 
Joe: Oh, pretty good. Actually, there’s enough for a good supper. I’ll probably cook up some hamburger with some morels and that should be good.
BHCN: How well do they keep?
Joe: Generally, I don’t have a problem with that; they get eaten pretty fast and I never find enough of them for more than a meal or two. Once in a while, you get lucky and get quite a few, then you have to remember how to dry them or dehydrate them. They’re never as good; they’re always better fresh.
BHCN: Enjoy them with some good hamburger or – even better yet – some nice bison burger and morels.
Joe: That would be excellent. I’ve also noticed, especially in this little coulee I’m in right now, the wild fruit buds are just starting to pop open.
BHCN: I was noticing the same thing around my place, but mainly with the lilac bushes. They’re starting to open and there are quite a few of them. If we can just avoid another hard frost, we might have a good crop of flowers and fruit this year. 
Joe: You’re right. If we don’t get a hard frost, there should be a really good crop of wild fruit.
BHCN: Talk to me about the snakes. What are you seeing?
Joe: Oh, just the garter snake or water snake, nothing poisonous, and no bull snakes, just the ones the herons like to eat.
BHCN: The herons and my cats like garter snakes. We used to have quite a few garter snakes around the place, even some up to three feet long and fat, but since we’ve had these four cats, we’ve seen very few of them. 
Joe: I didn’t know cats would go after garter snakes. [They’re] probably just doing what cats do.
BHCN: Right, play with it for a while. I don’t know if they eat them or not. I haven’t found any dead ones around, so they’re disappearing somehow. If they’re eating them, that’s less cat food I need to provide.
Joe: There you go. Start a new breed of cat and people may actually want to have a few around if they know they’ll keep the snakes away. The main thing for the cats is to know the difference between a garter snake and a rattlesnake. 
BHCN: I have not seen any rattlesnakes on the east side of the ditch. I do wonder what a cat would do if it came across a rattler. Hopefully, it would be smart enough to leave it alone. 
Joe: The [rattlesnake’s] noise-making and its aggressive behavior would probably cause a cat to back off.
BHCN: You’re probably right. I know they go after things that try to run away, just like dogs do. You’re seeing wood ticks too. Are there many of them?
Joe: I am seeing them, but I’m also in the kind of brushy areas they like. I’ve had a couple crawling on me.
BHCN: With the river flowing this high, I would say you’re probably not doing much fishing, is that correct?
Joe: I’m not, but there are a lot of people who are. There’s a lot of drift boat activity on the river.
BHCN: Really?
Joe: Yeah, they’re going up – the middle section is clearing – but most of the activity is the in the top section from the Afterbay to Soap Creek or Afterbay to Bighorn.
BHCN: Man, like we talked about last week, that doesn’t seem like it would be a fun, relaxing fishing trip.
Joe: No, it’s a different river right now, but it still produces fish even at this high flow rate. Even now, you can still catch fish.
BHCN: That’s amazing. Do you still need to be using the San Juan worms, primarily?
Joe: Yes, that’s the main one, but you can drop off a dropper fly – from that down to a sow bug or a shrimp pattern or anything like a pheasant tail, even smaller stuff. Many times, they see the worm, but don’t go for it, but then will grab the smaller tidbit that you’re trailing about 12 to 14 inches below your main fly.
BHCN: They actually ignore the larger, possibly tastier fly and go after the tidbit? That’s interesting.
Joe: The main fly works very well quite often, too, but it seems to work well as an attractor, then they see the smaller one and it gets them in trouble.
BHCN: With this kind of water and the abundance of food in the water, they sure aren’t hitting the flies because they’re hungry.
Joe: No, but they’re gorging. When it’s like this and there’s so much food out there, they’re opportunists. When it’s there, they take advantage of it.
BHCN: I’d bet they’re using quite a bit of energy just to stay in place with this kind of flow rate.
Joe: Actually, this is good for the fish; there’s a lot of food, water and area. They’re not crowded into one little run or riffle. It’s just better for the fish on this higher water. It’s tougher on the fishermen because the fish are dispersed differently, but you still read the water the same. The Bighorn will produce fish and is actually fishing pretty decent right now. I haven’t been up above, but the guys I’ve talked to say they’re doing pretty well.
BHCN: That’s one thing you have always said, “The Bighorn always produces fish.”
Joe: Yes, it does. Today, the only downside is the wind. I wouldn’t want to be out there in this wind. 
BHCN: Joe, it’s time to say goodbye. I hope you have a great Easter morning along the Bighorn tomorrow.
Joe: I will, and thank you. I always enjoy my time in church along the Bighorn on Sundays.
BHCN: Have a great week, Joe.