Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Joe Caton

Think twice before fishing the Bighorn

A conversation with Joe Caton
BHCN: Hello, Joe. Is this too late to talk?
Joe: It’s just fine – no problem at all.
BHCN: I was just looking to the south and there are some really dark clouds down in your area. Are you getting hammered?
Joe: Well, it’s the first lightning and thunder of the year.
BHCN: I thought I heard thunder, but it sounded really far off.
Joe: It is right now; in fact, every once in a while there’s a flash and a big rumble. I guess that’s a sign of spring. 
BHCN: It could be. Do you have any rain?
Joe: Oh yeah, but not a lot. It looks like we’ve had a quarter inch or more so far.
BHCN: More rain or any moisture is probably the last thing we need right now.
Joe: Yes, my mud was just getting dry enough to walk on.
BHCN: Your mud – that’s a good one. My driveway has just dried out. I have one section at the end that has turned into a small lake and I’ll probably have to bring in some gravel to fill it in. Other than a spring storm hitting your area, how has the rest of your day gone so far? First off though, when did this weather hit you?
Joe: About an hour ago, around 6 to 7 o’clock, I could see something was coming in, but that’s the time the rain, thunder and lightning started.
BHCN: I do like thunderstorms. I like the lightning and the thunder – and even the wind, as long as it doesn’t get really strong. I don’t like the hail.
Joe: Hail generally does come with thunderstorms around here. We’ve had enough moisture. We need some sunshine. My grass, in places, really needs to be mowed, but that won’t happen now for at least a few more days.
BHCN: That’s what I was planning on doing today, also. [I] woke up to a wet back deck and knew I would have to change plans.
Joe: I was going to mow today, also and it’s just not dry enough, even before this storm hit.
BHCN: It didn’t rain all day until around 4 p.m., but it was only a few drops; then all the dark clouds headed south toward you.
Joe: We’re getting hit pretty well right now. In fact, I just shut the lights off in the house and it’s like the Fourth of July outside.
BHCN: Is it pretty windy too?
Joe: A bit, but not too bad.
BHCN: What else did you get to do today, other than watch a lightning show?
Joe: Actually, not a whole lot, just a lot of miscellaneous. I started in my garage again trying to organize. I started out trying to find some sockets and tools I have, and saw my garage was such a disaster I had better do some spring-cleaning.  I was occupied in there most of the day, throwing stuff away and organizing. As for fishing the river, at least in the area I like to fish, it’s not really that dirty. It’s cloudy and fishable, but there must be a 10,000 cfs (cubic feet per second) flow rate.
BHCN: You got it right on. I’m looking at the website and the flow rate is 9,977 cfs.
Joe: Okay, my marker rocks are way under water now.
BHCN: What’s interesting is the inflow has really increased and is now up to 9,300 plus. That’s almost a 3,000-cfs increase from last week.
Joe: I imagine it’s about time for it to begin to really come in with this warm weather and if they get any of these warm rains – that’s the disaster that brings it so fast.
BHCN: Well, they’ve been able to draw down the reservoir to 74 percent full.
Joe: Seventy-four, well they’re way down; they might be able to handle quit a lot of water then.
BHCN: They are letting about 600 cfs more out than is coming in right now, so they’re still trying to drain it a little bit. Hopefully, they will not have to go over 10,000 cfs down the river.
Joe: Yes, it’s pretty tough right now; the banks are washing out. I was down to the lodge that’s right on the river and I kept hearing splashing as the west side high grade bluffs were eroding. Big chunks are dropping into the river.
BHCN: That’s not good, a lot of land is being lost.
Joe: These high flows are not good, but I guess they need the water down toward the Mississippi.
BHCN: Well, do they need all the dirt too? 
Joe: Yeah, you do wonder about all the silt, but it probably winds up as an island somewhere or on some bend in the river and it changes the channels.
BHCN: There aren’t any deltas between here and the Missouri, are there?
Joe: I don’t think so.
BHCN: All this silt must have a real impact on the channels of the river and size of the islands. Have you seen much boat traffic going past you at St. Xavier?
Joe: It has slowed down. I figured I would see quite a few with it being Saturday. I stood outside this morning and all I saw was two boats, a raft and a local that I knew with a drift boat. It looked like they had been somewhere and were coming back home. I only saw two rigs go by in probably 15 minutes, when I normally see a lot more. During the day, as I was working on the garage I saw some stuff going by, but nothing like last weekend.
BHCN:  Well, with a 10,000-cfs flow, is that something you really want to be in?
Joe: It’s fishable, but that’s a lot of water to fish. It will turn out to be more of a fast boat ride. However, there are a lot of fish in this river and you will probably still catch some. I think people just want to get out when it’s nice and take advantage of any opportunity.
BHCN: If they haven’t been paying attention to the flow rate, they’ll probably be really surprised when they get to the launch site.
Joe: Yes, they will be, because we really have lots of water.
BHCN: With this flow rate, won’t there be lots of trees and debris coming down the river now?
Joe: Oh yeah, there will be fence posts and any miscellaneous debris that was lying along the bank or anything that washes out of the bank like trees.
BHCN: That would be a serious danger to face in addition to high, fast water.
Joe: Yes, trees can be an issue.
BHCN: It doesn’t sound like a relaxing fishing trip.
Joe: Wow, that was a real snap of lightning; it lit up the whole area! No, not unless you just want to go for a fun boat ride; fishing will not be all that good.
BHCN: Are you still going to try to get up to the Billings Gun Show on Sunday?
Joe: I didn’t make it today and, if it continues raining, I may try to get up tomorrow. It will be on until about 3 p.m. I would like to get up there and talk with some of my old friends.
BHCN: Joe, it’s time to say goodbye. We didn’t have much to talk about today – other than just everyday things. If you do make it up to the Gun Show, we can talk about that next week.  
Joe: Sounds like a plan. Talk to you next week.