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Tuesday, March 18, 2008

The North Platte River Spring Flushing Flows

The North Platte River and Grey Reef are privileged to witness such a rare and productive trout program as flushing flows. Every time the Bureau of Reclamation (BOR) transports an unnecessary gallon of water downstream, it is one less gallon they have to allocate later. What I mean by unnecessary water is, water that doesn't have an irrigation or consumptive purpose. I would imagine that, in the grand scheme, moving water strictly to improve trout spawning habitat would be considered a waste. But, the BOR and the Wyoming Game and Fish do this for the North Platte River.

The flush is designed to remove fine sediment from the gravel beds that are needed for successful trout spawning. For a look at a spawning bed photo or a little insight into spawning, read the previous article "Spawners, The Ugly Truth" by Trent Tatum.
This year the flush is scheduled to run for 5 consecutive days at Grey Reef. The max flow for each day is 4000cfs(cubic feet per second). They will start at the winter flow of 500cfs, bump it up to 2000cfs for a couple of hours, then to 4000cfs for a couple of hours, back to 2000cfs and eventually back to 500cfs. This process starts at midnight and is finished by 10:00am. To put that quantity of water into perspective we haven't seen regular flows over 2500cfs for many years, and the max controlled release at Grey Reef is 5400cfs. If you have ever been on the North Platte River at 5400cfs it is quite big and quite a rush....but still fishes excellent!

If we are really lucky, like we were last year, we get a fall flush. This normally happens in October. We hadn't had a fall flush for a number of years so we were shocked to find out that we were getting one. Mark at the Platte River Fly Shop informed me just a few days prior. There are debates about which flush is better or if one does more damage than good. Some think that the fall flush may damage brown redds or the Spring flush literally flushes brown fry downriver. I have no reason to argue with those points, because we see many dead fish after the fall flush and spring flush. I believe the benefits out weight the detriments and am happy to see a flush bi-annually.

Today is the second day of the 2008 spring flush. And, while water conditions may appear bad, my brother Rick (North Platte Lodge and The Reef Fly Shop guide) landed a 23" brown on a streamer yesterday during low tide.

The spawn will really kick in after the flush and the fishing should improve over an already good spring season. Have fun!

Erik Aune

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