ASHLAND — Rogue Valley anglers are cleaning their fishing rods, sprucing up their boats and knocking on wood this week in preparation for Saturday's traditional opening of the spring trout-fishing season.
Open waters full of rainbow trout and the prospect of shirt-sleeve weather await valley anglers planning their traditional pilgrimage to Hyatt and Howard Prairie lakes as they join a quarter-million Oregonians who usher their fishing season in on the fourth Saturday of every April.
Despite steady snow falling Wednesday at these Dead Indian Plateau lakes east of Ashland, both reservoirs are ice-free and forecasts are for 60-degree weather.
"I'm very anxious," says Floyd Grimes, a 69-year-old Ashland barber and Howard Prairie denizen during the trout season, which runs through Halloween. "I went up and put my boat in Sunday when it was 70 degrees."
Hyatt and Howard Prairie are the two most notable Southern Oregon waters to open Saturday after a winter's fishing hiatus. Also opening is the Jenny Creek system east of Ashland and the Ashland Creek forks upstream of Reeder Dam near Ashland.
Diamond Lake, in eastern Douglas County, also opens Saturday, though it remained under slushy ice with virtually no open water available.
"The last few years we've had ice fishing on Opening Day, but not this year," says Rick Rockholt at the Diamond Lake Resort. "The ice is rotten as heck, and you'd fall through if you went out there now."
Rockholt says there are pockets of open water off the resort boat ramp and near the mouths of Short Creek and Silent Creek, where he expects to find a few die-hard Diamond Lakers on Saturday. But water temperatures remain in the mid 30s, leaving trout with chattering teeth that are less likely to bite.
Diamond Lake's ice usually melts away once the water temperature hits 42 degrees, but that might not happen for about two weeks, Rockholt says.
The picture is quite different at Hyatt and Howard Prairie, where water conditions and air temperatures will match the romanticism of an opening weekend.
Often the week leading into the opener is spent wondering whether all the ice will melt off these reservoirs and whether the snow will fall straight down or blow sideways.
Conditions Wednesday certainly seemed to foreshadow that at Hyatt Lake, where a storm front blew in from the north Tuesday and continued Wednesday.
"Monday was gorgeous, but we have 8 inches of snow and rising now," says Pam Sterrett, general manager of the Hyatt Lake Resort.
But the snow was not impacting either lake, both of which have been ice-free for at least a month, allowing Hyatt Lake to be stocked with legal-sized rainbows for the opener.
Chances are, Wednesday's snow will be off the shoreline by Saturday.
The National Weather Service is forecasting just a 20-percent chance of rain Saturday and sunny conditions Sunday, making for a pleasant opener for anglers who will need to pack sun screen in their tackle boxes.
"Let's hope the weatherman's right for a change," Sterrett says.
Grimes isn't sweating out Saturday's fishing conditions. In fact, he will keep his tradition of being a member of the audience at Howard Prairie and not a participant.
"My opener is Monday," Grimes says. "I let the once-a-year guys have their turn. I might wander up there to see what's going on, but my boat won't leave the dock."
Reach reporter Mark Freeman at 541-776-4470, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.