Mountain Stream and Lake in the Absaroka-Beartooth mountains.
Drift snorkeling can roughly be described as snorkeling in a river or a fast current, and is like watching fish float by the window of an underwater train. Observing wild mountain trout swimming and feeding - while swimming and floating in their medium (water) is a exciting and exhilarating experience.
In early afternoon, we hiked to a beautifully clear mountain stream in Montana. The sound of rushing water, flowing over a series of cascading rocks was a little daunting at first. The water was clear, cold and visibly stunning; Cyan-emerald green with sparkles and swirls of blue and yellow. The water was comprised of melted snow from higher elevations and our wet suits, gloves and booties helped protect our thin skin from the cold.
Entering the water was an awakening experience as the cold water flowed around our face mask. The sound of the rushing torrent of water became a muted symphony of tiny sounds. The afternoon light from the sun provided incredible illumination even at depths of 10 feet below the water's surface. When something caught my eye, like a large rainbow trout tucked between the branches of a sunken tree, I was mesmerized by the fish's smooth motion and reflective body.
Fly fishing was fun for about 25 years but I gave it up for drift snorkeling. Watching fish in their natural settings is truly a beautiful experience. It gave me a greater appreciation of a fish's life. Also, after watching how a fish would react after getting caught on a dry fly (watching under water), I was a bit disturbed. Bobbing about on the surface of creek, then digging its fins into the clear water, it was beaten around a bit by the jerk of the fly rod.
Snorkeling is a wonderful way for the "fish obsessives" to explore the and learn about the riparian world. Snorkeling is a relatively safe pursuit. Most of all, it can help us develop a very healthy respect for rivers and the life that lives there.