Writing this today, sitting on the back porch, it feels like spring is just right around the corner. Highs today are in the mid-50s; definitely a day to open the house up and get some fresh air after the frigid temps earlier this week. Also a great day to get outside!
The very cold temps earlier this week did put quite a bit of ice in our local rivers, of which most of the river-borne slush and ice has dissipated at this point. Water temps are still very cold and there is a lot of shelf ice and ice jams in our local rivers. The Yellowstone remains jammed up mid valley, but down below town it’s much more clear.
Fishing in our backyard here on the Yellowstone has been a bit slow, as it usually is this time of year. The Yellowstone has never been known as a great winter fishery, and we are all looking forward to when things start warming up and getting more active. It’s coming!
The spring creeks remain a great option, and on calmer, warmer days you can find some good dry fly action on them. Bring small flies, lots of patience and your A-game. They aren’t for the faint of heart.
Not much has changed on other waters since our last report. The Gallatin Canyon is providing some action, but please be very mindful of ice jams upstream. The Lower Madison and up into Bear Trap Canyon has been solid - fish the buckets with crawfish patterns and keep an eye out for midges on top in the rock gardens. Weather like it is today, and I would be very certain there are boats on the water between Warm Springs and Blacks Ford.
This is the time of year where spring is so close you can almost taste it. You can, on warm days like this, certainly smell it. The warmth and birds chirping bring a hope to the air for those who don’t ski and are usually pretty over winter by this time. This year however, I think all of us are wishing winter would stick around a bit more.
Our snowpack figures aren’t looking great. Basin averages are below 80% for the Upper Yellowstone, Gallatin and Madison areas. We could definitely use some moisture laden late winter storms before spring actually sets in, but it’s not looking likely.
So what does this mean for anglers?
Fish hard early, and expect that hatches and runoff are going to be earlier this year. It’s impossible to tell how it’s go at this point and how fast the existing snowpack will melt out. If we get a nice, cool spring that will certainly help extend the melt, and give us more good water later in the summer. If we get a run of 80 degree days in May… well, we know how that worked out last year.
Trying to be realistic, if you’re coming out in late July or August, be prepared to be flexible in your fishing plans. Certain rivers might be shut down or have restrictions, and you might be getting up with the sun to fish before it gets too hot. Nothing wrong with that, sunrise in a Montana summer is hard to beat!
Stay tuned as the situation continues to evolve. There is a lot that could happen between now and the end of runoff and like I said, it’s impossible to tell as of now. Give us a call at 406.222.1673 or stop by the shop for the latest info, gear and flies. We’re getting a lot of our spring apparel, gear, and flies in every week! Come check it out.