What month is it again? We have to ask because it sure looks and feels like April out there! Multiple days approaching 60 in the forecast for this week have many of us leaving the skis behind and wondering about hitting the river. It’s not the worst idea…
This winter has been one of the strangest ones we can remember. From the lack of moisture, crazy cold snap that came and went abruptly, and the unseasonably warm temps, there have been a lot of red flags to be concerned about. As the snotel map below shows, things aren’t looking that great across the entire state. However, there is still a lot of winter left. We don’t have to remind people of the big storms that can come in March! Fingers crossed winter hits us hard later in the season.
As with all other things winter fishing has been affected in a pretty considerable way. Temps are warmer, shelf ice isn’t that much of a problem, and places that are usually very hard to get to with deep snow are more accessible. A note on ice however - be extra careful in places that have been known to have ice jams. This warm weather can cause an ice jam to suddenly give way and you don’t want to be in the way of that.
Speaking of ice jams… Driven down Paradise Valley along the Yellowstone River lately? You’ve likely noticed the incredible amount of ice centered around Mill Creek over the past few weeks. The jam extended for miles both up and downstream. While most of it has cleared out, there is quite a bit of shelf and shore ice left. If you absolutely have to fish the Yellowstone, head above it - the Emigrant access was clear at our last check in. Look for midges midday, or dredge the deep and slow water with dead drifted streamers, rubberlegs, and perdigons. The reliable Zebra Midge makes a great dropper in all instances this time of year.
A better local option is the spring creeks. They are always solid winter options, and the midge action can be quite good midday (if the wind cooperates!). Even during the lower pressure season of winter these fish are incredibly picky and offer very technical fishing. Plan accordingly.
Other waters are well worth the effort. Bear Trap Canyon on the Lower Madison has been fishing quite well, even with the high and constant winds. The Lower Madison is a great low commitment float to get the boat out and soak up some of the mid winter sun. Hit the buckets with swung streamers, crayfish, and midge patterns. This is the time of year to really fish good water well, and fish it hard.
The Upper Madison has also had its issues with ice jams and blockages, and as such we are recommending people stick to Varney and up. The classic Upper Madison winter spot is Reynolds Pass/Three Dollar Bridge area and we’ve heard a few decent things. The winter midge fishing and nymphing can be excellent up there.
The Gallatin River below Big Sky is a decent winter fishery as well, and we’ve heard solid reports recently. The wind here will be a lot more tolerable than anywhere else. Fish the deep runs with a smaller rubberlegs with a perdigon or jig style fly or a midge larva off the back. Don’t be afraid to add enough weight. Midges will be out and about midday. The Gallatin in the valley can be hit or miss with ice jams, so we’d stick to the canyon.
This time of year is “low commitment season” as Rob would say. Fishing is more about getting out of the house and getting some fresh air and sunshine than catching many fish. You can fish all day, or stay out just long enough for your toes to get cold. You do you.
Winter is also fly tying season and we are proud of the selection of tools, materials and vises we have available in the shop. Rick has done a great job putting together a great fly tying area in the back of the shop and we have everything you need. We’ve even got some classes and events coming up! A big thank you to everyone who came out to our first demo tying night last week with Matt Wilhelm, and we have another coming up on Monday, February 19th. Jan Axtell will be tying perdigons. Bring your vise and tie along or just come hang out.
The shop is open 9am-6pm everyday except Sunday when we close at 3pm. We’ve got gear to keep you dry, apparel to keep you warm, and the rods, reels, flies, and terminal tackle to keep you going no matter what your commitment level is this time of year. Tight lines this week!