For three weeks now, the Madison River drainage has seen mild daytime temps and hardly any snowfall. The valley is void of snow and it seems more like April than February. With that in mind, I must say, Winter will return. The boat ramps in the Madison Valley are free and floating is an option in the upper river till she closes in a couple weeks. My new boat from RO Drift Boats is not quite laid up yet, but next week I plan on spending some time with Robert at the boat shop. Yes! I’m getting a new boat for the 2015 season….exciting stuff is happening on this front. More to come in the next few months.
Today I sat and watched a pair of golden eagles play on the thermal air around Palisades. Nothing says, sit back and watch, like two giant birds soaring hundreds of feet above you; cupping their wings, diving straight down and then pulling out, ascending back above the cliffs. At that point, who cares about the fishing, the trout. They will still be there in five minutes. It makes one realize how important these open spaces are to us all. Palisades is BLM ground – Federal land that belongs to each of us. Let’s keep it that way.
The Firehole has been alive with rising trout, some of which I watch prolonged and then realize that all but a few folks on my snow coach tour could care less about them. With the warmer than normal winter, I can’t help but fish on days away from Yellowstone National Park . Lots of anglers are drifting flies throughout the work week from Reynolds Pass down to Ennis and through the Beartrap Canyon. Go downstream for solitude, being alone on the Madison does wonders for each of us. Stella has become quite the fishing dog, sitting beside me to observe the scene no matter how deep the water I wade. She loves to sit in my wake and stall out on a boulder just large enough to get her chest above water.. Today she snapped up a large whitefish from the river as it was released. Her head went full on under the river and she was udderly proud of her catch, looking at me as the tail smacker her fury cheek.
While the snowpack is low, there is still plenty fo time for it stack up…keep up the snow dancing though, we need every inch. Stay tuned for more updates on snowpack and winter fishing reports. We are bound for Cody, Wyoming once again this Spring for a little golf and March/April angling. Cody is a little gem that is getting harder to keep under the hat.
Guiding for Yellowstone Alpen Guides during the winter months provides ample opportunities for photo graphs. While I am in no ways a professional, I thoroughly enjoy keeping my camera on hand everyday and taking advantage of my time in Yellowstone National Park’s Interior. If I could spend a little less money on fishing and hunting gear and little more money on higher quality lens’, I’d be in better shape for taking pictures. Each day that goes by allows me to see shots that I would like to take depending on where wildlife pops up in the right light or if the sunset or sunrise presents itself. I have a shot in mind, with a great subject of a bison skull, but just haven’t had the opportunity yet to sneak away from the coach and get it.
The Winter Season in YNP is half over and if the white stuff doesn’t start to fall here in headwaters of the Madison, the season could come to an early end in March. However, we do live in once of the snowiest places on earth and are bound to get some February snow fall. Is it time for a snow dance? We started out the day with a drizzle of snow and warmish temps, but it petered out and we got a skiff…just enough to cover the ice and make it slippery than the bottom of the Madison River in the Big Bend.
This week’s daytime highs for West Yellowstone are forecast to be in the 40s. Really, the 40s? If the air displacement doesn’t come up too much, the fishing in the Madison Valley should be really good. Down in the Valley, the river temps have been hovering around 36-39 degrees and slightly cooler in betwix the lakes. Hebgen Lake is 4.4 feet down at this point and the flows out of Hebgen Dam are higher than normal as well. Hopefully, someone with PPL over in Butte is watching this closely as we might just need all the water we can get to fill Hebgen on time, which as some of you know, can be a problem.
Madison River below Hebgen – 985 cfs
Madison River at Kirby – 1050 cfs
Madison – 84%…this would be like getting a “D” in fourth grade math. Sad really…pray for snow.
Jefferson – 103%…slightly above average
Gallatin – 107%…better than the Jefferson
Missouri Mainstem – 118%…great lowland slow pack for this time of the year. It will melt in a couple weeks as the weather continues to warm up come February.
The valley is void of snow. Not trout though, they are there. It’s been warm thus far in December and the rest of the week looks to be fabulous fishing weather. All this snow melting and general warmness has given me the itch to fish and with a world class trout stream like the Madison, just a short drive away, I figured it would be a good plan. The river was empty today, as it is so often this time of the year. Rigged with a single dry, I walked way down below Three Dollar and poked around for an hour or longer and found not a head – the hatch was light too. After fishing blind for a bit longer, I made the switch to a shallow nymph rig and caught fish till I felt that everything was right again.
If I didn’t have guide training for YNP beginning on Friday, I would pack up Stella and head to eastern Montana till the snow fell. Most of us are wondering when Winter will actually begin. The West Gate of the Park opens on the 15th, but we won’t be driving a bombardier in Yellowstone anytime soon. Recently, I’ve come to the realization that Cody would be a grand place for Molly and I to live, however, this would only be for the months of November and December…the bird hunter in me has come up with this plan, but at this point it’s just conceptual. I also want a second draht, an airstream that comes with big sacks of money and another shotgun. It’s not that Cody is a bird hunter’s paradise, it just happens to be a bit closer to bird hunting paradise.
I woke this morning in a haze of confusion, unaware of where my head had fallen the night before. Something had just bumped into my legs and was hovering over me. My eyes opened up to see the shaggy face of a dog, now inches from my nose. Moments later Stella wet the side of my face and put her down on my chest. It was then I realized …. I was in West Yellowstone, at home. Shooing away Stella at 5 am, I rolled over for a couple more hours and enjoyed some much needed rest.
The 2014 Guide Season is officially over. All that remains is the boat load of paperwork sitting in my office. Most of that isn’t due for two months, which makes plenty of time for getting outside and enjoying what’s left of Fall. To all those who came out to fish with us this year, we would like to extend a huge THANK YOU! Without folks like you, Greg, Earl and myself would not be able call Montana home. We appreciate the business and are already looking forward to 2015 – which just so happens to be our 10th year of providing top shelf fly fishing trips in Montana. Ten years…..let’s hope the next ten takes longer than the last ten.
The fire next to the kitchen table is keeping all of us, both hounds, a kitty and myself warm on this ultra wet chilly morning. Once again, we slept all night through the pouring rain and woke to the same soaking from above this AM. In a couple hours I will be packed up and ready for the four hour drive to Craig, the self proclaimed fly fishing capital of the world, (however we all know that West Yellowstone will forever hold this title) for my last push of guide trips of the 2014 season. The next month will find me living with Kuhnert and Courtney….tying flies at night, watching play off baseball mixed with some EPL and rowing a boat during the day. Twenty-two trips in total and I can only hope that cloudy weather and cool temps continue to be in the forecast through late October. Greg Falls has been working nearly everyday up north and providing me with weekly reports – they’ve had solid fishing and each day it get’s more Fall-like. The Missouri gives me a chill, it always has and it always will……
An old friend, exceptional fly tyier and fellow guide passed away a few days ago after a two year battle with cancer. Nick, you will be missed by us all….over ten years ago you showed me the $3 dip – that fly changed my outlook on flies and guiding. You were a ghost amongst the rest of us and I very rarely knew where you were fishing. When I did happen upon your rig, I always made a mental note but never went back there with clients. Thanks for being a friend to young guide trying to figure out the way down the river.
August and September were wet as wet as anyone can remember in recent history. The photo above was from early September and our first snow of the year on the level. That was a particularly windy day, out of the north, and I don’t think I ever made a back stroke on the oars all day long. The fish have stayed hungry through September, mostly eating nymphs and streamers, but there were several days of solid dry fly fishing. Small flies like $3 dip, Black Crystal Dip, the DOB, #12 Prince, Olive Serendipities, Pink SJW and #10 black rubber legs were my best flies down in the Madison valley over the past few weeks.
Big Trout are running up the Madison in YNP as I write this. The flows have been higher than normal and the daytime temps cooler as well. What that really translates to is more trout in the system for a longer period of time. October will provide some solid fishing opportunities around West Yellowstone and I look forward to seeing photos of big browns in the month to come. While I love guiding and fishing the Missouri River in October, I will miss swinging flies for the grab of a migratory brown who has been lurking in Hebgen Lake all summer long.
You will very rarely see me all tuxed out like this……my wife is stunning….me? Well, I just look good cause she is standing by my side.. See ya soon Molly! Can’t wait to fish with you on the Missouri.
It’s been just over three weeks since the last fishing report. Sorry folks, the river guide lifestyle has gotten in the way of keeping this weekly, sometimes bi-weekly, report from the pages of our web site for your viewing enjoyment.
Not to worry….it’s back!
Over the past six weeks we’ve been fishing on the Madison, Missouri and rivers in YNP. The last report posted here boasted of the incredible three days of salmon fly fishing that one of our clients was lucky enough to partake in. Those memories are still popping up in my brain.
The flows on the upper Madison have bounced up once again over the past twenty four hours and rushing out of Hebgen Dam is 1090 CFS. At Kirby she’s running along at 1180 CFS. This is a great flow and should help the nocturnal stones get to the bank side boulders and hatch out in good numbers. It might also help insulate the Madison River from the sunshine, but honestly, with 65-71 degree water flowing off the top of Hebgen, we are relying on clouds and cooler nights to help keep the river chilly. Today, on the Madison, the river felt pretty cool till about 3 or so. The river fished spotty with dry flies, but it was quite good at times from Lyons to Windy Point. There were PMDs, Caddis and a few Yellow Sallies hatching that kept fish looking up.
Molly and I had the pleasure of fishing with Maggie Merriman today, a local legend of sorts who has fished these waters for nearly 60 years. Maggie was a bit ahead of her time, developing clothing lines for women and teaching women specific classes on fly fishing and insects back in the late 70’s, 80’s, 90’s and early 2000’s. Molly lived with Maggie a dozen years ago, prior to our meeting here in West Yellowstone and they became quite close. Maggie pulled out a Sage 590 LL and fished it with pure ease from ramp to ramp. She bucked the wind all afternoon and placed her single fly inches from the bank and smack dab in the middle of the slicks. It was a joy to watch her fish…….Thanks Maggie!