Flows and the damn Dam
River flows in the Madison Valley, from Hebgen Dam to Ennis lake, are sitting pretty good right now as we shift from summer to fall. At the Kirby Gage, she’s registering at 994 cfs. Over the past few weeks, the heat and high sun have been minimal and river temps are hanging in there on most days. However, there have been some super hot days once in while and the river temps can still hit the high 60’s and low 70’s. Once 68 degrees hits the river, you might as well reel up, sit back and take a boat ride. Recently, we have been experiencing some very cold over night air temperatures and several mornings here on Horse Butte the thermometer has read 28-30 degrees. That folks, has been the saving grace for the Madison River, well, that and decent flows from Hebgen. This past week, Hebgen Dam began to pull from roughly seventeen feet below the surface. This is NOT the point where we celebrate just yet. Apparently, this will only drop the river temp a couple degrees, but that’s better than top releases any day of the week. Sometime in November (cross your fingers), Hebgen will hopefully be completed and the river will pull from 37 feet below the surface. Right now, I am holding my breath and really won’t believe its fixed until it actually is. This project has stretched out for way too long and we are all completely over it.
Madison River Fishing Report 08.25.2015
Inconsistent…to say the least. Really though, I’ve had a bunch of great days on the Madison River this summer. However, if you are gonna roll the dice and fish the river only one day while you’re in the neighborhood, you had better be on the good side of the trout gods…..or be a little lucky. It also helps to bring your A-game and let the fish eat your fly. Your day could be a dink fest, but please remember to pay attention as there are some really nice fish eating the fly and just when you think it’s a dink and you don’t set the hook, you’re hating life and wondering out loud where that big brown trout came from. My only answer to that question is, “they live here too”. The nymphing crowd is pounding rocks and mid river runs with various flies like: shelia sculpin, trevor’s sculpin, rubber legs, zonkers, midge larva, $3 Dips, olive dips, crystal dips, shop vacs and the traditional no bead pheasant tail. The rest of us are fishing dry flies whenever possible with hoppers, ants, wulffs, beetles, trudes, small royal stimis and pretty much any reddish attractor pattern. I like fishing a single fly this time of the year as most of us, myself included, tend to get a better drift with just one fly on the end of the line. It’s late August and the trout are not dumb, so tighten up that skill set and pay attention.
Hebgen Lake Fishing Report
I will never claim to know everything about Hebgen Lake, it’s almost impossible. However, I’ve been playing around the lake this August and Hebgen has shown us some really good days with calibaetis spinners, duns and ants. Slow stripping mayfly nymphs is a great way to spend any early morning in an unnamed bay on the south shore of Hebgen Lake. I absolutely love watching the lake come alive from 8 am till noon. Some days, like today, there was glass all over the lake till almost 3pm, but making the fish eat was a little difficult. My best bug here lately has been a #14 Missing Link fished on 5X.
Writing and this blog
I would like to reach out and thank those folks who have asked me to keep writing and posting my random thoughts here on the site. Running the business…aka…. full time guiding/outfitting, tying flies for what may be your trip tomorrow, answering emails and phone calls along with mowing the yard and running the bird dog has gotten in the way of writing. Writing is hard, and while I don’t claim to be very good at it, writing is time consuming and after some 600 posts on the blog, I got tired. With any luck, I’ll continue to find some time as I really do enjoy writing, but sometime it’s just hard to find the energy. Thanks for reading! If you enjoy social media, please check us out on Instagram, that folks, is the easiest way to get your fix without sitting in the boat with us on a river here in the great state of Montana.
Spring in Montana has been more like summer during the last week on the Missouri River. When I arrived, we had some snow showers and cooler weather, but lately, I’ve been donning sandals and getting my feet wet. The early morning river temps have been a little chilly and there were two days that the river was cold enough to make one’s teeth hurt. It was similar to an ice cream headache that started with your toes and moved quickly up my six foot frame. I am nine days into 2015 guide season and it feels great to be back on the oars. Not much has changed on the Missouri River, but for someone who has guided and fished this great river during April and May for the past 15 years, it’s busier than years past – that’s for sure. Is it crowded, you ask? No, not really, but if the weather is too nice and that ends up on a weekend, then it can feel crowded. Some of this is due to a very low river enabling wade fisherfolks to access more of the river and some of this is due to popularity of the Missouri River in recent years.
Last season I spent the month of October on the Missouri River and we never saw a true Blue Winged Olive – a species of Baetis. In fact, they never saw more than a couple BWOs in November either. A year ago this month I was here as well and we might have seen a few of the smallish mayflies, but they never really matieralized. October of 2013, was the last time I opened up the BWO box with regularity. The BWO that hatches in the springtime up here is more gray than the BWO of Fall, which is a true olive color. We should be calling them Beatis all the time as there are many, many species of this mayfly. For more reading, check this out – Trout Nut. We’ve also witnessed a couple days of solid March Brown mayflies thus far in late April and Early May. When these hatch is prolific numbers, you will not have better dry fly fishing here on the Missouri River.
Once again, BSA will be guiding the Missouri River all season long. Our resident guide, Greg Falls, can be found rowing his boat most everyday of the year from late March through November. I will be around for several more days of guiding and getting out on the water myself for a hopeful late morning/early afternoon hatch.
This past winter I started an Instagram account to help promote the business and also cause I really just love taking pictures. What I like most is that Instagram is about capturing images of everyday life with your phone. Taking photos, for me, goes back to childhood. Growing up, my father took A LOT of photographs of our outings with a Nikon film camera, that, at the time, was a great camera. Those printed photos are sitting in the basement of my folk’s house back in Quincy and are super fun to look at when Molly and I make it back to the homeland for a visit. To me, photos are a visual time line that mark periods of my life. Periods that can almost be forgotten as the memories stack up over time. As I get older, capturing these moments is almost as important as the moments themselves. When I’m old, gray and no longer able to row a boat, I’ll have photographs to remind me of the good ole days.
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.
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.
We’ve been fishing streamers and dry flies for the past two weeks or so. Some days have been banner and some days we scratch out a good day on the water. Those who keep their head down and strip it with fishiness have been rewarded here on the Missouri River. The dry fly bite is as good as you are and from time to time a bit of luck is helpful. October is one of my favorites and I really don’t want to fish anywhere else this time of the year. Tom and Harry showed up for a four day run, the Ladies trip was here, Molly ventured in and Heames’ boys are currently in town. Ten more days and two more groups of great anglers. All we need is the weather to cooperate just a little more.