YNP & a snowpack update

The past month has been a blur.  Without a doubt, this season has been as busy as I want to be while snow coaching in Yellowstone and trying to run a fishing business as well.   The past three months in YNP are comparable to May, June, July, August, Sept and October, except that it’s much colder.  This cold, snowy, windy weather takes it’s toll a little quicker than summer’s warm days and driving these Bombs 150 miles or more each day will wear, even the seasoned guide, to the bone.  There are only three weeks left and yes, I will miss this job when it finishes up on March 15th.  Where did the winter go?

While these photos show us deep into Winter, angling is not far away.  Each day continues to get longer and this will lead to spring.   Some folks around here think it’s here, but if you asked a Bison, they would say otherwise.  April will be here soon enough and that’s when fishing starts to get really good.  We have quite a few spring trips booked this season and if you haven’t experienced Montana’s other fishing season, maybe it’s time.

Montana Snow Pack

It’s been dumping here in West Yellowstone and throughout Yellowstone National Park for the past ten days or so.  Not everyday has been a blizzard, but consistent snow has fallen from the skies.  Most of this snow has been laden with water and making a snowball straight from the ground has been possible from time to time.  Prior to this, the mountains were slim, but now we are back above 100% and headed into the wettest part of winter.  March, April and May is when things really get loaded up in the high country.  The past several years have a seen a mid-March warm spell, so it will be interesting to see if this occurs once again.

Jefferson River Drainage – 128%

Madison River Drainage – 111%

Gallatin River Drainage – 119%

Missouri Headwaters – 120%

Snow Pack Report 01.16.2014

Over the past month, many a mile has been passed by behind the wheel of Bombardier B12.  Visiting Yellowstone during the winter months is by far a highlight of my year, honestly, I don’t feel that there is finer job out there in West Yellowstone.  While traveling the upper reaches of watersheds such as the Yellowstone, Snake, Gallatin and Madison it’s possible to ascertain the area’s snow fall.  While I don’t feel like I’m an expert on snow pack, it’s handy to compare what the NRCS SNOTEL Site reports with how things actually look around here.

This fall started out as a wet one and overall coverage by the end of rifle season was solid throughout the most of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem.  The Rendezvous Ski Trails had fantastic condition for annual Fall Camp held every year here in town.  When we entered the Park in early to mid December, the roads were in the best shape we’d seen in a long time, baring the Winter of 2010-2011 of course.  At this point, snow pack percentages where doing fine, but I really wasn’t paying that much attention to them cause the white stuff was a plenty, and nobody really gives thought to snow pack in December cause it’s just too early to think about it.  Certain areas were being hit harder than others and I can remember a storm or two than dropped hardly a skiff at our place on the Butte, but dumped in town, on upstream past Madison Junction in YNP and Betwix the Lakes.  The most recent storms dropped quite a bit of Wet & Heavy on the ground and right now we are sitting pretty.  Locally, the snow pack south and west of Town is slightly below average, but maybe the wind blew some of it away.  When reviewing the percentages, it normally takes quite a bit more snow to get these types of moisture content scenarios.   Basically, there is a ton of water in what we actually have on the ground and that seems to be the case all over the State of Montana and parts of Wyoming.

What does all this really mean?  At this point, we have solid snow in the high country…..just where it’s supposed to be.  If you haven’t heard, the avalanche advisory has been HIGH.  Four days ago I saw photos from a slide on Lionhead that showed a 6 foot crown and it slid top to bottom – that’s scary shit.  Also to note is that fishing has been really good when the wind isn’t blowing.  Thus far, January has been quite warm compared to most and the Madison River down in the valley has been topping out at 38-39 degrees each day – that’s pretty darn good for January.

Stay tuned for more updates on snow pack….it’s always changing.

Snow Pack

Madison – 107%

Jefferson – 117%

Gallatin – 120%

You should be here

…….but you’re not.

A couple of fellas are and we’re having a blast.  Dries, nymphs and streamers……heads too.  Yes, October is so nice.  The Cardinals have made it a little better as well.  A World Series in Craig, Montana!

Missouri River Fishing Report 10.10.2013

Once again, the Missouri River proved why it’s one of the finest rivers in the world.  Without a doubt, it ranks in my top five favorite places to wet a line.  Why?  Well……cause, it just does.  If you haven’t seen her, then it really is hard to explain, but from an angling point of view, the options are endless.  The trout are plenty.  The scenery is spectacular.  Need I say more?

Jonathan Heames called way back in the spring and asked me to to hold some dates open for a group of ladies coming to the Missouri and hosted by Patty Reilly.  I had never met Patty, but of course her name has been all over the fly fishing world for 30+ years, so I was excited to fish with her and the ladies.  A full group of women anglers was refreshing.  It’s rare that the entire group of anglers is female and I must say, we all had a wonderful time. Women have a much different style of angling than men.  They really enjoy being on the river, watching the wildlife and scenery and there is not a care in the world for how many fish they bring to hand, which almost always results in a pile of fish being caught throughout the day.

These ladies, six in total, did not want to fish nymphs.  Which, is how 75% of the anglers who visit the Missouri usually fish all day long.  While there is nothing wrong with nymphing and I firmly believe it’s a skill to master, I was so effing happy not to stare at the bobber for three days straight.  We primarily fished streamers, dry flies and from time to time we covered the river with a dry -dropper rig.  So, in fact, we did fish nymphs, but it was in shallow riffles or on scum lines where fish are known to rise.  On the last morning, the two ladies in my boat actually said it was okay to tie on a nymph rig and that they were interested enough in trying it out.  Needless to say, it was working quite well and by lunch they wanted to try something different.  At that point, the pseudos had popped with a enormous emergence and we fished dry the rest of the day.   I saw quite a few October Caddis around and a #12 Orangeish-yellowy-tan Chubby was a great bug for us as well.  Not tons of fish ate the Chubby, but enough did to make it worthy of tying on.

Thanks for a great trip ladies, see ya next October!

Madison & Missouri River fishing report 07.16.2013

Just a few days ago, I arrived home after a week of guiding on the Missouri River.  Jin and the boys had a wonderful time.  When I left, the flows were hovering just above 3000 cfs, today it’s about 2650 cfs.  The nymphing was superb from the moment we put the boat in the water till I cranked it up on the trailer at the day’s end.  The key was fishing the fast water.  Our dry fly bite wasn’t too bad either as Tricos and caddis were the name of the game, but fish also ate ants, beetles and PMDs as well.   While there were some solid Trico spinner falls in the Canyon, the upper river seemed to have higher concentrations of the little black may flies.   Smoke stacks, is what we used to call em’ when I lived in Wolf Creek in the late 90’s.  Millions of these little bugs littered the surface just before 9 am most mornings. The river was busy up high as there were less weeds in the water column up there and more heads to toss flies at.  This is gonna be a weedy season on the Missouri……with any luck the river will bump up a bit and flush some of this on down to Great Falls.  There are sections in the Canyon that are void of weeds, but that seemed to change with the wind, on windy days the weeds would push out of the back eddies and into the main flow.  This made some dry fly fishing tough indeed.   All in all, the Missouri is fishing great.

The past few days have found me fishing in YNP and floating the Madison River.  YNP is fishing really well up in the NE Corner.  There are big bugs around, sallies, caddis and mayflies.  Take a hike…bring your bear spray and some dry flies.  It’s worth it.  The Madison dropped in flows late yesterday and today.  We are down to 1360 cfs below Hebgen, 1560 at kirby and 1850 at Varney.  Lyons to Ruby was a bit tough and spotty yesterday, but Ruby to Varney was super good today.  The river is supposed to drop another 10% again tomorrow and I expect that things will get really good on dry flies once again on the Madison.  Last week’s everyday bump in flows put off some of the hatches, but this morning I saw good numbers of big mayfly spinners in the air and some caddis as well.   The light was tough so we fished nymphs for most of the day.  The fly below as well as a Girdle Bug worked anytime they hit the water.

Today was wonderful…..I got to spend time with my father and my uncle Bob drifting the river with hardly another boat around for most of the day…..we caught a pile of fish.

Missouri Flows to drop down

Below is a press release from the BLM that made it into my mail this afternoon.  Down goes the Missouri….it’s gonna be skinny out there.  The Madison is already low as well, but with the recent rains, they might be a bit more of the white stuff up there in the Madison Range.  While this was a dry winter, the Madison and Missouri flowed higher than normal this past January and February.  PPL said, in a public meeting, that this was done because of a precipitation forecast that “predicted” more moisture than we got.  Opps, that was wrong.  And now the call for irrigation has come.

They have records of flows for over thirty years……….I wonder why they don’t pay more attention to a thirty year (or more) average than to what the weather man has to say.

CANYON FERRY RELEASES AND OPERATIONS: All times are Mountain Daylight Savings Time (MDST)
At 0100 on Tuesday, June 4, 2013:
Maintain releases through the river outlet gates at 0 cfs.
Maintain releases through the spillway gates at 0 cfs.
Decrease turbine release to ? 2,570 cfs (? 627 MW-Hrs/day using 98.4 cfs/mw).
Maintain release for Helena Valley Project at 630 cfs (300 cfs pumped to Helena Valley and 330 cfs discharged to the Missouri River).
Decrease release to the Missouri River to 2,900 cfs.
Decrease total release from Canyon Ferry to 3,200 cfs.
At 0100 on Wednesday, June 5, 2013:
Maintain releases through the river outlet gates at 0 cfs.
Maintain releases through the spillway gates at 0 cfs.
Decrease turbine release to ? 2,170 cfs (? 529 MW-Hrs/day using 98.4 cfs/mw).
Maintain release for Helena Valley Project at 630 cfs (300 cfs pumped to Helena Valley and 330 cfs discharged to the Missouri River).
Decrease release to the Missouri River to 2,500 cfs.
Decrease total release from Canyon Ferry to 2,800 cfs.