More thoughts on winter

MT_SWE_17Feb16

The image above shows current snow water equivalent by river basin.  Notice the dates range, 1981-2010.  These percentages would actually be lower if the data included the 1970’s as Montana received more snow back then.  Earlier today, it was raining.  Yes, raining in mid-February at 6666 feet of elevation. Sure, it was snowing in the high country, but rain at this time of the year is a little alarming to most folks who call this place home.  In the early afternoon, the temperature started to drop and snowing began to fall once again around West Yellowstone.   in the matter of a few minutes, winter returned.  With any luck, we’ll continue to see moisture build up in the form of snow and not rain.  Most of us wold like to see the snowpack sitting around 110% right now, but we’ll take this as compared to a year ago.

Rain and warm temps make the snow pack form a crusty layer on top, thus providing a hard living for those animals needing to get down to the food below the surface. This layer will not simply go away, but will stay there as more snow falls on top over the course of winter.  While out in Hayden Valley yesterday, I watched a fox make several leaps into the air trying to break down through the snow and get the rodent it was after.  The fox succeeded, but only after busting the hard layer, digging with it’s paws through the icy snow and then pouncing once again.  It was a ton of work for the fox for such a small reward.  It got me thinking about this winter and the warm weather we’ve all been witnessing during “winter”.  The day time highs all around Montana have been very warm over the past couple of weeks and most, if not all, the snow at lower elevation is gone.  While this can happen and isn’t something to freak out about, it’s not normal what so ever.  There is plenty of time for more snow to fall, we just need the daytime temps to stay below freezing so that we don’t keep loosing the precious moisture that’s already accumulated this season. For those of you who are thinking about spring time fishing, pay attention to how warm the temps are over the next couple of months.  If things stay warm like this through February and March, fishing is gonna be very good in April and May.  If this season is anything like the past few years, spring angling opportunities  in Montana and eastern Idaho should be plentiful.

Pray for more snow!


Winter will return

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.

YNP and a Snowpack Update

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.

Maybe tomorrow…?

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.

Flows

Madison River below Hebgen – 985 cfs

Madison River at Kirby – 1050 cfs


Snow Pack

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.

Upper Madison River Fishing Report 02.22.2014

After a quick run to the dump and to town for some gas, the dogs and I ran down to the Madison Valley.  It was 14 degrees when we departed and slightly blowing.  Rounding Hebgen I was looking forward to spending a couple of hours on the river as it has been over a month since I stepped foot down in the valley.  Upon hitting Quake Lake the wind picked up and was blowing hard…..the kind of wind that makes you want to turn around, head for the couch and watch some English Premier League.   Luckily, I kept driving and once in the Madison Valley, the wind vanished and the temps warmed up a bit to the mid-twenties.  Midges were already rolling down the river at noon and a thin veil of clouds was keeping the sun at bay.  For a Saturday, I was surprised to only see two other anglers.  After fishing the bridge pool, I looked up to see my buddy Neil atop of Reynolds Pass Bridge.  We caught up for a few minutes and decided to walk downstream and work back up.  Over four hours later Neil and I had made our way back to the bridge and went trout for trout the entire time.  Both of us never changed flies, fishing a single midge pattern all afternoon.

Today was one of those days………

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%

Yea Buddy!

Several days ago, this photo showed up on my phone.  Pictured above is Jonathan Heames (left) and his son Finn with a 8 lb rainbow trout caught in Chilean Patagonia.  Throughout October and November, Finn was learning to cast a fly rod in their garage, just down the street from our place on Horse Butte.  On Finn’s first day out fly fishing, he’s only 3 1/2 years old, and with in ten minutes, he managed to hook and land this rainbow on a dry fly.  This kid is ruined for the rest of his life.