….Take A Kid Fishing. Why? Because you should….it’s good for them and it great for you. Yesterday, two dozen 8th and 10th graders had the opportunity to fish with a dozen fishing guides from West Yellowstone. Not only did the kids hook a bunch of trout, they had the chance to hang out on one of the finest fisheries in the world (most for the first time ever) with people from their own community who care about the experiences children have when growing up. Getting kids outside and showing them the outdoors is something that should be at the forefront in every town- especially small communities like West Yellowstone which are so close to the mountains and rivers of southwest Montana.
I would like to thank all those who donated their time, energy and gear which helped to make this happen – whether it was guided fishing, gear or lunches, this could not have happened with out all of you. About a year ago, I wrote a letter to some friends at Patagonia asking them to donate boots and waders to FOAM’s TAKF fishing program. They responded with a dozen sets of brand spanking new waders and boots in small sizes to fit the school kids. That’s about $6000 in fishing gear……a thank you is not enough……but thanks Mark and Bart – you guys rock. These boots and waders are part of FOAM’s TAKF program and travel around the state to be used in different communities.
She’s open and dirty, but fishing really well. There might be a foot or so of visibility, but trout have to eat and fishing a big rubber legs on 6lb Maxima is a ton of fun. We also played around with small nymphs as a solid hatch of BWOs rolled down the river over the weekend. Flies like a #16 or #14 PT worked just fine. A few fish rose, along the banks and in skinny water, but 99% of the action was under a bobber. Honestly, right now, it doesn’t really matter what flies you fish. Just get it in there, try not to drag it and hold on. Lots of rainbows are still spawning and with this dirty water, it’s really tough to see the redds. Shallow water and gravel……that’s where they are.
The Madison’s trout are healthy and the populations seems stable, despite what some folks think about the upper Madison. On Saturday, anglers came out of the wood work to enjoy the river. Today, not so much. A north wind was blowing rain upstream and it felt pretty brisk out there. Molly and I got out for a couple of hours, then ended up at the Grizzly Bar for dinner and a seat by the wood stove. 45 degrees, a north wind and rain will drive most anglers indoors at some point.
….to look into the future? Just go fishing. That’s what I’d do.
What I mean by this, is can one really say what the summer angling season will actually look like? Educated guesses are popping up all over the Web and some of them are quite good. I pay attention to a couple of them, just to compare with my own thinking. Even then, some of the best fishing is when one just heads out, with no expectations and fishes. This could be in January or during the dead heat of late August.
Here are the facts:
1. Run-off has started. Yes, indeed it has. We normally see some pushes of low level snow melt in mid May, but we are full on into run off and it’s two weeks early, maybe three. The low level snow pack is gone. The mid level snow pack is almost gone.
2. Snow pack is light. While it looked great a few weeks ago; the lack of rain combined with warm weather and wind evaporated the snow pack. I have been up in the high country, hiking around to check it out. What is left up there, will soak into the ground and may not hit the river like years past.
3. Mud…..rivers around West Yellowstone are a bit off color, but from reports in Ennis, there is 12 inches of visibility down there. Of course, there is always more mud to come out from the West Fork of the Madison, so this will change. Cabin and Beaver Creeks are up and muddy, but I have yet to check out Quake Lake or the Slide – that will come later today. It looks like the Dearborn River (Missouri tributary) has peaked so the lower reaches of the Mighty Mo’ should stay clear barring any freak snowstorms.
4. Rain showers passed through SW Montana yesterday afternoon. Water fell from the clouds for most of last night, it poured from time to time, but the ground soaked most of it up and puddles are rare outside my door on Horse Butte. More rain is forecasted for through Monday, so if you’re planning a trip to Madison for the Opener, bring a rain jacket – it’s gonna be a wet one.
5. Snowfall is still a factor. It’s only May 17th and I have seen 2.5 feet fall in the yard as late as June 23. What I’m getting at is that the next six weeks can be VERY wet, and honestly, the tri-State area needs more moisture or it’s gonna be a smokey summer.
6. The lakes have to fill before the rivers bump up. There are a few exceptions; like the Big Hole and Yellowstone, but overall, the lake systems will fill up and then the water cometh.
7. Early is a solid bet. Anglers are shy about June because of the past several years of big water. In 2012, the Madison was fishing really well by the 17th of June and not a soul was here. Hatches of insects will be early as well. I remember guiding the Missouri in early June about 10 years ago and PMDs popped. The river was empty for a few days and then the word go out. 2013 is reminiscent of the early 2000′s. 2013 Salmonflies? Hmmmm……too early for a solid guess, I won’t even try. They will be early. Most years we see heavy hatches by the 4th of July, not the case this year. As for the Missouri hatches? Right now, there is very good dry fly fishing on some days. Once the water bumps up past 6000 cfs, the dry fly bite will slide off, but don’t expect the Missouri to get really big this season. We could see PMDS and Caddis by early/mid June around Craig and down to Cascade.
This is the deal:
There is not one angler, guide or fly shop owner who can predict the future. Don’t expect us to even try….actually, we all like to try, but most of the time we’re wrong. Mother Nature holds the cards and she knows what hands will be dealt. If you live close to the Rocky Mountain West, it’s easier to get here when it’s good. If you live further away, come out when you can, as there is bound to be some great angling throughout Idaho, Montana and Wyoming. Right now, everything hinges on moisture. Pay attention to the next four weeks, watch the weather, the river flows and check back here for more updates.
With flows hovering around 3800 cfs, the Missouri River is a bit on the shallow side. Normal flows right now are about 5200 cfs and after some discussion at Joe’s Bar a couple of nights ago, we agreed that the river is the lowest we have ever seen for this time of the year. It has been lower, dating back ten years or better, but those flows were in August. However, after yesterdays 85 degree temps, the rivers around southwest Montana jumped up with snow melt, sending water downstream to the Mighty Missouri. When will the Missouri rise up? Who knows at this point. The fishing is great, so is the catching. Streamers, nymphs and dry flies are producing. We saw some serious heads two days ago above Craig. Real risers, that were eating every 20 seconds in six inches of water. March Browns are still popping as are BWO and midges. A trout reel will scream when one hooks a fish in shallow water……so much fun that is. This will be one of those seasons on the Missouri River. Are you coming out? October will be very solid if you happen to miss the summer craziness.
Madison River @ Cameron: 2050 cfs….bounced big time, rising almost 500 cfs in the past two days.
Jefferson River @ Twin Bridges: 2340 cfs…..tripled in size over the past six days.
Gallatin River @ Logan: 1290 cfs….chocolate milk all the way up through YNP.
Missouri River @ Holter: 3800 cfs, clear untill the Dearborn but fishable all the way down. Canyon Ferry is 74% full, one reason the Mo’ is low.
Dearborn River near Craig: 922 cfs. Blown out, good for rafting and opens to fishing on May 18th.
The Ro Camino is getting a workout and I love it. Amazing storage options, comfy ride and sweet to row. I can roam around this boat to net fish much easier than in the past. This week it will hit the Henry’s Fork, Hebgen Lake and hopefully the Madison.
Been back in Craig, Montana for the past several days. All is well and the fishing is quite good. The Dearborn is pushing in some mud, but there still is good visibility down through the Canyon. Bright sun kinda turned them off late yesterday afternoon around 4 pm, but we still managed a few trout to the net. March Browns are still hatching……trout really didn’t rise much yesterday, but two days ago the dry fly bite was pretty darn good.
From what I hear back home, the Yellowstone is toast and the Madison is hanging in there. In one week, the general season Opener will be here and the Madison from Quake to McAtee will open. Will it stay in shape? Hard to say at this point as I was told that both Cabin and Beaver Creeks are dumping mud. The Opener should still be good as I can remember seasons when the Madison opened that had six inches of visibility and the fishing was kick ass.
Madison River Recreation Management Plan Update
I traveled to Helena on Thursday morning for an FWP Commissioners meeting. The Madison River Recreation CAC presented their suggestions for the MRRM Plan and the commissioners unanimously approved the CAC’s plan. Step one in this process, is over. The next step is to gather more information on where anglers are going and so on. More to come on this topic as it unfolds.
The stats are true: there are lots of fish in the Missouri River. I don’t pay huge attention to MT FWP’s numbers, because honestly, we are gonna fish anyway. A high percentage of these trout are spawning in the river, and it seems to me that over the past few years, there are more and more redds in the river. Why? Hmmmm……probably because there are so damn many rainbows. Fish have always spawned in the river, but from my memory and from conversations had back in the 90′s, a majority of the rainbows spawned in the Prickly Pear and the Dearborn. While trout still use the tribs, they are definitely using the Missouri. This also just might have something to do with all that high water a few years in a row, which cleaned up the river’s gravel and flushed the silt.
The Missouri is busier, earlier in the season, each year. It seems as if everyone has cabin fever and they are on the Mo’. Or, they all read fishing blogs and the word is getting out. A dozen years ago, we were fishing skwalas in the canyon and those who knew, never talked about it. I’m guilty of writing about the Missouri, so are others. Is this a bad thing? I don’t believe so, as long as folks are respectful to each other and the fish, things will move along with ease. July might be another story. My guess, is that the Missouri will become the most fished river in the state as the season is stretching out to almost year around. Will this pressure change the fishery in the long run? I guess we’ll have to wait and see.
While nymphing was king, we did manage to find a few trout willing to rise and eat a dry fly. The wind was prevalent for most of the week and at one point it was down right Western out there. BWOs and March Browns were hatching, the latter in smaller numbers. Without too much difficulty, one could catch fish on dries. We witnessed a blanket BWO hatch from bridge to bridge and hardly a fish rose. Their brains, while small, are still thinking about procreation. Would you rise up to eat a BWO dun or eat protein rich eggs that are drifting by your nose?
This is gonna be another banner year on the big river below Holter Dam. We will be guiding the Missouri all season long and if you’d like a change of pace from the Madison, Henry’s Fork or YNP waters, give us a shout.
….can’t you smell that smell? That new boat smell…
Picked up my new drift boat this afternoon in Bozeman after a few errands and a quick stop by Brick Breeden Field House for Ice Out. While I didn’t stick around long, I was able to pick up a few much needed items from Montana Fly Company and say hello to some good friends whom I don’t get to see that often anymore. Really looking forward to getting this new craft on the Missouri for the next week.
Speaking of the Missouri…..
I will be fishing up around Craig for the next two months, dependent upon run-off, and still have a few openings for May and June. July is getting tough to book, but there are a few slots left. Once again, for the 18th season, Greg Falls will be spending the summer on the Missouri River. While his schedule is tough to crack, feel free to give us a shout and we’ll hook you up with one of the finest guides on the Missouri River. There are some who are as good, but very few are better.
Been back in Montana/Wyoming for almost a week now and I’m still trying to process every day of the Argentine angling experience. There are moments that stick out, but they are more than just moments of time. More like days upon days. Not one part ranks higher than the rest as the entire trip was a highlight of my angling career. It’s right up there the two week fishing trip to Montana and YNP, back in 1992, with my father. That experience started this very lifestyle I’m living. Extended trips allow one to sink into that part of world and see more than just the fishing. The folks you travel with enrich the experience, locking in memories for a lifetime.
Walking the banks or floating stretches of a new river, in an place that is far, far away yet closer than you might think, is every anglers delight. Trout streams, especially those in remote places that require a bit of work to get to, always provide a unique experience. Sixty-five hundred miles, one way, is far enough.
Mountainous environments are not just mountains, they all don’t look the same, yet there is something strikingly familiar about all trout streams and their surroundings. Snow falls in the peaks, that were created millions of years ago. Water flows into the rivers, thus carving the land, giving life to the valley. Insects hatch and trout thrive, which entices the angler to come and find them. Flowing water calms us all and this is what I find the most familiar.
I spent sixteen of the nineteen days on the water, never leaving the river until O’dark thirty. The biggest difference from North America to South America is lack of pressure. This will change in time, but time, in fact, is on your side. Things move slowly in Argentina and trips like this are worth every penny. We are going back, sooner rather than later. Join us if you like.
MORE TO COME……..
In one week, I will be sitting in Bariloche, ready to embark on a fishing trip of a life time – three weeks in Argentina with two of the closest friends a fishing guide can have. Ten days of this will be hosting a wonderful group of anglers that I have fished with since the inception of Big Sky Anglers back in 2005. We will be staying at San Huberto Lodge and then heading over to Collen Cura Lodge. Doug & Co. are wonderful folks, who come to Montana a few times each year to experience the Madison, Henry’s Fork and Missouri Rivers. After Doug & Co depart for the USA, eight more days of fishing will ensue. Where will we go? You’ll have to wait and see.
All the logistics are in place, but I’m nervous, not sure how much shit to pack and still don’t feel like I have enough flies. Realizing I will only fish a dozen different pattens, I bet there are 100 dozen flies sitting there, waiting to make the cut. What’s so hard, is that I’m used to filling up a boat and a fishing rig with everything I need for however long I’ll be gone. “What ifs” will continue to pop in my head until I leave our place on the Butte.
Patagonia (thanks Bart and Mark!) has graciously outfitted me for the trip in all new boots, waders and a jacket. As part of their Field Testing Staff, I will put this stuff through the ringer while angling in America Del Sur and keep a journal of how my gear holds up….it will…it always does. Patagonia has made great gear for many years, but recently, they have begun to concentrate efforts in the realm of fly fishing. Keep checking back for updates on the new fishing gear. If you have any specific questions, shoot me an email.
MLB starts very soon. I don’t watch too much of the early season ball games, but, growing up near St. Louis and following the Cards since birth – I pay attention.
Back in the olde days, in the year 2000 BM (before marriage), I spent several summers at Howard Creek Ranch. Some refer to this place as The Ranch – a home for wayward fishing guides & shop rats. Not many girls walked through the doors of the big red double wide, but hey, we didn’t care cause we had Centennial Field. There were no corporate sponsorships, a variety of performance enhancing drugs (Cope, Levi Garret, Lone Stars, whiskey – you get the idea) and hitting a HR over the cattle fence was pretty hard to accomplish with the ever present south west wind.
Baseball is timeless. St. Louis will win the World Series this year, you heard it here first.