….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.