by: Sumner Young
Although cool spring conditions have persisted in Big Sky country, most of our waters are now in full run-off, high and colored-up. Flows out of Hebgen Dam are at 2480 cfs, and willing trout can be found below the dam where more biomass is getting flushed into the system.
Be prepared for challenging conditions on the wade and float sections, spending time working slower seams and pools near the bank, and concentrating on the softer pockets where heavy flows have consolidated fish.
Use caution while wading in high water, being mindful that most fish are very near the banks or behind various breaks in the current. Standard runoff nymphing with rubberlegs in tan, black, and coffee, pink/red/natural San Juan worms, and caddis nymphs have all been productive. With salmon flies around the corner, don’t be afraid to throw on the biggest, baddest rubber leg nymphs you’ve got. Try adding some weight to your rig if it seems you aren’t getting down enough. Streamer efforts can also be rewarding at this time. Fishing upstream and twitching weighted streamers near the banks, undercuts, and boulders might produce a well-fed post-springtime lunker. Black and White BFEs, Mini-Dungeons, Peanut Envys, and Sparkle Minnows are some shop favorites. White, yellow, tan, olive, and black are staple colors, and switching flies often has been crucial to moving fish.
Snowpack levels in the Madison Range continue to drop with the Carrot Basin Snotel Site now reading less than 30 inches of snow for the first time since last November. Keep an eye on this site and the snowpack levels over the next couple of weeks as it's a great indicator of how much longer run-off will last.
Though the Madison presents challenges during runoff, we’re all looking forward to a summer of sustained cooler water temps, slinging dry flies, and healthy, happy trout. Don’t forget the rain jacket as stray afternoon storms have been rollin’ through. As always, swing by the shop for the freshest scoop and to stock up on gear and flies for the season. We’ll see you on the water!