spring update

from big sky country


Greetings from West Yellowstone, where the calendar says it’s Spring, but the mountains of snow and cold temps say otherwise.  Like that final guest at a dinner party who continues to pour “one last” glass of Malbec, ignorant to the late hour and yawning hosts, Old Man Winter refuses to get the hint, and slide on out of Big Sky Country this year.


This winter has been one for the books all across the West, and the headwaters of our beloved fisheries are buried deep under one of the best snowpacks we have seen in some time.  With Snow Water Equivalent (SWE) percentages running well over 100% throughout our region, we are sitting pretty for the upcoming summer season. The question on everyone’s mind is “What will the run-off be like this year?” and “When will it be over?

The answers to those two questions depend entirely on the weather that we see in the next six to eight weeks. Current SWE percentages range from 123% in both the Madison and Henry’s Fork to 114% in the Gallatin, and 110% in the upper-Yellowstone. That's a lot of snow to be sitting up in the mountains as we approach the beginning of May. To date, April has been cold and snowy with the exception of one glorious warm spell around Easter that began consolidating the snowpack, and gave us our first significant melting event. Since then, temps have been below average, and we’ve seen more snow accumulating up high. Forecasts for the next seven to ten days show colder temperatures, and no sign of accelerated melting. 

In a perfect world, daytime temps would gradually increase over the next month bringing with them a slow and steady increase in run-off which should peak sometime in June, and slowly decrease through the rest of the summer feeding our fisheries with cold flows until autumn. On an average year, we expect to see the Firehole River fishing by the first week of June, Green Drakes on The Ranch around June 15, and Salmonflies in the walk-wade water of the Madison by 4th of July. We have slightly higher than average snowpack this year (10-23%), and temps have been slightly below average so far this Spring. So, you could deduce that the timing of runoff and some of our favorite hatches may be a bit delayed. However, a week of warmer than average temps and high winds (which we have seen often in recent years) could quickly accelerate the melt and put things right back on schedule. 

The main takeaway this Spring is that we should all keep a close eye on the weather, flows, and snowpack over the next couple of months. The Henry’s Fork Foundation is a terrific resource for streamflow and snowpack info. Visit their Blog for weekly updates, as well as tons of other useful information. USGS streamflow is available for Montana and Idaho, and below is a list of a few useful Snotel Sites with real time Snowpack info.  

  • Carrot Basin - Madison Range (Madison River drainage)
  • Black Bear - South Palteau (Firehole and Upper - Henry’s Fork drainages)
  • White Elephant - Centennial Range (Upper-Henry’s Fork drainage)
  • Grand Targhee - Teton Range (Fall River and Lower-Henry’s Fork drainages)

These Snotel sites are a terrific indicator of the pace and timing of runoff. When they get close to zero, runoff is over. 

As always, the most current update on conditions is just a phone call away here at Big Sky Anglers (406) 646-7801. Our staff is roaming throughout Big Sky Country on a daily basis, and we have our finger on the pulse of water, snowpack, and fishing conditions. 

In other News

While the snow has been piling high at home, we’ve had a busy winter hosting and organizing travel trips. We had a great season in Patagonia, both in Argentina and Chile, where our last groups are enjoying some exciting fall fishing right now. Justino had an amazing trip to the Seychelles. Joe, Jonathan, and Justino are currently on their way back from hosting our second trip of the winter to Jardines de la Reina in Cuba where they’ve been hunting for migratory Tarpon, as well as bonefish and permit. And, we're still looking forward to some days in the Keys chasing the Silver King with BSA's own, Capt. Nicholas Calabro.

These international trips continue to grow year after year, with dozens of clients traveling on hosted trips and custom itineraries each month. To keep up with our expanding travel business we’ve promoted our very own Patrick Johnson to the position of Outfitting and Travel Reservations Manager. Many of you already know Patrick from the flyshop, GSI, and his role as Outfitting Reservations Manager. We’re excited to have Patrick help us grow our Travel business, and provide customers with top-notch customer service. 

The Springtime migration of summer shop staff has begun here in West Yellowstone, and we couldn’t be happier to welcome back so much of our fishy crew from last year, as well as a few great new additions. Be sure to swing by the shop, or give us a call to check in with Andy, Sumner, Dinah, Trevor, Michael, Lucas, and meet Cole, Josh, Luca, and River. You won’t find a fishier, more fun-loving crew who know their craft and are excited to share it with you!

Before too long, our veteran crew of guides will return in full force, the gang will all be back together, and we’ll be rolling full steam ahead into summer. 

New Things Online

We’ve also been hard at work this winter updating our website and ecommerce store. Marco, Matt, and Hoovie are all bleary-eyed from a winter full of spreadsheets, inventory data, and screen time, but we’re thrilled to have the new site up, and look forward to adding more great products and features to it throughout the summer. There’s a lot more coming in the next few months, and we’re excited to bring you along on the ride. So, stay tuned!

For a first look at the new site check our Gear Up For Spring Collection below, and watch for more great news, products, and fishing reports weekly in your inbox. 

As the start of another season inches closer, we look forward to seeing all the familiar faces, welcoming old friends back to Big Sky Country, and meeting some new ones. We're in the shop seven days a week. So, if you're in the area, stop by and say Hello. If you're still planning your trip, and there's anything we can do to help, don't hesitate giving us a call or dropping a line. 

We look forward to seeing you in Big Sky Country soon!

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