When will Montana streams be fishable this year?

Discussion in 'Fly Fishing Forum' started by Trapper Badovinac, Jun 2, 2014.

  1. Trapper Badovinac Author, Writer, Photographer

    Posts: 448
    Helena, Montana
    Ratings: +595 / 0
    I've gotten several emails and PMs with this question.

    Disclaimer: I can only guess based on past years with similar weather/snowpack/etc so don't plan your vacations solely on my guesses.

    1. The snowpack is above average this year. http://www.wcc.nrcs.usda.gov/cgibin/precup-graph.pl?state=MT but it's melting rapidly.

    2. Most streams are running 200% of average. http://waterdata.usgs.gov/MT/nwis/current/?type=flow

    3. June is Montana's wettest month.

    4. On the Missouri, my home water, Canyon Ferry (the main holding tank upstream of Holter Dam and the Blue Ribbon section of the Mo) is 11 feet low and is filling at a rate of about 1 foot per day.

    5. Montana runoff typically peaks around June 9th.

    6. We had way less precip than average in May.

    7. The forecast is for an equal chance of normal temperatures and slightly above average precip for the summer. http://droughtmonitor.unl.edu/SupplementalInfo/Forecasts.aspx

    If the forecast models are right, and the trend follows a historic path, the fishing will be pretty poor until after the 4th of July, but improving every day after mid-June. Each drainage is different. Some have greater snowpack and will get more rain, so if you're looking for a place to fish, look at the sites above.

    Expect tailwaters like the Missouri to be crazy crowded through the first week of August if this trend holds. Even back in the mid 1990s we'd see outfitters from Idaho bringing busloads of anglers to the Mo. Missoula, Kalispell, and Bozeman outfitters will also flock to the Mo.

    If you don't already have a lodging reservation for a July trip, expect to drive a ways from your motel room to wherever you're going to fish. IE staying at a motel in Helena and driving 35 miles to Craig every day. If you're looking for an "A" list guide for the month of July, and you haven't already sent in your deposit, it's not likely going to happen.

    Check the above websites. For the Mo, once Canyon Ferry is full, they still have 3' of flood pool. If that fills the Army Corps will match outflows to inflows. If rain and warm weather are still peaking, you'll catch more fish in that pitcher of beer.

    Warning! If you are wade fishing, be very, very, careful. In the past high water years we've lost lots of anglers who tried to wade out far enough to get a decent backcast that didn't end up in the willows on the bank.

    If you're new to rowing, stick with the tailwaters and even then be very cautious. Wrapping that new Clacka around a bridge abutment is going to be a very bad day.

    Trapper
  2. MT_Flyfisher Member

    Posts: 106
    Emigrant, MT
    Ratings: +18 / 0
    Trapper -

    Excellent informative post.

    Here on the Yellowstone, it appears that we may have hit the peak of the high water last week, when there were several days that were just slightly above flood levels, and substantially exceeded the all-time historical records for those specific days, and the flows are now gradually receding. However, with the Upper Yellowstone snowpack still over 140% of the historical average, there is still a lot of water yet to come (it had been as high as 160% of average 2 weeks or so ago).

    I know it is still risky to forecast when the Yellowstone will be fishable where I am in Paradise Valley, but I'm hopeful it will be by the 2nd or 3rd week of July. The first guys on the water then can have some exceptional fishing. I'm already seeing quite a few hoppers around, so the fishing should remain very good here (as elsewhere in MT) throughout the entire summer.

    John
    mtgreenheads likes this.
  3. Trapper Badovinac Author, Writer, Photographer

    Posts: 448
    Helena, Montana
    Ratings: +595 / 0
    The hopper hatch looks to be very good this year. I'm seeing a lot and wish I still had chickens to eat them all!

    Hopper fishing on the Yellowstone has always been one of my favorites. I used to give a 6-pack to one of the guy's who cut hay for the Sterling Ranch in exchange for info on when he was cutting next to the Missouri. It got epic.

    My favorite hopper pattern for the Missouri is one that sits low in the water.

    [IMG]

    I experimented for a long time and have boxes of rejects.

    Trapper
    Stew McLeod likes this.
  4. Mark Walker Active Member

    Posts: 2,762
    So. Cal.
    Ratings: +222 / 1
    Trapper, do you have a favorite white moth pattern?
  5. Trapper Badovinac Author, Writer, Photographer

    Posts: 448
    Helena, Montana
    Ratings: +595 / 0
    I'm guessing you're referring to the Spruce Moth?

    I haven't found a need to get fancy. The past few years in Montana the Spruce bud worm has destroyed millions of Doug Fir trees and when they hatch the fish go nuts and don't seem all that picky. Prime time seems to be the last week of July through nearly the end of August on most streams.

    I use this deer hair Caddis pattern.

    I substitute a ginger dubbing for the abdomen but everything else is the same.

    Trapper
  6. Old Man Just an Old Man

    Posts: 21,645
    Dillon, Mt
    Ratings: +1,669 / 0
    The Big Hole is now dropping. but there is still a lot of water coming down. Flood stage at Melrose is 6 feet. It's still at about 5.6 feet.
  7. Mark Walker Active Member

    Posts: 2,762
    So. Cal.
    Ratings: +222 / 1
    Thanks for that info, Trapper.:)
  8. Kyle Smith Active Member

    Posts: 1,964
    Bozeman, MT
    Ratings: +268 / 0
    There is enough Montucky talk here, maybe we need a sub-forum! Everyone is so hellbent on fishing our big rivers, and they forget that we have far more miles of some of the best small-stream fishing on the planet. Yesterday I drove past an absolutely terrifying Gallatin River in favor of a very beautiful, crystal-clear tributary. It was running high and the wading was scary, and I got skunked. At least I felt like I was going to catch something the whole time!
    DSCN0789.JPG
  9. Old Man Just an Old Man

    Posts: 21,645
    Dillon, Mt
    Ratings: +1,669 / 0
    Lots of scary water coming down hill at the moment. Gonna go look me up some small skinny water tomorrow.
  10. walove New Member

    Posts: 7
    Ratings: +0 / 0
    The east gallatin has dropped from 800 to almost 400 cfs in the last week. Time to go check that out.
  11. bennysbuddy the sultan of swing

    Posts: 2,283
    m-ville
    Ratings: +692 / 0
    what type of beer should I drink ,while waiting for the montana river to drop into fishing shape ?
  12. bennysbuddy the sultan of swing

    Posts: 2,283
    m-ville
    Ratings: +692 / 0
    The big question is ,What type of beer should I drink while waiting for the montana rivers to come into shape sometime in july!
    Kyle Smith likes this.
  13. Denny Wagenman Active Member

    Posts: 124
    .
    Ratings: +28 / 0
    Thanks for the info We are scheduled to fish the Mo starting June 22 for 4 days. I have ben watching the flows every day. Only fish on top so it may be a real challenge
  14. Kyle Smith Active Member

    Posts: 1,964
    Bozeman, MT
    Ratings: +268 / 0
    Checked it out last night. Nothing but rattlesnakes and a giant, burning oil slick. And ranchers with guns, meth heads, and suckers.
  15. hydrological beads are NOT flies and snagging is just ghetto

    Posts: 538
    inland
    Ratings: +99 / 0
    even if the flows are low enough for the rise (<10k) you will probably need a boat to get to most all the good water. not out of the question tho, and you may be one of the lucky ones to be there the day it starts, when the fish act like they've never seen a bug that bit back.
  16. riseform Active Member

    Posts: 1,096
    Tacoma, WA
    Ratings: +288 / 0
    This just in my email from Kelly Galloup

    jjaims likes this.
  17. Old Man Just an Old Man

    Posts: 21,645
    Dillon, Mt
    Ratings: +1,669 / 0
    Just think. I wasted the first three minutes watching this video of some guy just running his mouth. If it's going to be a fishing video. Lets do fishing.
  18. Trapper Badovinac Author, Writer, Photographer

    Posts: 448
    Helena, Montana
    Ratings: +595 / 0
    Denny, are you friends with Dan Gard?

    Trapper
  19. Rob Allen Active Member

    Posts: 919
    Vancouver WA
    Ratings: +371 / 0
    i am not a big nymph or streamer fishing but I think Kelly has the wet fly thing dialed
  20. Hem Member

    Posts: 215
    Three Forks, Mt.
    Ratings: +12 / 0
    I have a tough time believing Galloups/Slide Inn fishing report.Chance of rolling 50 fish on any day...yeah right.This report is pure marketing.