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Early 2022 Montana Snowpack Update

Early 2022 Montana Snowpack Update

Happy New Year, everyone. It’s very early to start making any assumptions about snowpack for 2022, but we still wanted to give a brief update.

Early snowfall through autumn and early winter was sparse in the region. Late November and early December in particular were warm and dry. At its lowest, snowpack in the region ranged from roughly 50% to 65% of normal for the date. Potentially catastrophic, in other words, especially given the 2021 drought.

Thankfully, conditions have improved markedly. While the big snows hitting the West Coast and Utah have mostly gone just to our south and west, we’re still in decent shape for the date. Right now, drainage basins within the PFS operations area are at 88% to 116% of normal for the date. The most important basins, the Yellowstone in WY and YNP and downstream in Montana, are at 97% and 88%, respectively.

Here’s a graphic, with our operations area circled in red. This map is updated daily at this link.

early january snowpack for the Western United States

We are forecast to get more moisture this upcoming week, before week two in the long-range outlook gets warm and dry (for the time of year). The extended outlooks from NOAA forecast a return to cold/wet for the latter half of January and continuing through winter.

I think odds are good we wind up with a snowpack in the 90-110% range for most drainages in our operations area, absent an early warmup. With the region in severe to extreme drought after the low snowpack and blazing hot/dry summer in 2021, we would rather see 110% or even 120% of normal snowpack, to give us a bit of a cushion.

We’ll provide an update on the snowpack with more detail in early February.

Do Your Snow Dances…

Do Your Snow Dances…

There’s a lot of winter left, thankfully. It is 60 degrees in Montana right now and hasn’t snowed more than a coating at valley-level since early October. Do your snow dances for healthy snowpack. If it looks like this come June, the whole west will run dry and be on fire.

Warm November = Still Swing Season (Fly Video Content)

Warm November = Still Swing Season (Fly Video Content)

Often we’re about done fishing streamers for the year by this point in November. This year, November has generally been warm (and has been very dry — do your snow dances). It’s cold right now, but is forecast to warm up again in a few days.

The above means you can still turn some big fish on streamers fished on the swing. While lightweight spey rods are the hip tools for this job, you don’t actually need one. Any single-hand 9′ 6-7 weight will do fine (though spey rods are cool). Fish a moderate or slow-sinking tip.

You want to select a fly with a trailing hook or at least a “traditional” streamer where the hook is near the rear of the fly, something like a Spruce, a Muddler Minnow, or similar. Trout seldom inhale streamers fished on the swing this late in the year. Instead they nip at them from the rear. For that reason, the hook needs to be at the back of the hook.

Small Intruder-style flies are excellent choices for this job. Here’s a good one posted by North 40, a chain of sporting goods and home stores with integrated fly shops (no guide service) in Idaho and northern Montana:

Tying Season Post #1: Duracell Jig

Tying Season Post #1: Duracell Jig

Looking to start tying flies for the 2022 season now that it’s almost tying season rather than fishing season?

This pattern is a good place to start. It was our best nymph in late June 2021, both under large dry flies and under indicators, especially on the Yellowstone River. Hopefully we get more snow during the 2021-2022 winter and it melts later in the spring, which would push the 2021 late June conditions into the first half of July.

This is an easy pattern to tie, though it’s helpful to have a feather folder and a materials clip to make it easier to wrap the CDC hackle collar. If you don’t have these tools, just tie the CDC feather in by its tip and wrap it 2-3 turns, then trim it to length.

Video courtesy Fly Fish Food.