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Category: Weather and Water Conditions

Updates on short-term weather and water conditions.

Last Call for the 2020 Season in Yellowstone Park

Last Call for the 2020 Season in Yellowstone Park

fall rainbow trout

The Yellowstone Park season closes at sunset this Sunday, November 1. Better get your last licks in while you can. Warm weather has replaced the recent extreme cold and should lead to good opportunities on all of our usual fall fisheries: the Madison, Firehole, Gibbon, and Gardner. Water temps are generally too cold elsewhere. Fall-run brown trout are now present in high numbers in all of the rivers I just mentioned, but they’re on the spawn hard now. Please avoid disturbing fish spawning in shallow areas and avoid wading on/near areas of clean, shallow gravel as these are redds (nests). Plenty of browns remain in the deeper pools, while rainbows and resident browns are eager to eat the eggs of the spawners in the pocket water. I (Walter) caught about 30 fish yesterday on the lower Gardner. Only two of them were fall-run browns since I never aggressively target the browns this late in the fall, but I got a bunch of nice fat rainbows like the one above on egg patterns and small jig-style stonefly nymphs.

The warm weather looks like it’ll hold all or most of next week, so there should be plenty of “second season” fishing on the Yellowstone, Madison, and other rivers outside Yellowstone Park for a while yet.

Runoff Report, Update on Summer Streamflows, and Summer Fishing Predictions

Runoff Report, Update on Summer Streamflows, and Summer Fishing Predictions

Walter posted a thorough update over at his site. Check it out.

Here are some key takeaways for the PFS operations area:

  • Good winter snowpack is now melting furiously due to near-record temperatures (in the 80s in Livingston), which has everything except the Firehole and Lower Madison blown-out now.
  • Anticipate a brief spring season for the Firehole, Gibbon, and Madison inside YNP, as well as the lower Madison. The Madison basin inside and outside Yellowstone Park has the lowest snowpack in our operations area and it is melting quick.
  • The Yellowstone River outside YNP is likely to fall into fishable shape during the last week of June, with the Salmonfly hatch at the same time.
  • Waters across the northern part of Yellowstone Park will begin falling into shape around June 15-20, with the Yellowstone in the Grand Canyon and the Gardner first. The Black Canyon of the Yellowstone will come into play around June 25 or so, while the Lamar System will probably come in around or after July 4.
  • Slow fishing in late afternoon may occur in late July and August due to warm water temperatures, particularly on low-elevation sections of the Yellowstone east of Livingston, but the Yellowstone has the highest snowpack in our ops area, so except for a few days of “early on, early off” when it’s hot and sunny, we anticipate no other problems. At this time, we do not anticipate any “hoot owl” restrictions on any of our July-September waters. Restrictions are likely on the Jefferson, lower Madison, and other areas we never fish (and no one else fishes) in mid-late summer.
Runoff Break: Time to Huck Streamers!

Runoff Break: Time to Huck Streamers!

Cold weather over the past few days has dropped the Yellowstone and Boulder Rivers into marginally fishable shape. They would have gone lower, but the cooldown was accompanied by a VAST amount of snow and rain yesterday and today, so things are still pretty marginal.

As of right now, the Yellowstone is flowing at 7350cfs at Gardiner and 9870cfs in Livingston. “Safe” float levels are 10,000 in Gardiner and 12,000 at Livingston, with the float stretches that are safe limited to flatter sections without aggressive eddies, such as the Cinnabar to Yankee Jim, Carbella to Point of Rocks, or Emigrant to Mallard’s Rest sections. The Boulder is down to 1560cfs, with 2000 safe. I’m not sure if the large tree which forms a dangerous and almost impassable barrier on the Boulder at Spring Creek Campground south of Big Timber is still there or not.

At the above flows, streamers pounded on the bank on sink-tips, using 1X or heavier tippet, is your best bet. You may also move some fish on stonefly and large attractor nymphs drifted through bankside pockets, but you’ll lose a lot of flies doing this.

Neither river is low enough for more than very difficult wade-fishing. On the Yellowstone, concentrate on the steep, rocky banks through and just past the town of Gardiner, fishing the slow holes next to the banks.

Here’s the flow data for the Yellowstone River at Corwin Springs, near Gardiner:

Here’s the streamflow predictions for the river at Livingston. Predictions are not provided for the Corwin Springs graph. Subtract about 2000cfs from the Livingston graph to get an approximation of expected flows at Corwin.

That big spike Tuesday afternoon will definitely be “all she wrote” for the runoff break fishing. Temperatures in Livingston are forecast to rise into the high 80s by next weekend, and that will send the remaining snow GUSHING down. Expect rivers to begin dropping again about 3 weeks after they shoot up.

Season Streamflow and Fishing Forecast – May 2 Update (Along with some Corona News)

Season Streamflow and Fishing Forecast – May 2 Update (Along with some Corona News)

Walter made a thorough post about likely summer streamflow and fishing conditions over at his blog. Rather than reposting it and hurting the SEO for both our sits, I’ll just send you over there.

A note on shop ops right now: the shop is open on normal off-season hours of 9-5 daily and 10-4 on Sundays, with occasional unannounced closures. Please follow social distancing guidelines by limiting the shop to one group traveling together at a time. We are available for mail-order business as well as booking guided trips for the high season.

Covid-19 and Parks’ Fly Shop: Updated May 30

Covid-19 and Parks’ Fly Shop: Updated May 30

Covid-19 and Parks’ Fly Shop: Updated June 29


The shop is open for both retail sales and guide service. We have a mandatory mask order in the shop, no exceptions. Covid-19 has been found in Gardiner, Montana (a town of 750 residents), so this is for everyone’s safety. In addition, we are limiting the maximum number of customers in the shop to one group of customers of any size traveling together OR four people, maximum. No exceptions. We encourage groups not traveling together to wait outside if possible, even if less than four customers are in the shop.

The shop is on standard summer hours.

Shop Policies

  • We ask that groups that are not traveling together avoid entering the shop at the same time. Please limit the number of customers in the shop to four at a time unless your group is larger than four people. No exceptions
  • Masks are required in the shop. No exceptions.
  • Please maintain as much distance as possible from staff. Now is not the time to lean over our shoulders to watch us tie flies.
  • We will not be renting any wading gear for the time being due to the difficulty of sterilizing waders.
  • If you are in the area but would rather not come into the shop, give us a call at 406-848-7314 and place your order over the phone. We’ll package it up and meet you at the curb.
  • Shop cleaning is now taking place daily, right down to the pens you use to sign your CC slips.
  • Hand sanitizer is available.

Summer Guide Business: Trip Planning and Temporary Changes to Policies

Deposit and Cancellation Policy Changes: To help reduce client uncertainty and anxiety in booking trips for this year, not knowing what the future will bring, we are relaxing our deposit and cancellation policies until further notice. Here are the changes:

  • As always, trips canceled a month or more out from the first day of the booking will receive a full refund.
  • Trips canceled from one month to 72 hours before the trip may apply the deposit to a future trip anytime in 2020 or 2021. Our standard policy is forfeiture of this deposit unless we’re able to rebook the guide. This policy change applies to all bookings, both retroactively to those made before the virus flared and to new bookings made until we change back to our standard policy.
  • Trips canceled with less than 72 hours notice will be handled on a case-by-case basis. In other words, if your flight’s canceled or someone gets coronavirus, we’ll credit the deposit to another trip.

Trip Booking Suggestions:

  • We suggest clients be flexible about what sorts of trips we plan to run. While Yellowstone Park and Montana are reopening to commercial services including guided fishing trips on June 1, we do not know if additional changes will take place as summer and therefore the course of the virus progress.
  • Walk trips allow for greater social distancing in general, though closer quarters at certain moments. Float trips allow for less social distancing in general, but almost no personal contact besides being “in each other’s space.” Bear that in mind when you think about what to book.
  • We anticipate the fishing will be very good this year, due to reduced pressure.
  • We may ask clients to drive their own vehicles and bring their own water more this year than we usually do.

YNP Covid-19 Operations Plan

Yellowstone National Park has asked us to note our responses to coronavirus. Here’s our responses to their questions:

Describe social distancing measures you will implement during your tours to minimize the risk of transmission in indoor areas, outdoor areas, and during transportation of clients.
As much as possible; clients will use their own vehicles, guides will maintain distance from clients and between clients, guides and clients will be required to use masks.

Describe how you will ensure CDC handwashing and sanitization measures are followed.
Each guide party will have soap, paper towels, hand sanitizer, and sanitizer spray.

Describe how and how often you will sanitize equipment and vehicles used to transport employees and clients.
Equipment and vehicles will be sanitized with sanitizing spray and wiped down before and after each trip.

Describe how you will handle the sanitization of shared equipment (scopes, binoculars, etc.) or equipment provided to clients (saddles and other tack).
See above. In addition to normal AIS cleaning, wading equipment will get a bleach solution rinse.

Describe how you will handle/sanitize equipment belonging to clients (fishing poles, backpacks, etc.).
In general guides will not be handling client equipment and clients will be responsible for their own equipment.

Will you provide food or drinks to clients on tours? If so, describe how you will handle food and drinks to minimize exposure and transmission.
We are discounting full day trips and asking clients to supply their own food. We will supply cooler, ice, and disposable bottled water (handled with gloves)

Describe actions will you take in your interactions with clients and visitors to minimize exposure.
Clients – see above, visitors we try to avoid anyway as fishing is not a large group activity.

Describe how you will evaluate employees and visitors to determine if they may be ill. Please describe actions you will take if an employee or visitor is ill.
All employees and clients are asked the screening questions about cough, fever, difficulty breathing every day. If a client reports as symptomatic their trip will be cancelled and their contact information will be noted for contact tracing purposes. An employee will be sent into isolation and reported for testing until a determination is made.

Please list any additional actions your company and employees will take to minimize transmission of the virus.
The shop is a common area that will be sanitized frequently during the day and shop staff will wear masks. In addition clients will be supplied with a check sheet including the above information and an expanded list of personal supplies on booking.

Ways You Can Help

This is going to be a hard year for Parks’ Fly Shop, just like everyone else in the travel/tourism field. We anticipate dramatic reductions in guided trip bookings and over the counter sales. Besides keeping our staff paid on at least a part-time basis, the hardest thing is going to be paying for our huge spring fly and tackle orders that have all now arrived, when we don’t have any customers buying these flies, rods, leaders, etc. Here are some things you can consider doing to help see us through:

  • Purchase flies and tackle through mail-order: We do not have an e-commerce site, but are glad to take orders for custom and standard flies, rods, and really everything else we stock except bear spray over the phone. Free shipping on orders over $50.
  • Place a deposit on a guided trip: We are now accepting open-ended deposits for guided trips that run anytime during the 2020 or 2021 seasons. We’ll take your deposit and your contact information, but won’t set a specific date for the trip until you’re sure you’re coming. Note that our trips are first-come/first-served and we do have some dates that are fully-booked for July-September 2020 already.
  • Take the virus seriously: The sooner people practice social isolation and good hygiene, the more support people give to local health care providers, and so on, the faster this will be over.
  • Once it is all over, support your favorite fly shops, fishing guides, tour guides, bookstores, climbing gyms, restaurants, bars, craft breweres, and so on. Small businesses in the service sector are taking it on the chin right now and for the foreseeable future. If you want such places to stick around for 2021 and beyond, give them your business instead of the big operations that will probably make out like bandits once the economy starts climbing again.