Browsed by
Category: Weather and Water Conditions

Updates on short-term weather and water conditions.

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.

Runoff Report and Summer Streamflow and Fishing Outlook

Runoff Report and Summer Streamflow and Fishing Outlook

Walter just posted an in-depth snowpack and runoff report and an outlook for summer streamflows and fishing over at Yellowstone Country Fly Fishing. Rather than reinvent the wheel, we suggest you click this link for the details.

Long story short, we have low snowpack and runoff is near its peak. We anticipate a low runoff, an early end to runoff, and low, warm streamflows this summer. In general the best opportunities will be in the first three weeks of July before things drop too much, though after that the fishing will still be good as long as it’s not super hot and dry. If it IS super hot and dry… well, we might be doing a lot of 6AM to 2PM trips and morning half-days.

Early May Snowpack Update & Streamflow Forecast

Early May Snowpack Update & Streamflow Forecast

Walter made a snowpack and streamflow update on his business website. Rather than reinventing the wheel, go check it out.

In sum, we had an early start to the spring melt due to downright not weather the last few days of April, but early May is forecast to be cool and wet. This should stall the HEAVY runoff until at least May 15-20 and will certainly lead to good fishing on the Yellowstone, Boulder, and Stillwater once the first flush of runoff drops out in a couple days.

Overall, snowpack is low. We expect low streamflows and an early start to most summer fishing as the water drop sooner than usual. This is good for late June and early July fishing. It’s not so good for late July and August fishing, when we anticipate low flows and warm water that might prompt “early-on, early-off” trips for optimum results as well as some mandatory closures in warm, low-elevation waters. These waters are mostly in Montana, though it’ll be a short season on the Firehole this June.

Yellowstone Blown Out…

Yellowstone Blown Out…

An early warm snap over the past few days has resulted in the Yellowstone blowing out with the first surge of the heavy spring snowmelt. This means that for right now our fishable options have shifted to the Boulder, Stillwater, Lower Madison, and Missouri Rivers and to area lakes.

Here’s a flow graph. The river has almost quadrupled in volume over the past few days:

Yellowstone River flow May 1 2021.

Below is the river’s level. It has come up about 2.5 feet since midnight on April 28. YIKES. This is the highest level the river has been since early July, 2020. Even if it had somehow remained clear, such a big jump would have made the fish weird for a few days. Since it’s full of chocolate brown mud and sticks, the trout are all hunkering on the bottom.

Yellowstone River level May 1 2021.

The good news is that this is not the onset of the full-scale runoff that will see the river completely out of play until well into June. The weather is forecast to drop back into the 50s-60s this week, and the NOAA forecast for the second week of May is calling for below-normal temperatures. Therefore we expect the river to drop back into shape by late this week and stay there through at least May 15 (assuming the outloos are accurate). There might not be much dry fly fishing, but these bumps in flow followed by drops before the heavy runoff hits typically bring great streamer fishing.

Snowpack Update and Summer Streamflow and Fishing Forecast

Snowpack Update and Summer Streamflow and Fishing Forecast

Walter has posted a summer streamflow forecast over at his own website. Rather than reinventing the wheel, here’s a link.

Note that Walter’s own operations area extends a bit further east (to the Stillwater River) and west (to the Jefferson River) than the shop’s does, since he’s an hour closer to these waters.

The next update will be posted in mid-April.