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Category: Weather and Water Conditions

Updates on short-term weather and water conditions.

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.

Parks’ Fly Shop Covid Policies – Updated June 1, 2021

Parks’ Fly Shop Covid Policies – Updated June 1, 2021

Shop Policies

  • All shop staff are fully vaccinated and will not wear masks unless customers request we do so (this isn’t a problem if you prefer we’re masked).
  • Vaccinated customers need not wear masks in the shop.
  • As per CDC guidelines, we emphatically encourage non-vaccinated individuals to mask up (but let’s be honest, almost no non-vaxxers will do so).
  • Seriously, get your vaccine unless you’re a young kid or for some reason unable to do so. The worse side effects any of us had were flu-like symptoms for 8hrs. Virtually all new virus cases in the USA are in unvaccinated people as of this writing.
  • We still encourage folks to socially distance. Don’t crowd into the shop, don’t shake hands, don’t lean over the counter to breath on the shop clerk while looking at a map, etc.
  • 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.

Summer Guide Business: Trip Planning and Temporary Changes to Policies

  • Assuming no unexpected surge in virus counts during the summer, we will operate under standard guided trip deposit and cancellation and all other policies in 2021.
  • We may be more lenient to modifications of our late cancellation policies in the event of travel problems associated with the crazy cost of rental cars right now. We will handle these issues on a case-by-case basis.
  • If there’s an unexpected India-style surge in virus numbers or something of that sort, all bets are off.

Masking on Guided Trips, etc.

  • In Montana, we will not require vaccinated individuals to wear masks at any time on guided trips.
  • Non-vaccinated individuals will be asked to wear masks while in our trucks/cars, or will be required to drive themselves.
  • Masks will not be required for anyone while out of our motor vehicles.

YNP Covid-19 Operations Plan

Yellowstone Park still has more stringent masking requirements than any surrounding states. Current park requirements are listed on this page.

Also note that as commercial operators, we must follow additional requirements not listed on the linked page. In particular, all passengers in our vehicles are still required to wear masks while in Yellowstone National Park. Assuming people continue getting vaccinated and case numbers continue to fall, we expect this requirement to be relaxed through the summer season.

Early March Snowpack and Likely Summer Streamflow & Fishing Conditions Update

Early March Snowpack and Likely Summer Streamflow & Fishing Conditions Update

As readers should know from previous posts on the subject, winter and early spring snowfall and how this snow melts from April into June are the most important drivers of summer water conditions in our area. I make reports on the progress of the snowpack through the end of the spring runoff in late June or early July, with the reports getting more detailed as the season progresses and we start to get a firm handle on what to expect.

In general, we like to see snowpack between 100% and 120% of normal, with 105-110% absolutely ideal. With snowpack at this level, waters drop out of the spring runoff at about their normal time (between early June and July 10 depending on the water in question), but flows remain high enough and therefore cool enough through late July and early August for the fish to remain aggressive and happy. With higher snowpack, the fishing once the water clears is great, but we start late and miss much of the prime summer tourist season. In 2011, we weren’t able to begin floating the Yellowstone until July 28, for example. If snowpack is dramatically low, we get an early start and have good fishing until about mid-July, but mid-July through late August can be tough fishing and we may need to start and end early.

As of right now, here’s where we’re at. Our approximate operations area is circled in red. I have also added in the drainage basins for the Upper Yellowstone system in Wyoming and Yellowstone Park (including the Lamar and Gardner Rivers) and the Madison/Gallatin basin in Yellowstone Park, including the Firehole and Gibbon Rivers.

Montana snowpack map Mar 06 2020

As you can see, things are looking good right now in most of our operations area, with drainage basins in our operations area ranging from 92% to 127% of normal. By far the most important basins for our operations are the Upper Yellowstone basins in Montana and Wyoming/YNP. These are at 113% and 111%, respectively. The low spots are the Madison in Montana and Madison/Gallatin in YNP.

Because the winter has been warm and we’ve got warm, rainy weather in the forecast for the next week, I expect these numbers to all drop over the next week. Beyond that, long range NOAA outlooks for the 6-10 day forecast period suggest above normal precip and below normal temperatures (aka good chance it’ll be snowy), while the 8-14 day outlook suggests an equal chance of above, below, and normal temperatures with a greater chance of above normal precip. Very long range outlooks extending through the spring suggest greater likelihood of above normal temperatures as well as above normal precip.

We still have a good six weeks of “snowpack building time,” and the above outlooks do not look likely to drastically change our overall snowpack numbers, though I do expect them to decline a few points. We’ve had a warm winter, so the medium-elevation snow will start melting as soon as it gets rained on.

In regards to most of our operations area, in particular the Yellowstone Basin inside and outside Yellowstone Park, I should note that assuming the “average to somewhat high” snowpack numbers we’re seeing so far continue, we should have good to excellent water conditions for this summer, the fourth year in a row things have run average to a bit above. This will be the first time in my career (20 seasons counting 2020) that we’ve had this many years of solid water conditions in a row. We had great fishing and healthy fish last year, with the Yellowstone seeing probably its strongest average size range in at least ten years. Will this trend continue in 2020? I wouldn’t bet against it…

The Madison/Gallatin Basin inside Yellowstone Park is a different matter. It would not surprise me to see this snowpack drop to 85% of normal by the end of next week, with the bulk of the drop in the lower-elevation Madison portion of this shared basin. The storms have generally been going either just north of the park or just south of it, leaving the Madison Basin inside the park just off the storm track. This below average snowpack could become a problem if the forecast warmer than average weather for the next three months materializes. The Madison outside the park should be fine, particularly upstream of Ennis Lake, but the Firehole, Gibbon, and Madison inside the park might suffer due to low/warm water this year as they have not since 2016. The Firehole in particular may wind up getting too warm by around June 20, whereas it has fished well through June the past few years. We’ll have to wait and see on this. If you’re a Firehole-lover, I suggest doing some snow dances.