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.
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
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.
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.
Snowpack Update and Summer Streamflow and Fishing Forecast
Walter just posted a thorough season streamflow update over on his personal website. Rather than reposting it here, we’ll just suggest you head over there.
Long story short is that we are at 90-108% of average snowpack in the drainage basins that impact our operations. While not bad, this isn’t as high as we would like to be sure of good August water conditions.
The long-term outlooks do not suggest significant improvement in the above numbers for the remainder of the winter. We’re instead likely to remain flat or have the numbers decline a bit over the next six to eight weeks before the heavy spring melt begins.
So we’ll likely be near average in the Yellowstone Basins (at 106-108% now), but below average in the Madison Basin, which includes the Firehole and Gibbon (at 90-91% now).
The next update will pop around April 1, and no it won’t be a joke.