Well folks, today is a special day. Fifteen and one half hours of full sunlight here in the northern tier of the USA and the beginning of official summer. The equinox is upon us, so it seems a good time to update folks on the local water conditions. Settle back and grab a cold one.
I not sure where to begin spinning this yarn, so I just cut to the chase. We’ve got a Schmidt load of water in the area streams and cricks. But wait, there’s more! If you really look into the data, there are some very interesting facts and outcomes, so buckle up and here we go.
The Ups and Downs
The volume of water in all the area streams, from the Clarks Fork on the eastern front to the Stillwater and Boulder drainages to the west, are running at approximately 150-200+ percent of normal discharge. Given that typically, this third week of June is the peak of the run off, the fact that we have this much water in the streams gives credence to the fact that we had a record or near record snow pack this winter. How-some-ever, if you really do a little data mining, it quickly becomes obvious that the peak run off due to snow melt actually occurred about 2 weeks ago. So the logical questions becomes, why are the rivers and creeks so high? And the appropriate response is …… at this point in the year, (we’re about 6 months in) the Billings NOAA weather station is showing that we have received .33 inches less moisture than we typically average for the entire year. Or to put it another way, we are .34 inches of moisture away from exceeding our average moisture amount. Nornally, Billings receives nearly 14 inches of precipitation annually. If the trend that we have experienced continues over the next six months, we will be setting an all time precipitation record …. wow-sers! Even the really old timers have never seen anything like that….. historic man!
Thus the undeniable conclusion is that the 150 – 200% of typical stream volumes are being driven by rainfall over the last two or three weeks. The good folks at NOAA indicate that this pattern will continue until the end of June and then, the weather gods will likely turn off the facet.
So What Does That Mean to My Planned Fishing Trip
The truth is …. Hell if I know, but my gut tells me the following. The magic number for the Stillwater is 3000 CFS. At that volume of discharge, we can …..1) float under the low hanging bridges and 2) the fish start looking for chow. Thus, if we consult the Hydro-Outlook NOAA site, mix in a little common sense, add a dash of hope and good cheer, and then rub our belly buttons and forget the numbers and algorithms ….. I believe that we’ll be in floating/fishing conditions at or just after the July 4 Holidays. And truth be told, I certainly hope that is the case because I have folks booked. So this is one po- child with crossed fingers.
Have You Been Sitting on Your Butt and Watching the World Go By?
Silly question. In the places I know, stream fishing has been ongoing over the last month or more. Some days it’s good, some days it’s great and some days, it’s dirty and high and time for a brew and once again cut the grass.
And the Upcoming Menu Items Would Be?
Once we hit the magic number, the focus will be on nymphs with all the usual suspects in play. Rubber legs stoneflies, pink nuclear worms, hare’s ear, princes, copper johns and all that jazz. Bottomline is that at 3000 CFS, the fish can’t afford to be picky. Things go by fast and it’s been a long while since their last meal. So the placement of the bugs and how you fish them is a hell of a lot more important than what you chuck. Good drag free drifts with well timed and executed mends are very important, or as I have been accused of saying on numerous occasions …..”Mend the Hell out of it!”
In the world of the dry fly fisherperson, menu items soon to be featured include Golden Stones and Pale Morning Duns. So have a pile of those in your boxes. Additionally, we’re moving into the caddis time of year so you’ll want some of those as well. And the good news for the soon to be dry fly addicts is at a volume of 2500 to 2000 CFS, the fish are not picky and will hammer flies dead drifted, but they really get turned on by flies that jump and flutter 2 or 3 inches up stream and then float and then jump another 2 or 3 inches. Twitch ain’t just the dude on Ellen. Twitch them up kids.
And A Word of Caution, Maybe Two
Don’t be stupid. Attempted wading within the next month could be hazardous to your health. And please look around before you step on the little fawns which their mothers have stashed in the high grass, I’ve been seeing a bunch of these guys lately.
Mr. Brown made a mistake
Don’t step on the fawn