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WESTERN WATER REPORT
It's mid-July and it finally appears that the streams in Montana and the surround states have finally begun to drop. While there is still lots of snow in most of the mountainous areas most of it has turned to ice which melts slower than fluffy snow. Although the streams are now mostly back within their banks and the worst of the high water is behind us everything remains high and in most cases off color, if not downright dirty. Once the major rivers drop down to more approachable limits they will remain much higher than normal. On the Yellowstone River I anticipate that the river will be near 10,000 cfs by the first of August, but I do not anticipate that it will be clear. Yellowstone Lake in Yellowstone National Park is at near record levels and that high water will continue to wash the walls of the canyon resulting in off-colored water until the levels drop significantly.
Tail water fisheries like the Big Horn and the upper Missouri will remain high until well into the fall as dam operators try to balance inflow rates with storage capacity. Many of the dam operators have been holding a maximum amount of water in order to minimize downstream flooding; however that water will ultimately need to be released resulting in higher than normal falls well into the fall.
One final caveat: this year's high water event has resulted in many changes on our streams. Lots of debris has been washed downstream, new channels have been carved and holes have been created where riffles formerly existed. Before floating any stream you should carefully scout the water. Nothing is more terrifying than popping around a corner and finding the channel blocked by several trees that were not there last year. We call those log jams strainers, and if you end up in one you will understand why.
We have rounded the corner and certainly some good fishing waits in the coming weeks.
A bit of drift wood
Yellowstone River – Livingston – early July - note the snow still in the mountains
Yellowstone River – Point of Rocks – July 13th