Blog Posts In rain

The Shot In The Arm We Needed!

Last week temps in the 90's sucked the river down to a skinny 600 cfs in Melrose and a frightening 380 cfs in Wise River.  Southwest Montana does not typically get much rain in the summertime, though brief afternoon showers are common this time of year.  This year has been anything but typical.  We hardly had winter until April and instead of a runnoff in late May, we had three mini-runoffs and the majority of our snow pack was gone by July.  So it should not be surprising that our "April Showers" showed up in mid-July!

It showered, then drizzled, then poured this week as widespread storms rolled in from the South.  Temps have been in the 70's and the river has jumped back to ABOVE historical average!  In Melrose we are sitting comfortably at 1,090 cfs and at 600 cfs in Wise River!

Late May Showers Bring July Flowers

Edit: (5/25/11)

  • water flow: 7,000 cfs!
  • water temp: 48 degrees
  • visibility: very muddy

Big Hole River Fishing Report 5/23/11:

The Big Hole fished well this weekend with dry fly action on Friday and streamer fishing through the weekend.  The weather was typical for spring in Montana with cold temps and frequent showers. It rained hard last night on the Wise River and I assume it did in the Big Hole Valley as well because the river jumped up overnight.
The rain throughout the week will continue to bring the water up, but the cool temperatures ought to keep the snow in the mountains and streamer fishing should be good.
The national weather service is issuing a flood watch for the Melrose area, and predicts that the river will rise by 2,000 cfs over the next few days.  Be careful getting in and out of the boat, and if you do find places to wade, tighten that wading belt!!

Time to buy a Kayak, the Wise River is rockin' and rollin'

Big Hole Fishing Report 5/16/11

  • Water Flow: 4,540 cfs
  • Water Temp: 47 degrees
  • Visibility: muddy
  • Fishing: Streamer fishing has been cumbersome, but successful until today.  The water came up a lot last night and the Big Hole is very turbid today.
The spring weather that we have been missing out on will start this week and hopefully the weather will warm up enough to bring the mid-level snow out, essentially blowing out, and cleaning out, the watershed.  The weather predictions for the next two months indicate cooler days and cold nights which will bring the high snow out slowly and steadily throughout July and into August.    The Big Hole is going to be substantially bigger going into summer this year, but when the water clears fishing will be very good and fish will have more river to work with.

Big Hole Runoff, by the numbers

Big Hole River Fishing Report

  • Water Flow: 2,580 cfs
  • Water Temp: 53 degrees mid-day
  • visibility: 6 inches
  •  fishing: big shiny streamers

When I woke up this morning, NOAA was preaching doom and gloom and predicting an 8ft flood stage at Melrose by Saturday.  This would be a disaster for our Kid's Day on the Big Hole, but luckily the weather patterns have changed and so has the flood prediction.
Big Hole River Flood Prediction

Big Hole River weather report through the weekend

The weather will warm up, but not quite enough to bring the snow down with any consequence.  It looks like we are going to have high water for quite some time this year.  As I have been saying though, as long as it peaks and clears by mid June, fishing is going to be great regardless of the water level.

Big Hole River flow chart, cfs

Winter Weather Advisory: 1-2 feet of snow in the mountains

Better get the skis back out. Alex Ralston, former BHL guide, on Lost Trail Pass

Big Hole River Fishing Report 4/10/11

  • Water Flow: 2,830 cfs and rising
  • Water Temp: 42 degrees
  • Visibility: 6-8 inches
  • Fishing: Catch up on housework for a few days

Big Hole River Fishing Report 4/9/11

  • Water Flow: 2,330 cfs and rising
  • Water Temp: 45 degrees
  • Visibility: 6-8 inches
  • Fishing: Catch up on housework for a few days
  • Weather:

And So It Begins: Runoff 2011

Big Hole River Fishing Report:

  • Water Flow: 2,160 cfs (up 1,000 since last week)
  • Water Temp: 50 degrees mid-day
  • Visibility: very poor
  • Fishing:  not going to be great until things clear up a bit.  Smaller creeks will clear faster.

There must have been a small landslide into the Wise River last night because we have never seen the Wise so chocolate colored.  As a result, the Big Hole River below the confluence with the Wise River is very muddy.  Rainy weather is predicted for the next few days, warming into the high 60's by Thursday.

Unfortunately, the famed Mothers Day Caddis Hatch will most likely occur in water too dirty for the fish to see them this year.

We have entered the spring runoff and it's going to be pretty big water for a while.  The newspapers around the state are warning about rising water levels and probable flooding in several drainage systems.    The E. Gallatin near Bozeman is out of it's banks today and the snow in the Bridgers has not yet melted on the western slope.  According to the National Weather Service, "the Big Hole River near Melrose could crest between 9.6 and 10.3 feet, well above its flood stage of 6 feet.

I will keep you updated as the week goes on, but I recommend dusting off the golf clubs and leaving the rod in the garage for the next few days.

Big Hole Fishing Report 4/29/11

Spring on the Big Hole River

Big Hole River Fishing Report
  • Water Flow:  1,140 cfs
  • Water Temp:  39 degrees
  • Visibility: 3 feet
  • Weather:  High 34 today, cloudy
  • Fishing:  Good!

Hatches:  The skwala hatch has been on the Big Hole for the past week. This is a shy, unusual aquatic insect in that the male doesn't have the ability to fly very much due to the shortness of its wings. Trout look for them falling off willow and tree branches.

Recommended Leader: 9ft 3x

Recommended Tippet: 3x

Best Techniques: A dry/dropper combo is working well on warmer days when the trout are more active and looking for the skwalla stone flies. Tie on a #10 skwalla dry fly and attach a #12 Kaufman mini stone fly to the bend of the hook. Since the skwalla fly doesn't fly very often, trout look for them near the bank and falling off willow branches and overhanging limbs.

Tip of the Week: Streamer fishing can be productive on warmer days in the winter. Vary the speed of your strip starting out with a long, smooth strip keeping the tip of the rod on the water. If this doesn't work, try a faster strip and/or pausing to allow the streamer to sink before continuing the fast strip. Also try a dead drift with several big mends in the line to allow your streamer to get deep. A 2X tippet is recommended for streamer fishing this time of year in a 9' length. If these techniques don't produce, tie a small #16 beadhead pheasant tail or flashback hare's ear on the bend of the streamer hook with a 5x tippet and strip very slowly through the deep pools.

7 day outlook: The weather forecast is calling for highs in the 40's with possible snow showers through the week.

Hit this window before the run-off!

Big Hole River Fishing Report:

  • Water Flow: 1,120 cfs
  • Temperature:  47 degrees
  • Visibility:  2-3 feet
  • Bugs:  fish are looking for skwalas, streamers, and small dries when the sun is out.
  • Weather Forecast:  Thurs- 42 degrees and snow showers.   Fri- 36 degrees, windy and snow showers.  Sat- 45 degrees and partly sunny.  Sun- 50 degrees and mostly sunny

Bucknell grads, Dan and Chris, eager to get after it

The snow in the upper Big Hole Valley hasn't even come out of the meadows yet.  The meadow snow, or low snow as it is referred to around here, is typically gone by the end of April and we have a nice window for fishing until the warm spring temps bring down the high snow.

This year we are experiencing a late winter and a cool spring is likely.  One or two warm days will bring that remaining low snow out and the river will be off-color but most likely fishable.  When the temps reach 60 and 70, usually in early May, this winter's huge snowpack will begin to release and the river will be high and muddy for a week or two.  I expect high water to last well into June but as long as the water clears this is ok for fishing.   In the world of fly fishing there is always something to complain about but we would much rather have the problem of too much water than too little.  This year will be great for the health of the watershed.

Get out there with big ugly bugs in the inclement weather this week and tie on a  little dry fly when the temps hit the upper 40's and 50's this weekend.  Enjoy it while you can!

Still Snowing...

The ski lifts are closed throughout the state but it just keeps dumping in the mountains! Back-country skiing continues to be deep and rewarding!

Former Big Hole Lodge guide, Alex Ralston, gets deep on Lost Trail Pass

Big Hole River

  • Water flow:  1,210 cfs
  • Temperature: 42 degrees

After four days of steady increase in water level, the Big Hole is coming back down a bit.  The forecast through the weekend is for snow showers and cool temperatures so the river will continue to drop and clear as long as we don't get heavy rain tomorrow.  If you can handle the cold, skwalla patterns and streamers ought to work well out there.