Yellowstone Lake is seeing overnight lows above freezing and is now showing a little increase in outflow. With the lake beginning to move and big surges from the Lamar River, combined with a rainy week that will further cut out snow we're seeing a formula which seems to indicate we've entered into spring runoff on the 'Stone. The Lamar River hit a record high yesterday, will today and is likely to do so for the next couple days. The rains that are suppose to move in and provide a good soak to our region, if they materialize, may make it tough to get another window of clearing, todays push in flow hasn't even registered north of the park yet. While we achieved near normal snowpack it's dropping about three percentage points a day. It would seem clear it's shaping up to be a year where we will resume fishing early, just how early remains a little murky. We may see a scenario where the Yellowstone gets big fast but doesn't run as dirty as normal due to the low snowpack in the valleys that contribute directly to the Lamar.
So just how early might we resume fishing? Fishing in June is certain, we feel more like the third week of the month, even earlier seems unlikely but not impossible. Forecast predictions still call for equal (to normal) precipitation for the current 90 day period, which should help build some reserves for later in the year. We'll need to see what the rest of April and May bring before we have a better glimpse of the latter part of the season. The takeaway for those planning to fish southwest Montana this year is to keep an eye on things and consider the possibility of moving your dates up or even adding early dates as well to your intinerary. Continue to check back with us as it shapes up further and start adding a few more caddis, goldenstones and salmonflies to your boxes, you may be reaching for them shortly.
In the meantime get out and ply the stained water before it thickens up and hits the "plowable" stage, it's very dirty but not quite chocolate milk just yet. If it were caddis time, it isn't really that bad. For now there is still some fishing to be had you'll just have to get a bit creative. Seek out areas where the river will mix with incoming water that is in better shape. Beyond the Yellowstone start looking to tailwater options, area tributaries that are running clear and the spring creeks or private lakes.
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A few caddis have been showing, and while you probably aren't going to see any hatches for a bit longer it's another sign that we are certainly running early. If you head out it's a good time to offer fish a meaty meal that is worth them making a move for whether it be subsurface or on top. You will see fish willing to move to big attractor dries, march browns, baetis or even a caddis on the edges and in the foam holes. Darkly colored streamers with just a little flash built in are sure to find bigger browns in need of a meal.