2017 Bozeman Fly Fishing Outlook – Fins and Feathers Bozeman
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2017 Bozeman Fly Fishing Outlook

We were greeted this morning with another fresh dusting of the white stuff here in the Gallatin Valley while the mountains received another pile of wet snow! That got me thinking on the snow-pack and wondering where we are setting as the season is fast approaching. This is usually the time of year when we start to feel confident in our predictions regarding water conditions for the year ahead. Things are looking good right now for what we would consider a “normal water year!”

A normal water year around Bozeman generally means that the runoff starts in early May and lasts through mid-late June. April is often characterized by warmer days with water levels that tend to go up and down with a gradual increase in flows as we get closer to May. The Yellowstone should be high and dirty from sometime in early May through the end of June. Portions of the Madison will remain fishable throughout the runoff, but we would plan on it being in poor condition, overall from mid-late May. The Gallatin River should be difficult to wade fish from early May through mid-June. Water conditions will vary widely across river drainages during the runoff in 2017 with good options being available around Bozeman except for the 2nd and 3rd weeks of May.

2017 Montana Snowpack Levels

Assuming that we have a relatively “normal” spring and early summer, late June through July should provide some exceptional opportunities around Bozeman. Salmonflies should show up on the Madison mid-late June, we may catch the tail end of that hatch on the upper Yellowstone if it becomes fishable by June 25. Early July will be characterized by prolific hatches of Caddis, PMD’s, and Yellows Sallies along with some residual hatches of Golden Stones and Salmonflies through mid-July. The nymphing and streamer fishing should be very good during this time as well.

I would expect to see some warmer water conditions once we get to late July that typically last for a couple of weeks through mid-August. Our snowpack is currently looking very good so we should be alright in terms of streamflow during this time of the year. Adequate streamflow help reduce the impacts of high water temperature, aquatic vegetation growth, and keeps anglers spread out throughout the region. As of right now, this is the only time of the season that I have any concerns for in terms of the quality of the fishing in the region. Typically, we adjust our schedule to leaving very early in the mornings this time of year and plan on fishing until 2 or 3 in the afternoons. My best guess, however, is that we will see better water conditions this time of year than we have experienced in several years!

Late August through the first week of September is a “sleeper” time of year here in Southwest Montana. Summer tourist crowds are light between August 23 and Labor Day, every year. The days are noticeably shorter by then as well and nights often cool down to the point that a light jacket is required for early morning meet times. Hatches start to pick up once again by this time of year and most fish are still looking for hoppers as well. I am feeling particularly excited about this two week period in 2017 and think it would be a great choice for some of our regular clients that would like to experience the fishing around Bozeman during the peak of the season, yet want to avoid the crowds of mid-summer!

September fishing around Bozeman is almost always a slam dunk, if we don’t get hit by an unusually extreme cold front or periods of heavy winds. Water levels in early September should be just fine given the current snowpack across the region. Expect to have some dry fly fishing opportunities throughout the month and on into early October as hatching insects become more prevalent.

Overall, all of us at Fins & Feathers of Bozeman are feeling great about the fly fishing outlook for Southwest Montana in 2017. Conditions change all the time, but having 90-110% of long term average water equivalent in our snowpack at this time of year is a “stellar” situation! Too much and we are faced with a prolonged runoff, while not enough results in low water and high water temperatures.

Our Bozeman-based fly-fishing guides are pretty dialed into the current conditions throughout the season and adjust their plans according to weather and water conditions to ensure client success. 2017 should make for some easy decisions on our part for a change and we are looking forward to some great water conditions. Call us at our Bozeman fly shop (406-586-2188) or send us an email if you have any questions about the outlook or to reserve a guided fly-fishing trip.