2018 Fly Fishing Outlook
Watching the snow pile up here around Bozeman has been quite the experience this winter. Snow plow bills that rival a week in Belize in cost? A drift boat that is on the other side of an 8’ snow berm looks a long way from seeing its first outing of the year. Report after report of just how silly the skiing has been throughout the state seem to filter their way into the fly shop most days as well. Yes, it looks like we will have water for the 2018 season, maybe even more than our fair share.
Any predications that we make are just that and nothing more. We have been watching the snowpack and using it to help anglers plan a guided fly fishing trip to Bozeman for the last 18 years. The one thing we know is that it will certainly change between now and when all that surplus water matters the most (late July – early September). As for now though, things look really good for the prime-summer months in terms of water which should translate to good river levels and ground moisture (less forest fires).
Early Season –
March and April should be status quo with low river flows and clean water overall. Assuming that we eventually get some very warm days in late March or early April, expect to see flows increase and dirty water in the lower valley waters like the East Gallatin, lower Gallatin, Jefferson, Shields, and portions of the Yellowstone River downstream of Livingston. These rivers tend to rise and drop with daily temperature swings, rarely remaining unfishable for long periods of time between now and the start of the runoff (usually early May).
Good time to plan a trip to Disneyland or Branson, Missouri! Typical runoff season in Bozeman is May 7 – June 7 in that fishing options can be very limited – close to Bozeman. The upper and lower Madison usually fish well – even if they are high and off-color – from early June on through the runoff. The Yellowstone and Gallatin rivers will most likely be out until early July, late June at the earliest and late July at the latest. We watch stream flows closely during this time of year with the intention of targeting watersheds with stable or dropping flows.
Early July should see some very good fishing conditions on both the upper and lower Madison Rivers with many small streams clearing and fishing well too (Boulder, East Gallatin, Shields, etc.) These smaller rivers usually have a short window of opportunity each year, but we anticipate this window to be closer to 3-4 weeks rather than 1-2 of prime conditions. The Gallatin, Jefferson, and Yellowstone should all be dropping, clearing, and fishing by early July (will depend on additional snow and spring weather). August and September should be prime in 2018 for the Yellowstone River. I expect we will be on our usual routine of guiding on all of the rivers in the Bozeman area by the second week of July.
Final Thoughts –
In typical years, our biggest concern is with the water temperatures and flows from late July through late August. Low flows, coupled with hot air temperatures makes for extended periods of warm water temperatures which can cause stress and physiological challenges to wild trout. Healthy river flows help mitigate the impacts of warming water temperatures by carrying higher concentrations of dissolved oxygen during the warm, summer months. Even though we expect to see stable flows in 2018, warm water temperatures are still likely to occur throughout the region.
We expect to continue with early morning starts (5:30-6:00 AM) on our guided fly fishing trips in Bozeman throughout late July and August. However, the higher stream flows should allow us to offer a quality experience for our guests that prefer a standard meeting time of around 7:00 AM as well.
There is much to be determined, but I can assure you that we are optimistic and excited about the fishing prospects around Bozeman in 2018. A healthy snowpack is an awesome thing for Montana in that it helps recharge aquifers, fills reservoirs, reduces irrigation demands, reduces forest fires, and keeps more water in the Bozeman area rivers.
Contact our Bozeman fly shop for more information regarding the outlook for the 2018 season in the coming weeks and months. Our guided fly fishing trips in Bozeman operate year-round and we always have a few options, even during the peak of runoff! We recommend booking your guided fly fishing trip or package as soon as you have vacation dates set as our guides are often booked well in advance during the season. Email us to check availability or to reserve a guided trip with one of our Bozeman fly fishing guides.