Flows will continue to be up and down over the coming week based upon day-to-day weather conditions. The river has been fishing very well on the drop, but has proven challenging when water levels are rising. Fish can certainly be coaxed from high, muddy waters, but knowing the river well is the key to success. As water clarity deteriorates anglers increasingly rely upon memory to locate deep holding water. Anglers will do best by focusing on water they’re familiar with, and by sticking to flies they’re confident in… runoff conditions are not a time to be exploring or experimenting.
The river is currently on the rise at 1,000 cfs and will likely approach 1,500 cfs on Friday, but water levels should stabilize as we go into the weekend. Visibility is down to inches below the Taylor Fork, and a bit better above. Stonefly nymphs dredged along soft banks and deep tailouts are your best bet. Which stonefly nymphs? A variety of patterns will produce, but there are a few that we’re particularly fond of:
- Pat’s Rubber Leg/Girdle Bug – these two patterns are virtually interchangeable and can be tied in a wide variety of color combinations. They’re simple to tie and look an awful lot like the real thing. Black is a top producer at this time of year, and the bigger the better since these are imitating the giant salmonfly… size 4 to 6 isn’t overkill.
- Mega Prince – An excellent pattern during high water, this prince nymph on steroids is heavy, buggy, and boasts a large profile… a great combination during runoff.
- Bitch Creek – A Montana classic that produces best during periods of low to moderate water clarity.
- Yuk Bug – Another tried and true stonefly/attractor pattern that has accounted for countless fish on Montana freestones, particularly during high water.
The weekend forecast is calling for a cooling trend extending into next week. It should be enough to slow snowmelt and stabilize flows for a few days – we have our fingers crossed. But if the weather system delivers rain at high elevations, we may see accelerated snowmelt and higher river levels next week.
Snow pack is looking good in the Gallatin drainage, with a basin wide average of 92% as of today. This should set us up for a good, healthy runoff that subsides in mid-June… hopefully just in time for the salmonfly hatch on the Gallatin.