You Shoulda Been Here in June – SW Montana 2021

Guest Blogger: Mike Cline, Bozeman, Montana

There is a common saying in the angling world: “You Should Have Been Here Yesterday”. The implication is that had you been fishing here yesterday, the catching would have been good, but not so much today. Well SW Montana has been unexpectedly a bit like that in 2021. The Western drought has received a lot of attention in the media and deservedly so. It is turning out to be an exceptionally dry year. And that has had both positive and will have negative impacts on angling here in SW Montana. From my perspective as a local angler here in Bozeman, Montana March through June 2021 has actually been a period of exceptional fishing on several counts. Spring warmed up a bit early in March awakening rivers from their winter slumber. April and May remained relatively mild and the rivers showed off excellent midge, caddis and streamer fishing well into early May. For the most part flows were normal for spring time.  More importantly, springtime is usually uncrowded as not too many visiting anglers are around.

Things started to get a bit different as the end of May rolled around. Runoff got off to a slow start and although the big rivers indeed got bigger and dirtier it didn’t really last long nor did they generate anywhere near their normal volume. Some rivers like the Beaverhead and Ruby, buffered by reservoirs never really experienced any high, dirty water. The Yellowstone, Madison and Big Hole provided seasonably excellent conditions for the annual Salmon Fly hatch with lower water that wasn’t pushing into the bankside willows. Small headwater streams like the Upper Ruby came into shape by mid-June, where typically it was the July 4th weekend before they would be fishable. Insect hatches that typically occurred when flow and clarity conditions were marginal were now occurring in lower, crystal clear waters. The other positive in June was nighttime air temperatures. March through June, night time air temperatures in the high plains can fall below freezing, but typically are in the 40s and low 50s. These temperatures bode well for trout streams as they cool considerably overnight.

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800 Words and Cannibals

Guest Blogger: Mike Cline, Bozeman, Montana

There is an Australian television series that is currently being broadcast on one of the internet streaming services called 800 Words. The plot is straight forward where an Australian writer moves his family from Sydney to a remote town in New Zealand. In Sydney he wrote a weekly column for a prominent Sydney publication that always contained exactly 800 words. He continued the tradition in New Zealand and a significant undercurrent of the show’s weekly plot was his struggle to find the right topic for his weekly column. Of course, that struggle was inevitably tied to the ongoing plot lines in the series. As in everything in fictional television, he succeeded.

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The Rise and Fall of the Firehole

Guest Blogger: Mike Cline, Bozeman, Montana

What goes up must come down! Like clockwork, the June cycles of the Firehole River in Yellowstone provide for a challenging angling experience. A light work schedule (thankfully nothing since late March) allowed me to string a series of seven day-trips between May 28 and June 12 to the Firehole during the opening salvo of the 2018 Yellowstone National Park season. Each year, the park season opens on the Saturday of Memorial Day weekend. Despite having outstanding fisheries throughout the park, it is rare that any water other than the Firehole is fishable on the opener. It always attracts a lot of anglers, especially those that can make the easy trip from Utah, Idaho, Colorado and Montana for the weekend. However, by Monday, Memorial Day itself, the initial pressure subsides quite a bit. That’s when I make my first foray to the Firehole, always hoping for decent, fishable conditions.

We had a big snow year in Montana and a warmer than normal May had the big rivers in runoff early. That first trip of the season to the Firehole was always fraught with the odds that the river would be swollen and unfishable (if not just very difficult to fish). One of the big draws to the Firehole is the dry fly fishing (not my gig, but a lot of anglers live for it). Unfortunately, early season hatches can be sporadic if not absent completely if the river is cold and high. But that does not mean there isn’t decent fishing (catching I mean) if you get to the river at the right time in the right places.

Continue reading → The Rise and Fall of the Firehole