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  • Writer's pictureSatoshi Yamamoto

How Important Are the Snow Pack Values?



This spring, I had opportunities to talk about fishing in my area, the Yellowstone Country, at the few fly-fishing expos. During my presentations and in general conversations here and there, I've been asked "how's the snow pack in Montana?", "Will it a low flow year?" etc etc. I actually anticipated this.... Yes, it's the fact that we had relatively a mild and dry winter from the end of 2023 to early 2024. Then I know why this is a hot topic among fly-fishers in and out of the state. That's due to the "infamous" fishing hour restriction mandated by the state department. I don't write the details here. You are welcome to contact me to chat any time.


So, to answer the title question, yes, the snow pack values can be important. But, important for WHAT? It would help us reasonably guess the potential summer flows of Montana rivers. But would that predict our fishing as well??? - Not really.......


When we talk about Yellowstone River, the first thing to know is that it's the undammed river, ie, totally a free stone. There are so many miscellaneous factors to consider other than the "mere" snow pack values. WEATHER PATTERNS from spring to early summer is perhaps more important and even unpredictable for weather specialists!! Say, we had a warm April. My first guide trips were under the sunny over 70F days. But came May, the first week turned out to be a hazardous snow storm, believe it or not!! Now in the middle of the month, we are experiencing another cool week. This type of weather events add some extra snow packs in the head waters and stop snow melts = slow down the progress of runoffs.


Below are screenshots of the snow pack data as of today. Snow-water equivalent value of 72% is in the lower side but the value is not different from the warm April. Then we typically have 5 to 10 days of rainy season in June.


Then, the summer flow and fishing conditions will be affected by the summer weather patterns, which, again, we won't know until we get there!!


So, I would also guess it would be slightly less than average flow in Yellowstone River and in most Montana rivers. But that does not mean that the state department will regulate our fishing hours - aske them they will say they don't know at this point!!


Now, let me remind you the catastrophic flood of 2022. There was an average snow pack as of April. Then some people started to pray for more rain. The weather lord granted their wishes by dropping torrential rains three days in a row on Memorial Day weekend and over a week in early June. Do anyone want another 200% or 350% of average snow packs?? Watch what you wish for.........

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