It has been a cold winter in Montana with chilling artic fronts and heavy snowfall. Things are off to a great start in terms of snowpack. Although we still have a ways to go, the South Fork of the Flathead drainage is looking great for summer fly fishing and drop float trips in the Bob Marshall Wilderness Area.
As of December 29, the current snowpack is at 97 percent of normal. Combine that with the frigid temperatures and that base is likely to hold a little longer unless we see a major heat wave.
What Does it All Mean?
Spring is always a wildcard in Montana so it’s not worth jumping to any major conclusions. In recent history, we have seen warmer spring temps and faster runoff periods. If the current cool trend continues however, the runoff may hold out a little longer this year. This is great if you have a late season float planned, as flows will be slightly more generous. Early summer floaters may find themselves rowing and paddling through bigger water so be prepared to handle rapids and hydraulics.
Floating rivers accessible by vehicle lends itself well to options. You can change plans and float different sections or an entirely different river when flows are inconvenient. Backcountry trips are quite the opposite. The horses drop you off and any flow fluctuations are dealt with on the spot. There is no going back.
Heavy snowpack and a deep freeze is fantastic news overall. It means the river will likely be passable well into late summer. It also means early season flows will have high volume and require experienced boater skills. Speak to your outfitter and get trip and flow reports from groups going in advance. Personal communication is the best way to know
Prepare for Rain
Rain is a major influencer on flows during the early summer, especially at high elevations. Lingering snowpack can melt rapidly and cause major flow increases. Know the weather forecast and watch the weather closely during your float. A passing storm can lead to rising flows. In some cases, pulling off the river and waiting for things to stabilize is the best decision. A push of water can pass through within hours after a brief storm.
For more information on fly fishing trips and drop float trips in the Bob Marshall Wilderness Area with Lazy J Bar O Outfitters, please see our Summer Page. You can also give us a call at 406-932-5687 or send us a message.