I should begin by saying that the title of this post is a bit untrue. The first day of winter was Wednesday, December 21, 2016. The first day of spring isn’t until Monday, March 20, 2017. So technically, when you work the math, mid-winter will be 10 days from now on February 4. But we’re all going a little crazy at this point in the game, so I’m declaring mid-winter today.
It’s been a rough one so far; much more typical of an average Montana winter than the balmy El Nino-induced seasons of the past several years. This is my third winter here. And though the cold, snowy months in my previous home states of Pennsylvania and New York can see their own fair share of inclement weather, I don’t ever recall witnessing the -27 degree reading that my thermometer recorded on December 17. This is not wind chill. Straight -27 Fahrenheit. Yikes.
And because of this chilly weather, the Yellowstone River isn’t exactly fishing well over much of it’s length from the Yellowstone National Park boundary to Livingston. Nearly all of the river through Paradise Valley is ice-covered. The Image at the beginning of this blog is the view upstream of the Mallards Rest fishing access. It doesn’t look any more fishable downstream.
But there is some open water. A few stretches above the Yankee Jim Canyon, particularly where hot springs enter the river, are fishable. And the Paradise Valley spring creeks–Depuy’s, Armstrong’s, Nelson’s–remain open all year due to the near-constant temperature of their underground springs. These streams warm the river, making the section below Depuy’s ice-free. And I have spoken with several anglers at the shop who’ve been catching fish here.
Dan and I fished Depuy’s a few days ago and were able to land our first trout of 2017.
Dan was M.I.A. for my first fish, so here’s a pic of it in my net. Red midges that our friend, Jan Axtell, tied and brown scuds were the hot flies. We hooked a bunch of fish and even saw a few risers. It really was a good day.
The extra cold this winter does have some perks. We are a long way from summer, and anything can happen between now and then, but as of today the snow gauge at Two Oceans Plateau (where most of the Upper Yellowstone’s flow originates) is reading 146% snow pack with a 146% water content. And winter mountain snow is August’s river. So this is great news after the recent low flows that exacerbated the Tetracapsuloides bryosalmonae parasites attack on our whitefish that lead to the river closure from mid August though late September. All of Montana isn’t fairing as well as we are, so let’s hope the snow keeps falling in the mountains. If its going to be cold, it might as well snow.
That’s all I have to say for now, but I’ll leave you with some cool things I’ve seen so far this winter.
Paradise Valley winter sunrise from my front porch
Looking out my front window at mule deer eating the tiny trees my wife planted (most are branch-less stumps at this point due to the deer). But we get even with the deer by eating them, so it all works out. Circle of life and all that stuff.
There have been a lot of mulies in our fields lately…not a good time to be a baby tree.
And finally, I’ll end with a true harbinger of spring. The Easter Bunny has also been chewing on the vegetation at our place. Winter must be nearing its end. I saw him carrying a little basket full of purple grass two days ago. Or maybe that was the scotch. Spring can’t get here fast enough.