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  • Monday, May 19, 2008


    MAY 24, 2008

    Too Thick To Wade - Too Thin To Plow
    bring a slicker
    .. First, the weather: not as bad as it could be. Showers are in the forecast. Some snow, some rain, some mixed, and who knows what else. Temperatures will climb into the 40's and maybe even low 50's. The blue sky will be visible on rare occasions. Bring as much clothing as your first class ticket will allow.
    .. That's the good news. The other news is as follows:
    1] The west entrance station to Yellowstone National Park is now fully functional - the road isn't. A one lane constriction will slow you down.
    2] The snow cover has kept the large ungulates in the valleys and on the roads. The bears and wolves have stayed with them. Traffic will be horrific.
    3] The only people who can afford to drive to the park have land yachts in the 40' class. They pull $46,000 Hummers behind them. They stop in the middle of the road to grab a snapshot of ground squirrels.
    4] Die hard fishers are already gathering in West Yellowstone. The rivers will be crowded. Be prepared to make new friends and enemies.
    5] There is still a foot, (or more,) of snow on the secondary roads. There may be difficulty getting to some fishing spots.
    6] The meadows are full of water, bison, elk, wolves and bears. Other than that, they are slick, spongy, soggy and 'quick.' Be prepared to wade cautiously to the rivers edge in many places.
    7] The water is no less than bank high in most places on the Gibbon, Firehole, and Madison Rivers.
    .. Fly fishers are fond of describing rivers in the Spring with gentle phrases. Some like "tea-stained," or "tea-colored." Other folks like "off color," or "cloudy," or "brownish." Occasionally you will hear words like buff, dark, dull, or even gray.
    .. The current state of most of the rivers is better described using colors that could refer to the contents of a baby's diaper.
    .. The Madison River near West Yellowstone, (Barns Holes to Seven Mile Bridge,) is full, frothy, dark brown with a visibility of less than a foot and getting more dense each day. This is a sick baby.
    .. The road to the Barns Holes is still restricted by snow that should be mostly gone by Saturday. We went down and back but did not travel the muddy dirt trails of the meadow. Faint of heart, we are.
    .. The long riffles and glides are so deep that there is little in the way of spume, spray or whitecaps. It's possible to define the main channels by the organic froth and bubbles that are in the main stream flows.
    .. Above Seven Mile Bridge the river is out of bank in several places and some of the meadows are covered by a foot of water.
    .. The carcasses of dead elk and bison are seen as furry islands: usually guarded by ravens, or eagles, or bears, or coyotes. At the confluence of the Firehole and Gibbon Rivers in National Park Meadows it is clear to see that the Gibbon River is contributing the majority of the silt and sand to the Madison River.
    .. The broad meadows that hold some of the better-fishing tributaries are no less that a foot deep and some are deeper. If you can get across the Madison River to a couple of these choice tributaries, they will be less clear than they have been in the recent past.
    .. The bank at Nine Mile Hole is rapidly eroding, and the hot spring in National Park Meadows is under water. Fishing the Madison River on opening day will certainly be tough and largely a symbolic gesture.
    .. There are spots on the Gibbon River that may be productive for the fly fisher on May 24. You'll have to be ginger in your step, quick in your reflex, and vigilant in your observation. There are bison and elk in many of the meadows. The water is spread thin and the little depressions hold fish in the grass.
    .. The canyon is pretty much out of the question. However the plunge pool above Tanker Bend has a bit of slow clear water. The plunge pool below the bend is a brown mud hole with pink and yellow froth defining the main channel. Over-all, the canyon water is not as badly colored as it could be. Cool temperatures may slow it down some - probably not!
    .. The constriction of the Gibbon River near the picnic area between Gibbon Meadows and Elk Meadows has produced an hydraulic dam and slowed the river enough that there are some fishable areas. After all, fish gotta eat!
    .. The meadows around Norris Campground are clear of snow and more than a little damp. The water is rising at the present writing and is about 14" deep. Fish are in the grass and the water in the meadows is clear. This is fishable if you have the skills of a bonefisher.
    .. The meadows above Virginia Cascade still have a bit of snow in them and trudging through this slush will be a chore. The Gibbon River is actually tea-stained in this stretch and it is only out of bank in a couple of places. The meadow is very soft and you could be up to your ankles, (or worse,) if you're not careful.
    .. The Firehole River is looking like its traditional opening day self. It's roiling, burbling, bubbling, twisting and very full. Color is not up yet and visibility in some places is as much as three to four feet. The constricted sections around Midway Geyser Basin and in the Firehole Canyon are showing a bit of energy but the river is still within its banks, (right now.)
    .. The meadows of meanders in Biscuit Basin are soggy and the water is nearly clear adjacent to some of the banks. This will be a popular destination on opening day. There is easy access, there is a big parking lot, there are "facilities," and the scenery can't be beat.
    .. The big meadows below the bridge are wet and soggy. The Firehole River is out of bank in a couple of areas. Walking this section is also complicated by the numerous bears and carcasses in the area. There will be crowds early for the bear shows. They will linger through the day and then thicken again in the evening. If you'd like to collect license plate sightings - this is the place.
    .. The waters around the confluence of the Firehole River and Nez Perce Creek at the entrance bridge to Fountain Flat are surprisingly clear. No baby diapers here. More like diluted iced tea. Very encouraging.
    .. The bison are thick and the bears are too. Nez Perce Creek above the Grand Loop Road Bridge is closed because of the dense bear population.
    .. The short stretch of Nez Perce Creek , between the bridge and the Firehole River looks very fishy as of this writing. The outlet from Hidden Pond is flowing nicely and that will be a good place to check. It's clear, cool, and very buggy.
    .. The high ground between the two rivers is dry, lush, and protected. The picnic tables are in place as well.
    .. What flies? What bugs? What waters? STAY TUNED.