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The End of March Fishing Report: Flooding and Fishing in Paradise Valley

Updated: Apr 15, 2019


Off-color water from snowmelt produces very good streamer fishing.

It's been a tumultuous week in southwestern Montana. A record producing early March storm dumped 3 feet of snow on the region. And below average air temperatures kept the snow in place until this week. But spring-like highs in the upper fifties and low sixties early in the week unleashed heavy low elevation run-off. County roads were washed out. Homes were flooded and paved streets became impassable.


Now we've lived on the Upper Delaware Mainstem, the Beaverkill, and Penns Creek, so we know a little something about floods. But there was a reason why we chose to buy a place in Montana that wasn't located on trout water. And it wasn't just because of the expense: We are tired of floods. My father seems to think that I'm some sort of Noah-like creature that floods just follow. Maybe he's right.


I was home when a river formed in our second field, following the contours of the glacial till prairie where we live. Water poured through our horse stalls where my drift boat spends the off-months, requiring a rescue mission by shoveling a road though the snow to place the boat safely in my garage. Then the water really started flowing.


For about 30 hours, I had my own trout stream (minus the trout) running through our property. Luckily, our house and garage sit on high ground and were in no real danger of getting wet after I cleared some snow from the water's path. And then, like someone turned off the tap, the water just stopped. Within a couple hours, you couldn't even tell that it happened. Crazy.



So what's an angler to do once the flood waters recede? I went fishing. The water had a slight tinge of color from the run-off; that's unusual for the spring creek I was fishing. But it created excellent streamer fishing conditions. I tried a couple patterns. But a black conehead zuddler was the ticket. I also caught a bunch of fish on BWO nymphs and size 18 zebra midges, even though I didn't see anything hatching.



A fat BWO nymph-eating rainbow

We still have a lot of mid and high elevation run-off yet to come which will hopefully keep the region's trout water cold and productive through summer. As of today, the Upper Yellowstone River basin is at 104% of its normal snowpack. And we just received another 6 inches of wet heavy snow last night that quickly erased the grass I had just begun to enjoy. But that's winter and spring in Montana. The fish need it. And without it, who cares about summer.

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