2017 Montana Fishing Outlook

2017 Montana Snow Pack levels

It’s the time of year when anglers start to see those longer days and turn their thoughts to the Montana fly fishing season. At Montana Fly Fishing Guides we’d like to offer some insight based on our nearly 20 years experience in the area. We’ll support this with a look at current snow pack levels, combine it with long term temperature and precipitation forecasts. While this all turns into a best guess scenario we’ve got time in between tying flies and skiing, so let’s dig in to the details regarding the 2017 Montana fishing outlook.

The latest snow pack levels are looking good. If you’re unfamiliar with snow pack and how it relates to fishing here’s the simplified version. Most rivers in Montana rely on the amount of snow and more importantly the amount of water locked in the snow, or snow water equivalent (SWE). If there is too much SWE and the rivers may flood, too little and drought conditions set in. Looking at the SWE image below shows the Upper Yellowstone River drainage leading the charge at 128% of normal for this time of year. Most other drainages in Montana are at near normal levels, with the exception of the Smith area drainage.


Now on to the 3 month forecast, the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has predicted near normal temperatures for SW Montana in February, March & April. Interesting to note is the 33%-50% chance of below average temperature forecast for the majority of Montana. Combined with good SWE this forecast bodes well for those planning their Montana fly fishing trips.

2017 Montana fishing outlook

Finally NOAA has forecast a 33% chance of above average precipitation for SW Montana and the eastern part of Montana looks to have a 40% chance. Montana is not currently in any major drought status, and this forecast, if it comes to fruition, will further protect us from it. Again this data supports a good 2017 Montana fishing outlook, especially those looking to take advantage of good water temperatures throughout the Spring season.

2017 Precipitation Forecast

Now for the challenging part, putting all this data and forecasts together with our expertise to get you our prediction for the 2017 Montana fishing outlook. First off, the current SWE combined with average 3 month temperature and precipitation forecasts looks excellent. Our take on this leads us to believe that the spring fishing season is looking very good. Anglers wishing to avoid the peak season and experience fewer crowds should take advantage of this timeframe and good forecast. Excellent spring fishing can be found on the Yellowstone River in April, the Madison River in April, May & June, and the Missouri River in April, May & June.

How will this influence our annual spring run-off, well that’s a really tricky question. At this point in the season we think it’s too early to guesstimate the start or length of run-off. Montana weather is tough enough to forecast from day to day, let alone 4 or 5 months out. However, at this point if we were pressed it looks as though run-off on many of our rivers should start close to their normal dates. For example the Yellowstone River typically starts run-off near the first week of May. The current data doesn’t seem to support an early, late or extended run-off.

To summarize the current data strongly supports an excellent 2017 Montana fishing outlook, especially for the spring season. We’ll revisit this in a few months to update the main summer season. In the meantime think snowy thoughts, hit the tying bench and feel free to contact us or comment below with any questions or thoughts on the 2017 Montana fishing outlook.

3 thoughts on “2017 Montana Fishing Outlook

  1. We are planning a trip to SW Montana for June 18-27. We are hoping to fish the Madison , Gallatin, Rock Creek and Big hole river. I am getting a little nervous that the melt off might make for tough fishing during that time. Any thoughts on what you predict the conditions might be like? Thank you!

    1. Cameron,

      Yea, it’s definitely more like a normal snow pack year. While the rest of the country is pretty warm already we are still having a cool, snowy spring. The Madison, Rock Creek and Big Hole should be fine that time of year. If you need to you should also think about the Missouri River as that will also be fishable. Obviously, that’s our best guess right now and it all depends on the weather from here on out. Let me know if I can answer any further questions or if you’d like to book a guided trip during your stay. Tight lines!

  2. I am planning a surprise fishing trip for my husband and a couple of his friends once he returns from deployment. I am looking at Nov 17-21. Is that a good time for fishing??

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