2023 Could Be The Year To Head West
The Lamar Valley, the Yellowstone, Soda Butte Creek, Slough Creek, Depuy, Armstrong’s and Nelson’s Spring Creeks, Paradise Valley …. these are the waters and the valleys of the west that I had always read about and couldn’t imagine what it would be like. And then once as I was sitting along a stream talking about those places, his response to me was that we are given a window of opportunity to go to experience it all and as the days and months and years go by, that window is constantly closing to the point that it slams shut. And it can happen suddenly without warning. And this is the reason the planning started some 15 years ago.
And since the start of that planning of the first trip out to the valley, we have been back 7 times. In a way – it is no different than having that first taste of a favorite IPA. Once you get a taste of it – it just hangs with you and there is nothing that can match it. And my first taste of it occurred just as I saw the Gallatin and the Absaroka ranges as we landed in Bozeman. And then when we drove through the cut at Livingston between those ranges that brought us into Paradise Valley – I knew that was a feeling I would never get tired of and I don’t.
When the initial planning started, like many others – we were focused on the lodge and a full week guided experience. We just thought that for the first trip out there – that was the way to go. Everything cared for…. meals, transportation from the airport to the lodge, guiding, a nice room. But it wasn’t until we realized that we could do this on our own and save money by doing it that way that we really got excited to go. And since that time – as mentioned, we have been back several times and each time is unique and special. We have learned so much about the area, the fishing, and most importantly, how to keep the cost down to the point where one can spend a week in Paradise Valley for under $3,000 and less if the costs are shared. Airfare included. All of that is for another Blog posting though.
The reason for this posting is that next year – the fishing in the northeast quadrant of Yellowstone National Park could very well be …. to put it mildly…. simply amazing. And if you have never been there to cast a line or are considering it, next year could be the year you want to do it. This area of the park has been changed recently due to flooding and as a result, new braiding and channels have been cut out into the flows of the waterways located within that area. This coupled with the fact that there will not be any fishing pressure there this year due to access roads being totally washed out – it all could create a very good fishery next year.
The week prior to June 10th had seen abnormally high air temps in southeast Montana and Wyoming. This was cause for an early start of the high snowpack in this region. Then from June 10th to June 13th, the Beartooth and Absaroka mountain ranges received anywhere from 0.8 inches to over 5 inches of rainfall. This combined with snowmelt led to a massive deluge of water equivalent to the area receiving two to three months’ worth of summer precipitation in just three days. The enormous volume of water then flowed into the rivers and valleys in lower elevations, where it quickly rose to record depths flooding the northeast part of the park as well as the Yellowstone River. This caused access roads to be destroyed and as the water receded, new paths of flows in many of the rivers and streams are now where the roads were. But new channels have been formed along with braids that were not there previously. In all – a whole new experience chasing cutthroat will occur next year for those who have been there before.
But it will take a massive effort by the Park Service and Federal Highway Administration to rebuild the roads that have been damaged – largely from Tower Roosevelt to the Northeast Entrance. This area includes the Lamar Valley and in fact from late June through August is pretty much the only water available to fish due to thermal activity in the rest of the park bringing the water temps too high for the cutthroat which then return to the lake. Early projections though are showing that these roadways will be rebuilt by early next summer. Although it is hard to imagine that, seeing the progress they have made so far – it wouldn’t surprise anyone following the rebuild.
So, if the thought is there that this is a place you would want to cast a line while bison feed on the prairie grass behind you and the early morning sun is peaking through the Absaroka range ….. then next year might just be the year you would want to go. If the road system is rebuilt, those who walk down through the valley to the Lamar, or Soda Butte, or Slough Creek will very likely find water that is simply incredible. Remember – like he told me, each day that window closes a little more. Believe me when I say that stepping into that water, casting that line, as that sun rises and shines on that water and valley is something that is life changing.