How to interpret water data or Realism: A sport most anglers want nothing of.

How to interpret water data or Realism: A sport most anglers want nothing of.

The case in point today revolves around a couple charts that we see most often used by bloggers like HH and beyond. Below is an article about how to navigate through all the bullshit you may see on social sites and blogs around the industry. 

We are often glued to data like them to predict what will happen in the future. We as businesses often use it as a way to promote good fishing, happy faces, and as a tool for marketing. That is all well and good my fishy friends. But it means nothing as a tool for predicting the future summer water.

The reason is that the data reflects what has already happened. Analogous to fishing reports all the charts show is yesterday’s news man. While you may be able to tie them together, the snow on the ground/water equivalent to tomorrows flows, it s commonly not an accurate representation of actual future water events. Actual, is the operative word there.

The red line is us currently. The green line 2017. The black line is the model the water managers are following.

John has long believed in this theory. A way of thinking, computing, contemplating, rationalizing along with absorbing and including events/seasons/outcomes/reality. A theory. Yet often confirmed by reality. And sometimes not. He is correct in stepping back a healthy distance adopting more of a global view. The two precepts below come from John.

Firstly being that the Snotel sites are not always correct. Corroborated by the DNRC stating that they use the snow gauges as one of the many data points used by the department to predict future/summer water flows. Is it the primary? Nope.

Secondly that in the past big snow years do not always correlate to big water years. True as well. In the previous twenty years we have had enormous snowfall winters that in reality, there is that word again, did not produce high water years, or even average water summer seasons.

The reality is that for a big water, or even normal water year, several things have to fall in place including rain and late season snow to get you through the run-off period with some left in the ground (groundwater), on the ground (snow), and in the skies (rain). All three of those have to happen if you are to get anything greater than normal to low, water years. Evidenced by the water years of  ’97, ’98, ’08-’11, and beyond. You can certainly do the research yourself by pouring over some of the USGS and NOAA sites. Lots of factors have to fall into place for big, or even normal water years to happen.

Looks good when looking at the graph. Remember it is today, not tomorrow. We like green and blue better than orange and yellow. That is positive.

Back to the data/charts…they mean something today, yet nothing for tomorrow. Truth.

It is but one point of data. Today. The data today. It cannot, and does not predict the future of water flows.

John and I also talk about the years that we have had strong snow winters that turned into low water years. Some years the water disappears in March, April, May. Lots of white covered low and mid elevation hillsides that from the outside looking in, looks promising. Then the water evaporates or becomes subsurface soil moisture or slips down the river.

The number of factions that dictate how the water is released in the spring to make way for the upcoming run-off have a lot to do with this as well. I have often called what they do as Ouija Board Water Management. I do not envy that position at all. Lots of data, and guesswork, and following models is how that decision is made. Attend one of the water meeting in the spring for your watershed and you can see that it a whole room of smart people guessing about how to proceed.

I am not discounting they intelligence of said room. Just outlining the difficulty of the equation.

Realism: A sport most anglers want nothing of.

Not trying to be a downer on this hump day. No, not at all attempting to bring you down man. Just speaking to the reality of the subject. For the most part anglers do not look kindly upon the concept of reality. They are not interested in reality at all.

Fantasy is more a part of their game.

Truly. I thought of it this morning while thinking about the snow outside, the appearance of the data that shows snow a positive amount of snow in the hills, and the conversations John and I have had in regard to the water subject.

We both believe that just because we have snow in the hills today, does not mean much in the great scope of the seasons. That snow can go away quickly. One warm spell, a spring warm rain event, average air temps in march higher than normal in the Rockies. Mother Nature is the architect of all of this. We do not have a seat at that table! Two shakes of a squirrels tail. Gone. Gone-Di. Gone Johnson. Done-zel Washington. Bye-bye. The water can, and sometimes does, go away.

2018 Missouri River Water Preditctions
A monthly water forecast. Not what will really occur. We always want the blue line to win. The green line is not as good. The blue means more fish for the future. Higher recruitment.

So, here is the outcome of those conversations, the data, and the damn snow falling from the skies today. It is currently -1F, windchill -18F.

We, John, me, you, and anglers across this great land, want adequate/more water. Easy to say. I’m just mentioning it you the blog reader that it’s just like buying a time share…it looks good on paper.

If you think about anglers and the concept of reality, as I often do, you can quickly realize that most do not like reality. Reality is that it may be the fly, but most likely is your presentation or casting skills. Not the fly.

That is reality man.

Reality is that it may be a 23 1/2″ Brown. No, not really. Reality is that it may be an 18″ Brown. Which is a nice Brown trout, but doesn’t feel as good when telling the tale at the campfire. Fantasy is part of our angling psyche. And that is cool in some regard.

The winter water situation needs to be centered around the reality concept. All of this before it becomes a realty in the summer.

We cross our fingers that it all turns out well. We are not doomsday’s at all. Not at all. Just pointing out the reality of the situation. We want great summer flows. We are so fortunate that even lower water flows produce good fishing here on the Missouri River. We are so appreciative of this resource.

I could go on forever about the differences between really and fantasy in the angling word, but I gotta save something for tomorrow. And I just had a shot computer break which was awesome.

Try to grasp the reality concept today. I will too. There is nothing wrong with fantasy. It is often far better than reality. Just cling to a bit of reality when looking at water data this year. It is healthy to understand what it really means. Like fishing reports, it informs you about what is happening today, but may mean nothing about what will happen tomorrow!

How about understanding that you can separate the two feelings, emotions. Break it out. A small bit of reality and a big mouth of fantasy. That is acceptable…


missouri river, Realism: A sport most anglers want nothing of., science, Seasonal Flows, Theory, Water Data, Water Flows
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1 Comment.

  • Richard Sprague
    January 11, 2018 7:53 pm

    Good for you guys. Our whole state is in a yellow or orange snow pack status. No bueno.

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