Just an update on the current weather forecast for this weekend, a subject on the minds and tongues of everyone over the last 24 hours. The forecast is for a major winter storm to hit North Central Montana from Friday night through Sunday night. The storm will extend beyond North Central as well, impacting Southwest (Bozeman/Dillon) and West Central Montana (Missoula). The biggest impacts will be north of us along the Rocky Mountain front and the East Glacier area.
The good news is that less than 24 hours ago the watch was forecasting 18”-36” of snow, which had been downgraded to 10”-18” this morning. Still a pile of the white stuff, but knee deep instead of waist deep.
Fishing will likely be good to great during the storm, it always is if you can physically handle it. While we are certainly concerned for the safety of visiting anglers, our guide staff operates in these conditions a few times each year, so they are used to it. Are you going to be out there for 14 hours? No. But if you time a late start and plan a short float, you can often experience some fabulous fishing.
But we do have a few safety concerns:
1. Driving – Everyone is concerned about the fishing conditions, but it’s the getting here (and around here) in a vehicle that can be the most dangerous. We think it’s ridiculous to endanger yourself, friends and family by driving through unsafe conditions for a day of fishing (the same goes for our staff coming into work). If the storm happens as currently forecast, there will be cars off the road along I-15 as well as the Recreation road on the river.
2. Unprepared for the Elements – You cannot bring enough layers when fishing in this kind of weather! We recommend technical baselayer (wool is the best), fleece layers over that, followed by a “puffball”, waders and your waterproof/breathable shell. Warm hats and gloves should be carried, and all of our guides carry at least 2 pairs of each! Many of us carry extra shells as well.
Its also smart to bring a thermos of coffee (or your preferred hot beverage) as well as a Jetboil to cook up some more. Hand and foot warmers, wool Buffs, glove liners, and scarfs are all simple extras that can make for a warmer and more enjoyable day.
3. Boat Ramps – If it’s really dumping, make sure and think about the ramps you’ll be using. If you’re the first on or off, its usually OK, but once a couple of dripping wet drift boats are pulled out they can turn into a slippery mess.
We will try to be open all weekend, but You shouldn’t count on it. I think the possibilty exists that we will be late on Sunday morning (based on the current forecast), and if it really gets bad we may not show up at all (Powder Day). Monday morning may pose problems as well.
Here is the current Winter Storm Watch (which has changed repeatedly over the last 48 hours). Note that a “Watch” is less serious than a “Warning”, however the Cascade/Craig area is right on the edge of the “Warning” zone. This is subject to change as we are still 24 hours out.
...WINTER STORM WATCH NOW IN EFFECT FROM LATE FRIDAY NIGHT THROUGH SUNDAY AFTERNOON... * WHAT...Heavy snow possible. Total snow accumulations of mostly 10 to 18 inches possible, but even higher amounts possible in the mountains. Lower elevations in Jefferson, Broadwater, and Meagher Counties may only receive 3 to 7 inches of snow. North to northeast winds could gust as high as 40 mph at times. Cold wind chill temperatures of 5 to 15 degrees above zero are possible. * WHERE...Portions of central, north central, southwest and west central Montana. * WHEN...From late Friday night through Sunday afternoon. * IMPACTS...Travel could be very difficult to impossible. Areas of blowing snow could significantly reduce visibility. * ADDITIONAL DETAILS...This has the potential to be a historically significant early-season snow event. Now is the time to prepare for the winter-like weather! * CONFIDENCE...Moderate confidence in accumulations, winds, associated impacts, and timing of onset and end of this winter storm event.