The month of May has been a cool, cloudy and very wet one so far which is really a blessing given the low winter snow pack. The river has risen quite a bit over the last week with all of the heavy rainfall and many of the tributaries and blowing substantial amounts of mud. The water clarity at Ennis is right on the cusp between brown and green. The river is up to 1890 cfs at Varnery Bridge (well below the long-term median), however they are still holding water back at Hebgen dam and only releasing 567 cfs. So what's the takeaway? We are likely seeing the peak of spring runoff right now. And we suggest fishing the upper reaches above Macatee to find the best water conditions.
The burning questions around here now are: When will the river clear? When will Sammies start on the Big Hole? And of course, when will the Sammies start on the Madison. For the record, here are my guesses... The river will be dropping and clearing at Varney by the end of next week. Sammies will also start hatching on the Big Hole late next week (think June 5-8). And Sammies will start in earnest at Ennis bridge on June 20th. But don't worry too much about the water clarity, you can still catch fish in the dirty water throughout the river.
Fish big stonefly nymphs, buggers, worms and bead-heads on heavy tippet and target the deepest, softest water. Fishing from the bank is usually the most effective tactic this time of year. They are in there getting fat with all the bugs in the dirft from the rising levels. Streamers are producing some good action also, just don't rip 'em too fast. The best action has been fishing them very tight to the banks in a sloooow drag drift. Of course we like to trail a #14 bead-head behind em.