During most years we would be talking about how our annual runoff should be peaking in the coming days, and that we should start to see fishable conditions within the next couple of weeks. Well, for anyone who hasn’t noticed this spring is shaping up to be anything but normal. As of today, our snowpack’s current Snow Water Equivalent (SWE) stands at 609% of average. Yes, that’s right, 609%. To anyone, this number would seem alarming, but I wanted to take a few minutes to help dissect and interpret exactly what this number means.
First, our current snowpack percentage does not mean that during the winter of 2018/2019 we received 6 times the snow than most years. Our snowpack peaked on April 5th, 2019, and at that time it was roughly 133% of average. This is the most important number, as it tells us ultimately how much snow fell during the 2019 winter as compared to historic averages. So now coming back to our current snowpack percentage of 609%, this number simply affirms that this spring has been unusually wet and chilly (a fact that any Colorado resident would agree with), and that we haven’t seen the amount of snowmelt one would expect to see by June 5th in Colorado.
Second, the fishing throughout Colorado has been fantastic so far this spring, and shouldn’t continue to be productive so long as you’re looking in the right places. In recent days we’ve seen temperatures getting back to their seasonal averages, and as such our mountain rivers are now on the rise. Most every freestone river in the state is currently on the rise, and we can expect this trend to continue for the coming weeks. With that said, our states Stillwater and tailwater fisheries are fishing fantastic and should continue to do so throughout the duration of runoff. Additionally, the warm-water fishing along the Front Range is on fire, offering yet another angling option for the near future.
Third, it’s still anyone’s guess as to how this year’s runoff is going to take shape, so it’s far too early to make any guesses as to when runoff will be over. At face value, this sounds like a less than ideal scenario, but the truth is that it’s all in how you look at it. The weather for the next 10 days in the Colorado High Country offers temperatures in the upper 60’s for elevations over 9,000 ft. which should help in kick-starting runoff once again. With that said, these temperatures aren’t quite warm enough to initiate snowmelt at the higher elevations, so the next round of melt shouldn't produce what I like to call “the main event”. For this to happen, we’ll need to see warmer temperatures at higher elevations. What this means in the long run, is that we’ll likely see our statewide snowpack melting in stages, with the highest elevations still waiting for necessary temperatures.
In the end, every runoff cycle is different, and as anglers, we need to be adaptable to our current weather and conditions. This year’s runoff will be one of the more prolonged cycles we’ve seen since 2012, and while it may not be ideal from a timing standpoint, the fact that our state is currently drought free and flush with water should be a sigh of relief for us all. So don’t let the Runoff Blues get you down, as this time of year can offer exceptional fishing opportunities, you just need to know where to look and how to interpret the data. So before your next day on the water, please be sure to call or swing by either of our Colorado locations to make sure you’ve got the right flies and Intel to make the most of your time on the water.