Spring Squalls, Skwalas, and March Browns

bitterroot river guidesThe easy days of pre-runoff are long gone, and with them go the predictable water flows and insect cycles we’ve grown accustomed to.   March Browns and Skwalas are still hatching every day, but that sure doesn’t mean anyone with fins is actually looking at them.  When the water starts to spike in the spring, things can get a bit dicey out there on the river.  Bugs will still hatch for the most part if the weather is conducive, but the added river flows charging down the valley keep the fish busy finding new homes and lies, virtually eliminating any rising activity until things stabilize.

bitterroot river guidesNow is when your fishing guide is worth their weight in gold.  Those easy single dry fly days are history, and plugging along with such rig will lead to a long beautiful day making casts, but that’s about it. With our feet in the river daily,  a good guide can make a tough river fish spectacular with the right setup and instruction.  What may look like a turbulent, flooded river basin to many, is actually an oasis to the fish, filled with food and hiding spots not usually available at lower flows.  Big trout move to feed in this kind of water, coming out of their deep winter holes to lie in ambush positions throughout the river.  Gravel bars littered with tree stumps become flooded and then attract fish to their refuge, more than doubling the available hideouts throughout the basin.

bitterroot river guidesSo some days you have to say screw the dry fly, at least until things really get cooking, and bust out the junk.  Being a good fly fishermen means dealing with adversity and finding success whenever and wherever you may find yourself.  If the dry and the five weight ain’t gonna do it, bump up to the six and the bobber, or grab the seven and the biggest ugliest thing in your box and start ripping casts.  One way or another we’ll figure them out, and we’re having a blast in the process.

Bitterroot River Skwala Hatch

bitterroot river skwala hatchI’d have to say it’s here full swing, or at least enough to have some great consistent fishing throughout the main part of the day. Skwalas were hatching well a couple days ago, with just a few Baetis and possibly a March Brown or two on our float trip.  Lots and lots of skwala nymphs are staged near the shoreline ready to pop when the weather smiles.  We started early enough in the day things were quiet, and a simple nymph rig brought up lots of mighty whiteys for the little guy in the front, while Dad threw a dry and found a couple willing fish.

bitterroot river skwala hatchAfter a great morning and river bank lunch, we set out full dry fly for the remainder of our long float.  Quite a few fish rose to our bugs, the little guy putting the wood to ’em and Dad missing most, but having a great time and seeing lots of great eats.  Most water with the right habitat for trout was holding a willing fish, and some banks several.  Eventually the window closes for the day, and as evening approaches the fish settle down and the bite turns off.  Time to head for the corral after a fine day.