Runoff is here to stay, so it looks. I believe we have seen the peak of the high water barring some serious rainfall, so a couple boats worth of us gave her a shot Monday. Big and cold as we figured, the Bitterroot looked pretty good as we set out from Veteran’s bridge on the north end of Hamilton. Headed for Tucker crossing, we planned to fish streamers and nymphs as no dry fly activity is anticipated for a while on this river. With beautiful blue skies and bright warm sunshine, the streamer bite was slow if not non existent for my boat for much of the day.
Nymphing it up a bit after some time with no swipes on the big bug, I was able to ding a handful of fish from some obvious runs. With the water big right now, casts are long and weight is heavy to get that thing down to where the fish are holding. One may have to cast a good twenty feet above your spot and mend the hell out of it to reach the goods. Once I found the drifts, though, there were good bows and a few whiteys packed in to those runs. I pretty much ran the same drifts over and over once I found a fish, and continued to hook up in the exact lie every time.
As our day wore on and the Ranier ran low, we finally found some fish willing to participate with the streamer gig. Eating it slow and deliberate and sometimes on a back dredge, a few good browns and even a small bull trout took advantange of our bugs. We had success on a whole series of patterns, from dull black to flashy white, but not enough to nail down one particular pattern as their favorite that day.
Well, the river is making some bumps and the fishing is getting less predictable as we move away from the early conditions of this spring. The March Browns and Skwalas are giving way to caddisflies as May gets started, and finding rising fish is getting trickier as water levels fluctuate. To look back at the early season, it was definitely one to remember. Starting in mid March one could find Skwala risers pretty frequently, and by the end of that month it was on fire on stones and mayflies. We never got slammed by the early bumps of the river, which provided perfect conditions for both aforementioned critters to hatch profusely and bring up the fish en masse. This river definitely produces world class hatches and blue ribbon fishing all the way.
Here finally comes another spring in Montana. We’ve eeked through the long chill, and even though the snow squalls persist to this day, spring is really happening around here. We guides have already logged many days throwing nothing but dry flies, a major benefit to those of us who live in the temperate Bitterroot valley. Skwalas started popping over a month ago and the March Browns came out in full force early to mid April, making for the best and most consistent early season fishing I’ve ever witnessed. The midday mayfly hatches began around two and would cease by 4:30 of so, with pods of heavy fish rising steadily at a voracious pace. Absolutely this was some of the heaviest feeding this river has ever shown, and the big boys were up pushing for the first swipe at a well drifted bug.