The river’s up and showing the signs of what 170% of snowpack looks like around here: the usual lazy runs and obvious holes are cooking along with at least double last years flows, making for tricky fishing and oaring to get the job done. Two days of guiding recently put us hard at it, searching the inside turns and back eddies for soft water, looking for risers in protected channels. With the first good March Brown hatch I’ve witnessed this year on the Bitterroot, we finally found fish consistently rising in back channels and mellow inside corners on the local hatch. With Skwalas and Nemouras popping at the same time period, mid afternoon, some areas fished pretty hot on the dry, whichever we fished. When the dries died out and the rain started falling, we made her play as best as possible. Big stonefly nymphs on a deep drop proved the most reliable bobber setup. Many miles of river were just too fast to get a decent drift, but with some good casting and elbow grease at the oars, there were plenty of hungry fish to feed if you know what to look for.
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.