Tag Archives: skwala

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.

Bitterroot Skwala Hatch

bitterroot skwala hatchHere we go again, the start of another Montana fishing season, and as always, the Bitterroot River Skwala hatch is on the forefront.  While most of Montana is covered in ice and snow, and many rivers are still locked up in a winter pattern, our Bitterroot is wide open with bugs starting to pop along the gravel bars and riverbanks.  Skwala and Nemora stoneflies are the first of the real bugs to get cranking on our rivers, not counting the midges that peel off on most nice winter days, and they bring up trout to the surface even on a snow squalled March afternoon.

bitterroot skwala hatch 019We are still very early in the hatch, as I’ve seen only a few Nemora adults and less  Skwala adults yet, though the fish are definitely looking up for a bug during the right window of the day.  Nymphs and droppers off dries play well during the early part of the day, and a decent dry fly bite has occurred right around noon til four on the right days.  As our weather improves with spring, which who knows when that will actually happen, we will see a greater emergence of stoneflies and eventually start to see some March Brown mayflies.  This is when things really fish well around here.  So give it a couple weeks and bit o’ sunshine, and get in touch with us for a little early season topwater before it’s too late, runoff is just around the corner and that dry fly window will shut down until June.

Early season Skwalas

bitterroot skwala nymphIt’s turning into another fine Skwala season here on the Bitterroot with tons of nymphs ready to hatch and good fish already looking up for a bug.  Our weather took a turn for the better, shooting up to seventy degrees a couple times and really bringing out the solar energy needed to get the bugs hatching.  Skwalas are looking for 46 degree water temps before they pop, so we’ve seen the bugs waiting until well into midday to start emerging.

bitterroot river guidesWith that in mind, fishing-wise, take your time out there and don’t get into a big hurry.  There’s plenty of other boats and anglers out there enjoying the hatch, and when the fishing is good, everyone is catching, and when it’s off, it’s off.  That’s how the Bitterroot works: when she’s ready this river will fish lights out, but not until the fish and the bugs are ready to play along.   Nymphing rarely saves a tough day here, but patience and working good water will bring many fine fish to the net.

bitterroot river guidesSo every day should have it’s better moments until the surge of runoff wipes the slate clean for the upcoming summer season.  We have a cool front with moisture predicted for the coming week which may tone down the Skwalas a bit, but will certainly favor the much awaited March Brown.  On our float yesterday, we had a massive emergence of these mayflies, making for the best fishing I’ve seen this early season.  As we move on into April, the March Browns will hatch earlier and more consistent, right around 2:00, and in my opinion this is the hatch to fish.  Skwalas get all the hype, but Bitterroot trout will pod up rising to mayflies, making for fabulous targets and fool hearty takes.

bitterroot river guidesSo get on the horn and get in touch with us for some early season action.  We still have a few weeks of pre-runoff fishing, which is truly some of the best of the season, and our rates are discounted to $350 per guide boat.  Bring a rainjacket for those spring squalls, and get ready to throw dry flies from the put in to the takeout.

Reel Girl

A quick afternoon float on a rising river was all we had going for us. New friends, Ryan and Heather,  and a chance to see some new water together; at least new as of today with the rising tide of warm weather hitting the valley.  The first days of spring cometh, easy fishing on those once a week perfect days may be over, at least until the temps cool off and shrink up the melting snowpack.  Every ‘good’ day brings a rise in the water levels which cool things off and bring on the sediment, making that sure thing a big question mark at the boat ramp.

So fishing is up and down, good and bad, is what I’m getting at.  That perfect day may actually be pretty tough because the river bumped and made all those perfect holding runs way too fast, or those soft banks turbulent and boiley.   Our day was damn near a skunk, due to the previously mentioned issues, until things settled down enough late in the day to start producing some action.  Savor those dry fly takes folks!, sometimes we may hold out for hours waiting and hoping, and all the while learning and enjoying the river on it’s rise to runoff, happy to be out once again chasing wild trout on the fly.

2015 Bitterroot Skwala Hatch

bitterroot skwala hatch 003I figured we’re still early, and we are, but a mid morning phone call today sure led to some fine dry fly fishing on the home river.  Skwala: The Bitterroot’s Big Deal.  Which they really are, even if it brings a bit of pressure to our sleepy little river; get out there and throw a line and put your smile on.  The rest of the state is still dealing with winter, at least its departure, while the Bitterroot Valley is gorgeous and temperate as ever: snowcapped peaks protecting a low altitude, Pacific sided drainage.

bitterroot skwala hatch 2015So we slid the boat in around the crack of noon, or even one o’clock, to see if we could find a few fish looking up.  Sure enough, our second run drew a fine rainbow to the dry, then the next, and the next, and then they were sipping mayflies…. Pretty damn impressive to say the least.  The true Bitterroot Skwala hatch is still weeks away in my opinion, but the fish certainly know what’s coming.  I witnessed Baetis mayflies and midges today, but no mature adult Skwala moving about.

bitterroot skwala hatch 009So watch your weather for those good warm days in the near future, there should be some fine fishing to be had out there.  The weekend is looking beautiful, so I’d bet there will be plenty of other folks out there chasing the hatch.  My advice: take it easy, put in good ‘ol Bitterroot fashion around noonish, and fish the nice likely runs with medium speed and a wee bit of chop.  Look for your best fishing from two to four, and savor throwing a dry fly once again!

bitterroot skwala hatch 2015Our boats are spruced up, lines are greased, waders patched, and the coolers are packed!  Contact Jed or Chris if any of you are feeling the itch for a guided Skwala float.  We offer discounted rates for the early season, $350, and focus on the midday Skwala and mayfly hatches.  Our meet time is noon, earlier if we need to work out some winter kinks in the casting, and we fish until the day is wrapped up, usually around six o’clockish.  We’d love to have you out with us once again to start our 2015 Bitterroot fly fishing season; see you on the water.   JF #8392

Making it Play

Chris_Rockhold_photo_22-30The 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.

Bitterroot Skwala hatch

upper Bitterroot main stem

     I’ve been writing enough river reports and updates lately to fill a novel, so I’ve decided to write one biggie to all of you to let you know what’s happening here on the Bitterroot river.

We are on the cusp of the famed Skwala stonefly hatch, which traditionally starts mid March, but has been slow to get itself going this season.  If you’ve kept up with our winter’s snowpack you will see we are way above average (160% in the Bitterroots), which has the river at double historical flows.  Water flows and temperatures greatly dictate aquatic insect hatches, and the delayed start to the hatch is attributable to cold temps both in the river and the air: Skwalas wait for the magic 42 degrees water temp to start popping.

 

     Chris_Rockhold_photo_19-65Now, we’ve been catching plenty of fish, mind you, but mostly under the surface on streamers or nymphs. The dry fly windows have been brief, but are beginning to lengthen as we move towards nicer weather. Checking the river on a blustery afternoon float today, I found consistent dry fly activity in specific regions: gradually tapering inside corners and riffles were holding lots of fish from shin deep to waist deep water, indicating the fish are in position for aggressive feeding.

 

     Starting next week (April 7), our weather begins to cheer up considerably, making for excellent hatching conditions.  Along with the Skwala stones, March Brown mayflies will join the party any day now, especially on warm cloudy or rainy afternoons, and continue throughout April until runoff.   When both species are in full hatch, along with the token Nemoura and Capnia stones buzzing around everywhere, this river absolutely lights up!

 

     All this early activity comes with a time limit: runoff.  When that massive snowpack comes roaring down the mountains sometime in the near future, usually early May, the slate is wiped clean.

 

     I hope this stirs the fishing bug within all of you.  My guides and I would love the opportunity to show you the Bitterroot’s early season, before the height of the summer fishing begins.  We are offering discounted float trips during this time, usually meeting at the crack of ten or eleven and fishing till the day is wrapped up, focusing on the midday hatches.

 

   Thanks to all of you of my guides and I have fished with over the years and many more to come.  Contact us anytime to plan a float trip, get the latest scoop on the rivers, or just talk fishin’.  See you on the river.

 

Sincerely,

 

Jed Fitzpatrick

 

MT Outfitter#8392

 

 

 

 

A look at pre-runoff as I knew it

 

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killer greg thomas photo

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.

Skwala and March Brown Madness

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.