Tag Archives: bitterroot march brown mayfly hatch

Skwalas and March Browns

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.

Bitterroot River 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 015So 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

Bitterroot River Pre Runoff

We checked out the Bitterroot a few days ago just to see.  You know, just to see for ourselves what’s happening out there.  She was at 3500 at Darby, a pretty fishable level in my opinion, so even though most folks will give you the poo-poo about fishing right now we figured it could be done.  While the main stem of the Bitterroot is chugging along, channels like the ones pictured are filled up and looking good.

Well, it pretty much sucked.  I did catch a small brown and a squawfish and had another fish chase the streamer, but the Bitterroot was obviously off color and flowing fast.  Now if you take a look today at the USGS Streamflow, three days later, things are starting to look pretty good.  The river has dropped nicely down to 2900 cfs at Darby, which should clean things up and stabilize the fish.  We’ll be checking soon to keep an eye on the fishing before the big water cometh.  Gotta go to know.

Great Bitterroot Fly Fishing

west fork bitterroot cuttThe river is on the fluctuations of a big spring, up one day and then dropping after a few cold nights.  We’ve been at it through snow and rain, wind and shine, finding pretty good fishing through it all.  Adversity is definitely the name of the game; lots of rigs, lots of poking around checking all the holds.  Every type of fly rig has its time to play throughout the day: streamers for a few runs, then fish a dry through the riffles and slough mouths.

west fork bitterrootAny spotted fish is catchable right now, and right about two o’clock the March Brown mayflies have been peeling off, bringing quite a few fish out to feed.  Throughout the upper Bitterroot, we’ve found many sneaky little spots that have steady rising fish, but you have to search closely and fish a ton of water to find them.  Once you do, bingo.  We have plenty of equally sneaky hand tied patterns in Skwala and mayfly that work excellent, with fish moving hard to the fly and eating them fool hearty.

Great Early Bitterroot Fly Fishing

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.

Futile Floating

early bitterroot float 004Chasing the goat, as we like to refer to it.  Or more accurately, a plan that has turned futile that once held so much promise.  Kinda like our plan to nail a bunch of big fish on the lower Bitterroot Saturday, April 13 on streamers, until our gorgeous morning turned into a northern winter blitzkrieg around mid afternoon.  With easily forty mile per hour sustained gales, we rowed due north right into the punishment for hours on this long stretch of river.  The fishing pretty much sucked, between the wind and the bumped up river flows, we caught few fish, and my boat was even handed a royal skunking.  Always optimistic, it was a good workout for when the river really gets big, and will make those marginal dry fly days seem outstanding compared to that crap.  We hustled it back toBlacksmith Brewing in Stevensville, a beacon of light, and toasted Cutthroat IPAs to another day of chasing the goat.

Bitterroot River Skwala Hatch

   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.

Good Bitterroot Fly Fishing

bitterroot river fly fishing guides hamilton montanaOver eight miles of water and not another soul in the boat ramp.  This is definitely how I like to start a guide trip no matter what the river.  You’ve gotta love this time of year around here: while the crowds chase salmon fly dreams on Rock Creek and tour over the hill to the Big Hole looking for the big browns, our sweet  Bitterroot river teams with healthy fish with hardly anyone bothering to throw them a bug.

bitterroot river fly fishing guides hamilton montanaSo we just figured we’d brighten their day and give them some company.  What a fine day out there with the whole thing to ourselves.  From the moment we set out to the time we rounded the last bend, the fish cooperated wonderfully with whatever rig was in the water.  Buggers and nymphs mainly, and we even stumbled into a little early salmon fly dry action. For the second time this year I’ve witnessed adult salmon bugs well below the upper forks, and this time the fish were eating them in select spots.  Always keep a heads up for those pockets of activity instead of just bobbering right on your merry way and not even seeing whats going on: protected river bends, back channels, and log jammy areas can have their own little micro hatches going on among the high water. Actually, I take all that BS back, just keep your eyes on the pink orb and nevermind that slough mouth we’re watching closely.

A look at Pre Runoff

bitterroot river fly fishing guides hamilton montana
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 Browns on the Bitterroot

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.