The 2014 fishing season has started and it’s about to get busy here in Missoula. While I still have the time I thought I would share some of our winter time activites when we can’t be out on the water. My good friend, Karl Jones, is one of the best wooden boat builders in the west. Production at Bitterroot Boatworks is limited because Karl is a full time guide, but every off-season he usually refinished a couple guide set-ups and finds a little time for some Missoula boat building. I kept tabs on him this winter and produced a short video that’s worth a look.
I wish I could report the Skwala hatch was in full swing on the Bitterroot. It’s not. Conditions are trending in the right direction with dropping streamflows, warm days, and a mild forecast, but the bugs aren’t out quite yet. I stopped several times on the water yesterday and looked in vain for an adult skwalas. While I didn’t find any bugs crawling around on the banks, there was no shortage of nymphs in shallows. Most of the skwala nymphs were 18″ to two feet from dry land and with the dropping flows there could be adults on the prowl by this weekend.
Our fishing on the Bitterroot was solid considering the conditions. All the fish we caught were on nymphs, and skwala nymph patterns proved to be most effective. The most active part of the day was from 2 o’clock on which is typical for this time of year. Fish can’t be found river wide yet and we had to focus on the slower insides and riffle edges to get eats.
Anglers who are used to fishing the Skwala hatch this time of year are in for some big surprises. Normally flows on the Bitterroot river are low and clear through most of March which is great for wade fisherman. This season the river is big, it will drop and clear in the next few days but I think river levels are going to remain high enough to be challenging for wade fisherman for most of the month. The upside is that these bigger flows will keep the Bitterroot’s alpha fish in play through the whole Skwala hatch. Keep an eye on those flows….the dry fly season is about to start.
We are digging out from yet another winter storm here in Missoula. This latest round has closed schools (unheard of in these parts), shut down interstates, and brought avalanches within the city limits. The bright side is that all of this fluffy white stuff will help ensure healthy stream flows through the summer, but at this point everyone is pretty much tired of winter. I’m sick of it too, but it has brought a certain unusual delight.
Most years the valley is buzzing in anticipation of the Skwala hatch by early March. This hatch has gained in popularity over time, but it has gotten a little out of hand since the advent of social media. Between the fly shops, college kids, and road trippers it’s a constant stream of posts, tweets, and pins all revolving around Skwalas. If one were to rely solely on these sources they might believe that the Skwala hatch is the most consistent unbelievable fishing of the year. This season the feed has been astonishingly quiet. Record cold and snow for February will do that. No grin-n-grins of trout on stonefly nymphs, no shots of PBRs chilling in a snowbank while wade fishing, no tweets of “3 trout looked at my Skwala dry today dude!” This February weather shut down the fishing in the valley and the social media stream.
It will be a little later start to the season than normal, but the weather forecast is for warmer temps and the thaw will begin. We will likely be on the water by next week to check the progress of the hatch. I’m excited because the trout will be a lot fresher than in years past. Most seasons a bad case of cabin fever results in anglers out on the water my mid-Feb. wading, floating, and generally pestering the trout with nymph rigs. This year they have been relatively untouched all month and that’s good news for spring fishing.
Missoula Fishing Report for the week of 8/11/2013
|Jim hooked up on the upper Bitterroot|
|Brian’s 21″ bow on a hopper|
|Son Conner not far behind with a 19″ stud|
|Sunrise on the Blackfoot|
|Another Montana memory|
|Joan’s big Blackfoot cutthroat on a little dry fly|