Most of the hunting seasons have all but wrapped up, and we have had a little time to reflect back on the top 5 fishing moments of 2015. Overall it was a mixed season, as most tend to be, with some stretches of incredible angling and other times when we found ourselves scratching our head. Here are the best moments:
- Skwala Hatch This spring hatch is the most highly anticipated of the year. It is the first big dry fly of the season, and its arrival in March coincides with the peak of cabin fever for most fly fishing enthusiasts. How good or bad the hatch is in any given year is almost irrelevant because anglers are simply happy to get out on the water. This year was a solid hatch though with Skwalas coming off early in March and good water levels through most of April. Some of our biggest trout of the season hit the net during Skwalas and 2015 was no exception.
- Missouri River in May Late April through early June is runoff around Missoula when our freestone rivers are usually unfishable. Fortunately the Missouri is an incredible tailwater fishery that is only 2 hours away. Consistent nymphing and technical dry fly fishing to large rainbows and browns brings anglers back year after year. We were blown away by the great dry fly fishing this season. Blue-wing olives early in May and then caddis from late May into early June. Big brown trout sipping dry flies will always make the list.
- Smith River Floating the fabled Smith River is
something every fly angler should do at least once in their life. We are fortunate to be able to get on the Smith about every other year. The trick with the Smith is timing. The best fishing and floating revolves around runoff and since launches are permitted, anglers are committed to their dates months in advance. This year our dates were absolutely perfect and the fishing was off the charts! We had good dry fly fishing from day one on, and boated lots of big brown trout throughout the float. An added bonus was gorgeous weather for the entire trip. It was a storybook trip from start to finish and the finest overnight trip I’ve ever been on. Unfortunately the Smith River is still under threat from a large scale copper mine. Visit Save our Smith to see what you can do to help.
- Salmonfly Hatch This is the biggest bug of the
entire season and it creates hysteria through the fly fishing community. Much of the hype can be overrated as Salmonflies come off during runoff and the hatch is historically very hit or miss, especially for the visiting angler. One good day of Salmonflies is worth the risk though. “Hit” the hatch right and some of the biggest trout of the year come up to gobble comically huge dry flies. Low water years are usually best, and last season’s low water conditions created some of the best Salmonfly fishing in recent memory. We chased Salmonflies for a solid month from Rock Creek, to the Bitterroot Forks, the Blackfoot, and even the lower Clark Fork. Some years those big orange bugs make us pull our hair out, last season we giggled for weeks with heavy nets and dry fly eats.
- Spruce Moth Hatch This is a notoriously
unreliable hatch. Some years it hardly happens at all and rainy, cool weather can stop this mid-summer hatch in its tracks. It comes off best on Rock Creek, the West Fork of the Bitterroot, Blackfoot, and parts of the lower Clark Fork. I’m not sure what it is about spruce moths, but it is more than simply food for trout because they go absolutely crazy for this terresterial bug. Big trout throw caution to the wind in crystal clear water to feast on this hatch. This season we had dry fly pandemonium for a couple of weeks when the moths showed up in July. Lots of healthy cutthroats on the Blackfoot and West Fork, and the best wade fishing of the season on Rock Creek.
We had more than our share of great angling in 2015 and these top 5 moments only highlight a few. We always enjoying looking back, but we are also already anxiously waiting for what next season will bring. Change is the only constant in the fly fishing world and I am excited for the new year!