Thursday, March 31, 2011

Skwala Update: Rain on Snow? Oh No!

If you were hoping that flows would remain stable all spring, stop hoping. Looks like the first push of water is here. It appears we might be witnessing a rain-on-snow event. Basically, the rain goes right through the snow, hits the frost, and runs off. Couple that with warm winds and some snow melt and the rivers go up in a hurry. I was hoping to fish Superior tomorrow, but there's a bunch of snow down there and it's getting rained on. The Darby gauge on the 'Root is also up a couple hundred cfs in the past couple hours. This doesn't bode well for dry fly fishing. Things will balance out eventually as the low altitude snow dissipates, but don't expect much good until then.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Skwala Silliness Abounds

Well, the "highly anticipated skwala hatch" has arrived with newspaper articles, winter weary rafts, and hoards of float-crazy anglers. Every year the crowding on the Bitterroot seems to get a little worse. The fish are currently still interested in the large bugs, but that is a trend that will likely change over the next week, as they keep getting #8 foamies slapped on their heads. Here are a few tips to make your skwala season more enjoyable.

1) Use smaller flies

As the fish get accustomed to the larger flies, smaller nemoras and mayflies begin to outproduce the popular big stonefly patterns. This is more a function of fishing pressure than anything else. As the fish get used to seeing them, they switch to smaller fair. There are also far more nemoura stones and mayflies on the water. In addition the skwalas tend to get smaller as the hatch progresses.

2) Don't fish the Bitterroot

This may be shocking, but there are skwala hatches on all of the area rivers. Rock Creek and the Blackfoot tend to be later hatches, as they are higher up and colder at this time of year. The Clark Fork, both above Milltown and below the Gorge, offers great action with more water and less crowding. Yes, there are some nice fish on the 'Root, but you will have a much more relaxing day if you seek quieter waters.

3) Be respectful.

If you're floating, avoid waders. If you are wading, understand that some people aren't that respectful. Also remember that in smaller water, it's difficult for boats to avoid your water. Sit down and wait for 10 minutes. The fish are used to the boats at this point and will start feeding again once they quiet down.

4) Get creative.

These high pressure situations are the best time to utilize your fly tying skills. Changing that shop pattern just a little bit can be dynamite. These fish are educated so putting a little bit of original spin on your pattern can make the fish less wary.

Good luck out there, and remember to enjoy it. The runoff will be here soon and we won't be fishing very much unless we truck out to the Missouri.