Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Fishing Reports or Commercials?

So, Dixon and I have been chatting a lot lately about the skwala fishing report phenomenon. You can read Jay's newest report here. Obviously, there are a bunch of different reasons to write fishing reports. Some fly shops just want you to buy flies. Outfitters and guides (like me) want you to buy trips. Some people don't want more people on 'their' stretches, so they give bad reports. Some people really want you to think they are God's gift to fly fishing, too. There are also plenty of real honest folks in all those professions, but who can you trust?

I show off my nice fish as much as anybody, but remember, a blind pig could always find that acorn by chance, including me. And in my experience, the best fishermen are the quiet ones. (Obviously, we're still not that good, 'cause we never shut up!) Anyway, I think you get the idea. Here is my current, no-nonsense, Bitterroot River skwala report for March 28, 2012.

It depends (said like a lawyer). Yes, there have been a few great days for some people. Those days have primarily been cloudy on the middle river above Stevi, with more success in the sun above Hamilton. However, consistency has been lacking. Between Stevi and Missoula, I have only seen one adult, and two shucks. Above Bell, I've seen lots of adults, starting two weeks ago. If there are mayflies or nemouras on the water, and you see a group of rising fish, you can probably get them to eat the skwala, sometimes even if there aren't any skwalas on the water. This doesn't mean the skwalas are "all over the river."

I haven't heard any reports of good dry fly fishing below Stevi. If you have, I'd suggest taking it with a grain of salt. If it was you, please teach me your magic. My email and phone are below. Near town, the action has been picking up due to mayfly activity, but the middle-lower end is still a nymphing game for the most part. I have seen fewer than 10 rises on two visits between Stevi and Florence. Yesterday was rough, but it was gorgeous and we only saw one other boat.

Not coincidentally, the places where the fishing is good are also the most crowded. I really don't think it matters if you are the third boat down a section. It might matter if you are the 8th boat in 30 minutes. Trout only need 10-20 min without a disturbance before they start to feed again, and some trout return even faster. If you make an effort to spread out and the fishing is decent, you should be fine, no matter where you choose to go. One fish might like bullet heads, another might like a foamy and you could be right behind someone else and catch a fish.

Finally, remember that water temperature is probably your most important factor, and that it can change between stretches of river, and between side channels and the main river. In warmer areas, you'll probably be seeing more mayflies and more bugs in general, and mayflies will get more and more important in the coming days and weeks. Good luck out there.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Fishing Between the Boats

Well, the skwala hatch, and their cousins the nemouras are in full swing on the Bitterroot, but the crowds continue to grow too. Lots of boats. We've been getting some nice fish on dries, though, by hitting secondary spots and trying creative floats to avoid the masses.

If you are heading that way, I'd advise being flexible with your float, especially with weather like we're seeing today, in the 60s. If you are dead set on floating Bell to Stevi when you leave Missoula at 11am, you are going to see some people, probably a lot of them. That said, please be courteous to each other. We've seen a few mayflies hatching too, although they aren't really close to fishable on the main river yet.

As far as those other rivers are concerned (what, you say?!), they are slowly coming around. Obviously, I've been spending most of my time down the valley, but the Clark Fork and Rock Creek hatches should be getting ready to go, if they aren't popping today in the sun. Remember, this will eventually include the March Browns, BWOs, Grey Drakes, as well as the stones, so don't get caught unprepared in the fly department.

I'm not sure how close we are to Blackfoot streamer action. Typically, April is green water time. Keep your eyes on the graphs though. With the warm up and rain predicted, we could be in store for a pulse of low altitude runoff/rain-on-snow, but it should be temporary, provided temperatures stay cold at night.

I plan to start exploring outside the 'Root soon. I can only take the people for so long, even if the fishing is good. The FCFT kids are on the Mo today, so they should have an update from Craig along with some sick pics, I'm sure.

Stay classy out there, fish heads.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Andy Simon - Occasional Trout Angler

For those of you who don't know Andy, he spends most of his time chasing any kind of fish but nonmigratory trout. Steelhead, pike, whitefish, get the idea. In any case, we posted up on this pod hoping to get some video of a big fish eat. Instead we got some comedy. Enjoy.

The "World Famous" Totally Amazing Bitterroot Skwala Hatch

We've been hitting the river pretty hard lately, trying to be there on "the day." You know what I mean. Today is probably "the day" because I'm not fishing. Anyway, we've seen some bugs and we've caught a few nice fish (although not tons of them). We've also seen sideways snow, 60 mph winds, flipped drift boats, 20+ foot canepoles, and some large pike.

The first bug I found back during the warm snap.

Soooo cold.

Chad leaning into a 50 mph wind.

Look out whitey, this guy will catch you and kill you.

Soooo exciting...

Every once in a while, we manage to get one in the boat.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Skwala Update - River Safety Addition

First off, I didn't post this to make the guys in the photo feel any worse than they already do, or chastise them. I posted it to remind people of a few things. I was in this exact position, back in March 2004, so I feel I can speak from experience.

The Bitterroot is easily the most dangerous river around Missoula. It has killed several very experienced guides. It might look lazy, but those logs are death traps. The water flows through them, and they act like a sieve, and catch people and boats. If you aren't an experienced rower, or just got a new boat, or are feeling rusty, don't make this your first float of the year.

This accident happened today just below Tucker. Sadly, it was the first ever voyage for this boat. The man on the oars was not experienced and was asking the others to give him some pointers before this happened. If you want to avoid similar accidents, here are several things I've learned from almost getting killed myself in the past. (I almost died. I'm not joking.)

1) Never let a true beginner row on the 'Root, especially from Hamilton to Florence. It's the wrong place to teach. Go to the lower Clark Fork or even the Mo. The Blackfoot is rocky, but at least there aren't so many logs. If a beginning rower gets you into trouble, it is YOUR fault not theirs. You are responsible.

2) Always have rescue equipment with you. At least have a strong rope that doesn't stretch. The river is placing thousands of pounds of pressure on this boat. You aren't going to move it with a nylon safety rope.

3) If you get wet this time of year, you will get very cold and you can easily develop hypothermia. The water today was 45 degrees at its warmest. If you flip, get wet cotton off of you fast.

4) If a boat is stuck this bad, you aren't going to move it without machinery. Don't exhaust yourself. It's not going anywhere soon. Go get a come-along or a winch.

That said I can tell you a bit about the fishing. It isn't great. We landed 4 fish all day on dries. We also saw probably 10 boats and at least 10-15 wade anglers in 3 hours. If you go down there this weekend, it's going to be really crowded. The water is also still really low so the fish are going to catch on to our game pretty quick. I'd go explore somewhere else if I were you. 'Nough said.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Steel Your Face

J.D. and your's truly, on steelhead vacay. More pics over on our FB page.