Well there is no two ways around it… The rivers have gone up. Significantly.
As of this morning then graphs look to have slowed down or plateaued. While this bump may have put the spring fishing on hold, it will help clean out the winter sludge in the rivers.
When the water starts dropping things will be game on again. Until then, take advantage of the lull and stock up your boxes. It’s easy to get caught up in “Skwala Fever” and completely ignore the fact that we have other bugs coming up. Don’t forget your PMD’s, Yellow Sallies, Hoppers, ants, and Beetles. In the long run they will play a bigger role than skwalas in your fishing.
Take this intermission in spring fishing to stop by the shop and stock up on tying materials.
Skwalas. When will the dry fly fishing be what we have all been dreaming about since November? Well your guess is as good as mine. The general idea is that Skwala’s need a water temperature between 42-47 degrees to hatch. Some people agree on the lower end and other agree on the upper end of that scale. The cool thing about Skwala’s is that they are a relatively “New” bug in the research sense. They have only recently (20 years) become a popular hatch and noticed by most anglers. Sure some people have been fishing the hatch longer, but for the entire community they are a new bug. The other piece of the puzzle is getting temp readings from the river. The USGS stations offer temp readings, but only on a seasonal timeframe. So to get a temp you are going to have to do it the “old school” way. Go out and stick your hand in the water. The only way to know for sure when the water is warm enough for Skwalas to show up is to take a temp reading when you start to see the bugs. Do it this year. It will give you a leg up for future seasons and a little science never hurt anyone.
March Brown/Rhithrogena/What Ever You Call Em’s: “The Difference Maker”. Some days the big stonefly pattern just doesn’t produce. When you are flummoxed and there are fish eating, Throw the mayfly. These bugs are the first big mayflies to show us since fall. There are many days when the trout will completely ignore the skwala and shift their focus to the mayflies. When that happens you can have some fantastic headhunting or some great pods of fish to shoot at.
When,Where, and How:This weekend and next week look to be about as beautiful as we can hope for in the spring. That being said, expect for everyone to have the same idea. Go Fishing. Cabin fever is the worst this time of year and a day on the water is a perfect remedy. If you are one of those people who cant stand seeing other folks on the water it’s time to think out of the box. Don’t out your boat in at Tucker or Bell at 10am. Maybe go for a long walk down a Bitterroot side channel that boats cant fit into. Maybe explore a part of The Blackfoot that you have never been to. Walk and wade the upper Clark Fork. Or spend a day on Upper Rock Creek. We are lucky in Missoula to have over 300 miles of water within an hours drive. Don’t confine yourself to 15 miles of The Bitterroot if you want some solitude.
All of that being said, there is some fantastic fishing on the main stem of The Bitterroot during the Skwala hatch. Remember that these are early spring stoneflies. They ARE NOT Goldens and Salmonflies. That means fish the early spring water. Of course you could catch a fish or two off the fast banks and the “Bouncy Summer Water” but the majority of your success will be on the slow inside bends. The same place you nymph in the winter. The “Boring” water. Have faith and let that fly drift. Don’t get antsy and cast over and over again, the fish can’t eat it in the air. Leave your fly alone once it’s out there.
Whatever you need for spring fishing is in the shop. As I am writing this boxes from MFC, Simms, Echo, And Spirit River are piling up with flies, gear, rods, materials, and other goodies for the spring. We are fully stocked and ready to rock this spring. If you need to tie a few more bugs come on in and let us help with your game plan. As always we are here for you. Let us help with Missoula Spring Fishing.
…Because You Fish
*March Spring Guide Specials- Full day guided trip for 2 anglers only $385*
Well we have made it. It is officially March here in Montana. I guess everywhere else as well. March means warm days, birds singing, and Skwalas, river wide…. Well not yet. The cold temps that brought March in will slow things down for just a few days. By the end of the week we are looking at warmer weather.
Now cabin fever is the main trigger for early spring fishing. The best and most consistent Skwala fishing seems to be around mid to late March through mid April. That being said, don’t be surprised if you find bugs this weekend. We have seen fantastic dry fly fishing as early as late February. The last time we were on the Bitterrooot the Skwala nymphs were in shallow water close the the bank. And by close I mean inches. It could pop soon… When things are right.
As for right this moment.
The Bitterroot: Nymphing the inside bends will still produce fish. Skwala nymph patterns in size 8-12. Rubberlegs, double bead stones, tungsten nymphs. San Juan Worms in Red, Pink, Purple, Gummy, and Wire. Soon the dry fly fishing will be a legitimate option. When it goes, make sure you have a variety of Skwala patterns. Big and fluffy and low profile both have their days. For the big and fluffy bugs look for the Fat Frank, Ninch’s Peanut, The Para-Skwala and the Widow Web Skwala. For the low pro bugs the PK Skwala, The Bullethead Skwala, The Rouge, and The Cali Blonde. When the Skwala’s start rolling keep fishing the winter water. The fish won’t be in the fast summer stonefly water. More often than not, if you aren’t catching fish, turn around 180 degrees and cast the other direction.
Once that water warms up it will be game time. So keep tying and get ready for the season.
The New Mangler Fishing Reports are all going to be found right here! Check back often for the latest!
We are getting close to the time of year when the fishing around Missoula starts to pick up. However the fish are still responding best to winter fishing tactics. With that being said stick to the slow inside corners, in about 4- 6 ft. of walking speed water. The double nymph rig is still going to produce the numbers of fish, but a slow swung streamer has been producing some of the bigger fish.
Rock Creek and The Bitterroot will be your best late winter options. The Clark Fork and Blackfoot will be coming into shape in the near future. If you want to make the drive over to the Missouri, the nymphing has been productive from the Dam down to Mountain Palace. We haven’t floated past there since the warmer weather came this month. But don’t be afraid to do some exploring.
Streamers – Sparkle minnows and other smaller minnow patterns. Less is often more this time of year. Come check out the new streamer patterns in the shop! Our bins are overflowing with new patterns. Your new favorite pattern is waiting for you.
As most of the fishing pressure around the Missoula area is winding down and focus is shifting towards the animals in the mountains, the fishing only gets better.
The nights are getting longer and the days are getting cooler. The trout seem to know whats coming and they are eating whatever comes over their heads. The Mayfly buffet is better then the senior special at Golden Corral. When things line up right you can have non-stop dry fly action. When things don’t line up you can roll an attractor where they should be a watch it happen.
BWO’s, Mahoganies, Tricos, A few Hecubas, October Caddis, and don’t forget the streamer fishing.
The Bitterroot and Clark Fork shine as the dry fly rivers right now. But don’t forget the Blackfoot as a streamer anglers Valhalla. So pick your river and go get ’em.
The bugs on our fly patches right now…. Beck’s Peacock Trico spinner. Hi-Viz Beatis. Red Willy’s Ant. The Sparkle Minnow. The Articulated Sparkle Minnow. Copper Haze. Parachute Adams. There are more, but those will get you started.
We have a few openings for guided trips left for October. If you would like to get out on the water one last time before winter sets in, now is the time to do it. If it means anything, Mangler guides are fishing hard on their days off right now. It’s that good. Our favorite time of year.