- Family: Stonefly
- Size: 25mm (size 8-12)
- Emergence: Early March through Run-off
- Emergence Time: Afternoon
The Skwala Hatch in Montana is the best pre-runoff hatch around Missoula, drawing anglers from near and far to get their first fishing of the season in.
The Skwala starts as soon as late February to early March and hatches until runoff. The Skwala hatch is very dependent on water temperature. It takes a steady temperature of about 43 degrees to activate the hatch, so a cold spring means a late hatch start. That’s where the USGS Stream Monitoring for Montana comes in very handy- water temps.
Like all stoneflies, the nymphs emerge by crawling out of the river, so the trout are moving to the edges to find the Skwala nymphs, along with the Nemoura nymphs. While the nymphs emerge all along the bank, the colder water temps keep the trout in the slower, softer water, at least early in the hatch, so soft water near shore is great at the start of the hatch.
The adults are returning to the water to lay their eggs, and they’re affected by the weather. On warmer spring days, the females will start flying earlier in the day. When the weather is colder, look for the females to appear later in the day. A bit of sun during the day will get the Skwalas moving, but don’t lose your Skwala in the clouds. Some of the best Skwala days can happen in a snow squall!
Skwala Around Missoula
The Bitterroot River is definitely one of the best rivers for Skwalas in Montana, but also has the most pressure. There is good Skwala fishing on the Clark Fork River and Rock Creek, and fewer anglers. There might be fewer insects, but less pressure and fewer anglers can often lead to a better fishing experience.
And remember, the Montana fishing license expires on February 28, so make sure you’re properly licensed before hitting the river for the Skwala!