Missoula Fly Shop Staff

Lets Talk About Fishing – The Old Normal

We get it, there’s a huge problem out there, and we’re all feeling a bit nervous, a bit helpless and buffeted about things we can’t see or control. How tired are you of hearing about the new normal?!?!?!?

The old normal is out there- it’s on the Clark Fork River, Bitterroot River, Blackfoot River and Rock Creek. The bugs have no clue. Neither do the trout. It’s spring, the trees are budding, and it’s snowing in the mountains. You can get knee deep in a river and feel the water wash around you. You can gaze at the mountains, snow capped and magisterial as they watch over the valley in their slow, patient way. You can marvel at the rising trout, the sly underwater wink that could be Mr. Big, or just a whitey. But that’s why we fly fish, for the fascination, for the chance at Brother Two Foot, to catch and release to be there again.

The cold nights have the Missoula rivers in perfect shape. They’re lower than normal, which means the fish are where they should be. The Blackfoot River is actually getting a bit warm and fishing. The WMB’s are coming off on Rock Creek, along the edges just where you expect them. The Clark Fork is fishing great, and the Skwalas and WMB’s are making their presence felt. And of course, Skwalas on the Bitterroot river. The conditions are a clarion call to listen to Governor Bullock- social distancing is protocol, but let’s not forget to recreate, let’s not forget to take advantage of what surrounds us.

There are a lot of places not as well off as Montana when it comes to the issues we face today. If you’re there, and not in Montana, you’re on our minds. We hope the social distancing is working as well where you are as it is in Montana. That means you’ll be here sooner than you think for some Missoula fly fishing. Don’t worry! The rivers will still be here, that favorite bend in the river, or that awesome bucket where you hooked one you never even saw, that you think about even today. That trout is still there, and will be when we get back to the old normal.

With the weather we’re having right now, it feels like run-off, when it comes, is going to come hard and fast. The rivers are in perfect wading shape (Drift boats are finding the bottom closer to their hull than usual!) and the fish are willing and healthy. No need to be on the water as the sun appears, it’s just a tad cold still. Sleep in, fish the middle of the day. If it’s cloudy, have your BWO’s with you, and of course Skwalas, WMB’s and Nemouras. If you’re a streamer guy, then you do want to be on the water a bit earlier, to take advantage of the bite before the hatches.

Missoula spring fishing is here. Maybe it’s difficult to pick up on, as we don’t bustle through our normal day. But it’s here, and it’s happening. Remember to take a little time out, remember to do things for you. As Han said to Chewee, “Keep your distance, but don’t look like you’re trying to keep your distance.”  You know, fish casual! The rivers are there, they will be there and they will do their job as they always do. Because when you’re fishing, the cares of the world go washing away with the water that passes between your feet. Let the water work it’s wizardry, allow yourself to experience river magic and lose yourself for just a bit in the old normal . . . . . still found below the high water mark on every river!

The River Rant

Brought To You By The Beef Stick Eating Brown Trout

Well it’s official, the first Skwala sighting appears and we can’t stay off the water now. To early? Yes. Good Fishing? No. Good beer and Company? You Know it.

Every year it happens to our crew, we start fishing hard in February with streamers and nymphs and by the time we see the first Skwala in March, we prematurely throw a single dry on. There’s always a few of us that go dry or die way to early. If you put a dry on your nymph rig, it might make you feel better but we all know that dropper is going to catch the majority of the fish and the dry will lull you to sleep just to be woken up by one big rainbow smashing the dry which you miss. Yes, a few fish will come up and smash the big bug but this is our way of pretending not to nymph.

What ever floats your boat right? Or in this scenario, what ever floats your nymph.

Many of you have been pretty excited coming into our Missoula fly shop after hearing that Skwala’s started too hatch. We’re excited too but I hate to tell you that the weather forecast doesn’t look pretty for Skwala adults. This upcoming weekend weather is looking a little chilly for the big bugs and even a few nights of single digits. So turn that energy into streamers, nymphs and your tying bench for the time being.

This time of year is when Missoula fly fishing guides start scouting the river for new changes in the streams from last fall, make sure their boat and gear is in working order, and buy a new cooler because the lunch from the last trip hasn’t been cleaned out since October.

Missoula Fly Shops are constantly getting shipments of flies in and stocking up for the anticipation for a good Skwala hatch. But after a lousy spring fishing season in Misssoula last year, there’s a lot less stocking to do this year.

For us at the Missoulian Angler Fly Shop, we’ve been dedicating a lot of our time in preparing for our first annual Skwala Fest. We’ve been constantly getting shipments in of donations from our vendors in the form of product to raffle off. At this point we are pretty sure we’ve annoyed just about everyone of our facebook followers with constant shout outs for the Skwala Fest. Don’t worry though, we are less then a month away from the event and then we’ll give you a rest until the second annual event.

March fly fishing in Missoula can be hit and miss with the weather and often fluctuating water but it is one of our favorite times of year on the river and in the shop. On the river big fish chase streamers and more often then not you will find yourself on a stretch of water all to yourself with some of your best friends. Being the largest fly selection and fly tying selection in Western Montana, most Missoula fly fishing guides shop at our fly shop and they are some of our favorite people. They’re patient demeanor means they can deal with Georges rants and bubbly attitude, they are excited for the upcoming season and they get just as excited about our new patterns for the season as us. Missoula fly shops get a little lonely in the winter and seeing familiar faces like the guides who often stop in the shop every day from June until October brings the life back into our shop.

Spring Fly Fishing Pre Game Tips

Spring is almost here. We see it in the longer days and slightly warmer temps. We start dreaming about the fishing…. will it be awesome? How’s the snowpack, and when’s run-off coming? Will spring be warm or cold? Will 2018’s high water translate into more fish recruitment? How has the Bitterroot river changed over the winter? We can spend hours pondering these questions.

Questions we can’t answer and won’t know the answers to till April 30. 

Here’s a suggestion. While wondering about the weather, the hatches and the river, take care of business where you can. Pull out your tackle bag, vest, etc, and take a look. Take some time to do some preseason chores so that your first spring fly fishing trip of the year is enjoyable.

Remember that submerged fence post on the Clark Fork river you wrapped your line around late last fall? It might be time to check the first 30 feet of your fly line for chips, abrasion and just plain wear. While you’re at it, check the welded loop. If the loop is fraying, you might want to replace it. If you don’t want to tie the nail knot, bring it to the Missoulian Angler Fly Shop and we’ll put a leader butt on your line. At a bare minimum, wash the last 30 feet of fly line in soapy water. It will float, mend and shoot so much better.

Take a look at your leaders and tippet. Don’t just check to make sure you still have 3-4-5X, but pull the little elastic aside, and make sure you’re not down to three wraps. If the tippet spools you’re using have different packaging than what’s on display now, it might be time to replace that nylon. Manufacturers change packaging every 5-6 years. That will help you date your tippet! If you’re using fluorocarbon, that doesn’t apply, as it doesn’t degrade. You still have to check under the elastic with fluorocarbon!

Check the laces on your boots. Try and remember if you had a leak in your waders last time you wore them. If you think you did, then check. The easiest way to check for a leak is with a hair dryer and some soapy water. Fill the waders with air using the hair dryer, and then paint the suspect areas with soapy water. If bubbles form in the soapy water, you have a leak. Better to patch now than leak in March.

Open up your reel. If you dunked it last year, it has dirt and scree in it. Get some Q-Tips, and swipe around inside the spindle receiver of the spool. Try to stay away from WD-40, as it gums up in reels. Once you’ve got it cleaned, check manufacturers instructions for lubrication, and do it. A clean reel is a smooth, functional reel, and that pays dividends for the rest of the season. Rattle the handle. If it’s loose, get some Loc-Tite and screw it back on. Make sure the handle rotates before the Loc-Tite sets!

Clean your cooler!! If you have a raft and trailer, do the maintenance there as well.

Take a look at your flies. Take out the shredded streamers and the hackleless dries! If you store your standard dries in foam, pull them out and steam the hackle straight. Use a teakettle and a pair of forceps to accomplish this. Then let the flies dry and put them in a compartment box. Foam and standard hackle don’t mix.

Go through your vest and determine if you really need a third flashlight, or 4 almost empty bottles of Gink. If you want to transfer Gink from one bottle to another, run it under hot water for a minute, it pours better. Look at your net. Check the bag for cracks or torn attachment points. If it’s a Rising Net, drink what’s left in the handle. We have a feeling the rubber stopper doesn’t add to the flavor. Start the year fresh with a new fill, and let the old stuff motivate you through spring maintenance!

Or if your a dedicated angler like shop staff Bryce Hasquet, you fish all winter long!

When rods were made of cane and lines made of silk, this off-season maintenance was critical. But with the ease of care and durability of modern equipment, it’s easy to skip this step. We can’t tell you how many reels come into our Missoula fly shop that squeak when you wind them. Or how often we have to tell people their waders need to be completely dry, and then the Aquaseal takes 24 hours to cure. An ounce of prevention will make your first days on the water enjoyable, dry and effective, instead of damp, annoying and frustrating. It won’t take anywhere near as long as you think it will, and hey, while you’re playing with your tackle, you’ll REALLY be focused on your Spring fly fishing!