It was too nice not to get out of the house this weekend and throw a line on Montana’s Bitterroot River. My decision was made a little easier when I talked to John and Jed Fitzpatrick and was told that they’d take care of the boat and shuttle—all I had to do was show up and fish. That I can do boys, even after staying out way, way too late at the Tamarack on Saturday night.
Not the first time I’ve shaken cobwebs to fish. But this was the first “skwala” float of the season. Didn’t know quite what to expect but it was pretty exciting to see honeybees flying by and even a few black houseflies. Then the capnia started, followed by a major midge emergence and, finally, a few skwalas. The official start of spring is a couple weeks away, but seeing those bugs means spring is here in my mind. And I was in good hands because Jed runs Sula Mountain Fly Fishing out of Hamilton, Montana, smack dab in the heart of the Bitterroot Valley. He and his guides are on the water as often as anyone and he’s a fish-junkie who I relate well to.
Ok, the fishing right now isn’t red-hot, or at least it wasn’t for us, but the temperature should climb to 50 today and be higher than that for the next few days. That means the skwalas ought to be popping pretty good this weekend and if you don’t mind some boats on the water around you, give it a go—the fishing could be awesome.
So how to approach it? If you start early, go with nymphs because the rocks are loaded with skwala nymphs right now. A two-fly set up with something like a size 10 Prince on the point, trailed by a Pat’s brown stone would be a good bet. There are plenty of midges on the water, too, so you could go with that Prince and followed by a brassie or a zebra midge and draw takes.
Once the air temperature comes up a little you may want to tie on a dry, such as a Chuck’s skwala or a peacock trude. The dry should draw looks, and hopefully some takes, throughout the afternoon. If you want to look for the largest fish you still can’t beat a streamer and that was the case on Sunday when Jed Fitzpatrick pulled a couple nice cutthroats off the banks (see image above) and lost one bigger fish, maybe a rainbow or a brown. I also tried the streamer and lost a good fish not long after I tied on a flashy-brown pattern.
That’s the dirt. Skwalas are out on the Bitterroot and each day this month and into April the fishing should get better. Go get them. Again, if you want to fish with Jed Fitzpatrick contact him at sulaflyfishing.com