Spring Skwala Stonefly Madness Begins

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

This entry was posted in Flies, Missoula, Montana, Montana, Northern Rockies. Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to Spring Skwala Stonefly Madness Begins

  1. Kent Klewein says:


    Oh I am so jealous we don’t have those skwala stones by us. That would really get the fish looking up on our rivers and get those bellies plump. Glad to hear you’re finding some time to get out and fish with your crazy busy schedule Greg. Great read as usual.


    • Greg Thomas says:

      Yes, getting out was nice. I’m going to do it again this weekend and maybe even next week if I can get this Spring issue of FRR out the door to the printer. Crazy. Size-8 stoneflies on the surface. Come on, I’m going to be out there.

  2. John Fitzpatrick says:

    What a great day. My privilege to row you down the river GT! Very cool photo too.

  3. Jason Aldred says:

    Hey Jed, very nice to see the action is picking up. Hope you have a good season. When I get back into your neck of the woods I will look you up.

  4. Windy Brady says:

    Looks like so much fun!! I cannot wait til I and Darren can come up there and you can take us on a adventure!!!

  5. Tim Linehan says:

    Some guys have all the luck! You guys will be seeing me soon enough. We’re finding a few up here on the Kootenai but as you know we just don’t get skwalas. But I’m still happy to be pounding away with big streamers. Keep up the good work.

    • Greg Thomas says:

      Great to hear from you, Tim. Glad you are getting out a little. When you head down this way you have to let me know. Far to long as acquaintances to not have fished together. Loving the Bitterroot floats and I’m pretty eager to hit some other waters soon. Open invite. gt

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