Is anyone looking for a detailed Bitterroot Spring Fly Fishing Report?
The winter of 22/23 has been colder than normal. It’s mid/ late March and we finally experienced an encouraging glimpse of warmer, more trout happy weather. Yesterday I pulled my raft and drift boat out of the garage and organized all my guiding essentials in preparation for another season. It felt good getting the ball rolling here in anticipation for the upcoming hatches. Here on the Bitterroot spring fishing is kicking off. I’m not sure if the home team wants the ball first or not! There is still plenty of snow on the riverbank, and backwaters are still frozen but we have some bug activity. Small stone flies moving especially downstream or adjacent to banks that are rocky/ gravelly that are exposed to the sun/ not snow and ice covered are currently good options. Once most of this river valley snow diminishes, the bugs will be free flowing.
Right now the most productive fishing is nymphing winter patterns, copper johns, pats rubber legs, smaller perdigons, and the usual pink/red san juan worms. Slower water that is 2 to 3 feet deep on the edges of gravel bars is better. There are some trout sipping midges, so that’s an option/ midge cluster/ griffith’s gnat. The first dry fly stones we see are capnia, nemora, (Don’t quote me on my spelling). We see these smaller black and brown stones #16 maybe #14. Tailouts where the water gets slow and medium depth are also excellent options for that fish that might eat a dry. Once skwala’s start popping you can go bigger but earlier we find fish that are midging and eating smaller stone flies. On the Bitterroot you don’t get stuck in a huge hatch of skwlas very often. Male skwala’s can’t fly and have dwarf wings. They fall into the bank after mating and hence you will catch fish on skwala’s close to the bank. You’ll see female skwala’s flying here and there and fish will be crushing em, but they aren’t prevalent like the fluttering stone flies can be/ blanket hatch on the lower Clark Fork. In other words don’t feel like you need to be in a huge hatch to catch fish on the skwala.
I like to fish a tweaner skwala/ nemora hybrid. If you find some fish willing to eat dries don’t fish a big # 8 skwala, go smaller, lower, and lean. That midge fish might crush your dry. Once the water temps warm you will find trout in the faster water below gravel bar edges. Don’t forget pheasant tails, march brown, and bwo nymphs and dries are a go to in March and April.
If you fish a streamer there are some good fish that will grab your big bug hoping for some paying calories. My son always sticks some good browns on streamers in March, not a lot of fish but if you are patient you’ll tag some good ones.
My best Spring days usually happen on cloudy warmer days in the upper 40’s to mid 50’s. The sun gets the bugs warmed up but bright sunny days aren’t the best option for railing fish all day. It is nice to be floating down the river on a sunning Spring day although.
We hope everyone gets out there and hopefully you get the rust off your fly rod with a nice bend in it!
Troutzoola Montana Fly Fishing.