Sunday, March 29, 2015

Clark Fork Early, Clark Fork Often

Fly fishermen have their unique habits, the behavior patterns that make us similar to all other beats of the wild. Year after year it seems I find myself in the same strange rut as years gone by: Driving by the trusty ol' Clark Fork on my way some other far distant trout mecca, leaving the local river all by its lonesome. Why is this? After all the Clark Fork produces dense hatches of caddis and mayflies, supports herds of formidable wily Browns, and despite its proximity to Missoula gets a fraction of the fishing pressure of other area rivers (you Rock Creek / Blackfoot fishermen will know what I'm talking about here). This year I vowed would be a different story and I would make a half-hitched effort to explore the 80 or so miles of meandering trout haunts that lie between Missoula and Warm Springs.

Wading a river is always the best way to get a true understanding of it. You get a good long look at all the structure, rather than just blazing by in a raft, and if you still are not sure whats really down there you just go wade across it. The sheer popularity of float fishing is understandable but its easy to overlook how thorough the wade fisherman is by comparison: Changing tactics and patterns within the same run or eddy can be the difference between striking out and hitting paydirt. Thats not to say that the floating isn't a great way to get after a river too. After a couple a wade trips to learn the types of holding structure the raft gets set lose and the full-day run- n -gun trip is on. Ten miles at a shot of meandering undercut banks and choppy mid river riffle seams. Not a bad plan for a day out on the water, plus when you get a chance to look up from the river, the scenery isn't half bad.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Skwalas and Spring Meltdown

Spring is finally, fully underway these days and not a moment too soon: For those of us working through the dark winter months the cabinfever can get to be an ever-present chiming in the background, an itch for the outdoors and moving water that is a tough one to scratch. The spring equinox often signals the end of this dark stretch of the fishermans' calendar and the beginning of some of the best trout fishing of the year: Trout and angler alike seem emerge from hibernation with renewed passion for all things flyfishing. No better way to kick off the season on the Bitterroot then with a little dry fly action in the overcast!

With the warming temperatures comes the first major topwater action of the year with the hallowed Skwala stonefly. Though only a harbinger of the monster stonefly hatches of summer Skawals are a delicious early season morsel for the trout hungry from a long winter of slim pickings. Despite the throngs of eager rods patrolling the shoreline the it can be a notoriously hit-or-miss hatch for the angler. Quite a few of the rather helpless insects need to be on the water to get the trout's attention, but when they do the feed is fully on: A big Cutthroat can't help but slurp such a easy meal no matter where it happens to find it. Of course no Skwala fishing trip would be complete without that glorious spring weather. Tshirts and balmy sunshine one moment and spitting all kinds of sleety nasty snow pellets the next. Its always a good idea to plan on wearing the Gortex. All of it.

Best Spots Ever