Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Montana Runoff Back To Normal

Ron Burgandy Meets Bill Dance. 
Along with being self-professed experts in all areas of fish behavior ("what the heck do these little buggers want today" ; "goddangit they were all over this fly yesterday") fishing guides thoroughly enjoy masquerading as weathermen. We pour over snowtel reports and intently read ocean temperature models all with the hope of better predicting what kind of water we will find ourselves on the next summer or the next day. If I had to rank frequency of discussions the   BRG  crew have at the brewery most nights it would go 1) todays fishing, 2) tomorrows weather, 3) Giants hitting slump / hot streak, 4) Authentic Frontier Gibberish. The weather and its impact on the river is by far the variable that we fret about the most. The best flies in the world (youheard it here first!) will only take us and our clients so far, the rest is relying completely on the capable hands of Momma Nature.

So what does she have in store for us?

Current Flows & Trends:

So far 2015 has started out strong on all fronts: Good weather, consistent precipitation and a very mild pre-runoff have seen us out on the Bitterroot and Big Hole with consistently good fishing. This is a far cry from last years mammoth snowpack and other similar highwater years. In those years the upper Bitterroot river can peak at close to 9,000 - 10,000 CFS, an extremely impressive volume for this river and one that makes your favorite 12-mile float take about an hour. No joke. These Ark-like conditions have occurred most recently in 2011 and 2014 and they will definitely push your calendar back a few weeks: In 2011 the upper Bitterroot was 2,000 CFS above average all the way through July, and the Clark Fork didn't regain clarity until mid-August!

Last years banner winter left the mountains with a whopping 215% of normal snowfall. We rode out a huge month-long runoff and got to solid fishing by middle June. This year will be the other side of the snowpack coin. Snowtel levels are pretty low all across Montana while overall precipitation is hovering right at average, meaning we're getting plenty of expected precipitation it's just showing up as rain instead of snow. As long as the rain holds out we will be enjoying an excellent summer. No gigantic dangerous high water season for us, just easy flows all the way into summertime.

Not A Client, More Of An "Enthusiast"

What This Means For Us / Get Out And Go Fishing:
The lower-than-average snowpack this season is offering us a virtual slamdunk for the up-coming weeks. In the aforementioned heavy snow years (2011, 2014) the river took longer to warm up to trout-comfortable temperatures and generate the hatches that come along with them. Recent experience of 2015 so far has indicated all the hatches are 1-2 weeks ahead of normal schedule due to warm spring temperatures. Some really ideal hatch conditions are going on right now. The hatches we've seen so far have all come off in banner numbers, more Skwalas, March Browns, BWO's, and Caddis than we have seen the last three years. Will this continue into June hatches of Salmonflies and Goldens? Almost definitely. So far this years runoff hasn't kept many people off the river, it has remained juicy and fishy if just a bit bigger than comfortable. Water temps and flows should be prime by June 1st and only improve through July. Best Weatherman / Guide advice is to get out there while the getting is good and hit the front end of our Montana dryfly fishing as often as possible!

Fallback Option: Autumn in Craig

Friday, May 8, 2015

Low Bitterroot Fishing Report

Easy days floating in Western Montana right now. River is coming up with warming daytime temperatures but not too fast to make the fish finicky. Hatches are changing and intensifying by the day. What will tomorrow bring? Skwalas? Moms' Day Caddis? March Browns? All of these bugs plus a few surprising ones are making appearances as weather and flow levels fluctuate. Bring all the flies you have and get out there.

For all us professional fishaholics these are some of the last days of "fun fishing" with good friends before the insanity of guiding season strikes. Our old friend / guide Mark Downey came out fishing with us this past week, bringing a touch of class to the river which he is quick to mention only comes from "time in the barrel". Not sure if this means he has spent time actually inside a charred bourbon barrel or just consumed much of ones' contents (or just an old fisherman speaking in metaphors only he understands). Lazy days floating the river, enjoying a tall can and lying, exaggerating reminiscing about past fishing trips all sounds like the perfect recipe to me. Strange as it may sound pulling oars for two months straight will kill off that top ten percent of giddy-up for floating. Maybe a lazy afternoon sitting in air-conditioning watching ESPN will sound better at that time. Until that hot August afternoon eventually arrives we will be out there scouring the river for all the carnivorous Browns and feisty Cutthroats you can fit in an oak barrel. I heard that from Mark and he might know a thing or two.

Friday, May 1, 2015

Mothers Day Caddis Grab : Pre Runoff Special

Something I needed to remember, something important, something annual, something with flowers. That kind of lingering feeling plus the warm weather of May afternoons can only mean one thing: Its almost Mothers Day. This means a special BBQ with family is fast approaching and the high water of runoff looming close behind it. But before the Bitterroot turns to mud and Rock Creek gets scary-big there is a special bonus hatch to tide us over til June Salmonflies: The little buzzing balls of energy that are Mothers Day Caddis. These hotrods of the insects world will make their seasonal appearance skittering across the river and drive the trout crazy.

Not much technical to fishing this hatch. Bushy caddis patterns in gray/dark green #12-#14, 3x tippet to handle the smashing takes, and a little late spring drive to get a few more fish to the net. Hatch times will be afternoonish and takes will be aggressive, like the fish know they are chasing their last meal for awhile. Heading out of town for a Missouri tailwater weekend is no option for them, they will want all the instant protein they can get. Another nice aspect of this hatch is you can be a little sloppy with the mending: Caddis are so active on the water that a little drag on your fly won't put the fish off their feed.

Sweet Adipose Fin

This is also when we see the last few March Browns of the season stagger to the finish line. While these happy helpless mayflies have been around for a few weeks the fish will continue eating them well into May. March Browns are everything that fishermen love about fishing dryflies and mayfly hatches in particular. They have a concentrated hatch time ( 130pm - 3pm most days ) during which the fish unanimously know that "it is time to eat dry flies now". A whole run full of fish feeding greedily on those tasty sailboats is the best sight in the world. They are the perfect size (#14 usually) that toes the line between easily seen and ultra ninja-sneaky, so you can see the damm thing while also not throwing a giant in-your-face stonefly to back-eddy sippers. Appropriate fly for situation is dry fly angling 101.

All this leads me to thinking the perfect gift for the upcoming holiday would be a dozen or so caddis and mayflies stuck into the Mothers Day bouquet! Then again probably not. I might have to mothball that idea until Fathers Day. . . .