Should you be fishing this weekend? Yep. The weather looks increasingly spring-like: sun one minute, spitting rain the next, and fun throughout. The rivers all took a bump during the early rain this week, but the flows are dropping on the Bitterroot and the skwala nymphs are still moving toward the banks. What a difference a couple of San Juan worms will make in a day, even if the water goes brown on you. This time of year anglers should be ready for the ups and downs of the flows and the off color water, and take heart that the fish are still in there and still willing to take a fly. If you’re determined to take them on the dry, the Bitterroot is always your best bet this time of year – or you can head over the hill and hit the Missouri if you’ve got the time for the drive and can stand a crowd. For those weekend warriors who have only a small window to fish, head west on Highway 93 and stop when it looks good. Shouldn’t take you long to find fish if you’re willing to change tactics and adapt to the conditions. This time of year, the decisions are a little easier when it comes to where to fish- the Blackfoot is off and up, the Clark Fork is chugging along now like that river in Willy Wonka’s factory, and Rock Creek can be a dangerous wade this time of year (though the fish should be willing as the river comes back into shape.)
While choosing a river might be easy, finding fish takes creativity and a willingness to try things you normally might not. Focus on slow water, look for fishy seams and go deep with stonefly nymphs and worms for a bit, then try swinging a smaller streamer down and across with a dead twitch at the hang. Carry some bugs that you might not think of this season: ants, beetles, and mayfly emerger patterns are always worth throwing to any slow spring water, and worth a bob along in the muddy stuff. Your best bet is going to be nymph rigs that get down and move slow- wire worms, 20-incher stones, and other deep divers that can move fish in the off color stuff in the mornings. In the afternoons, live a little and try a stonefly/dropper combo. Beats sitting around tying flies, and that honey-do list can wait another weekend.