Montana Fly Fishing

The weekend was a good one for western Montana, and the Bitterroot, Rock Creek, and the upper Clark Fork all fished well. The big buzz this time of year is the Skwala hatch, an early stonefly whose smoky wings and olive body move trout in the skinny water if the water temps are right. While adults were sighted by many anglers on the lower Bitterroot, the hatch has not reached its full force and the subsurface game is still the angle to take early in the day. This could be the week when the adults really pop, so be ready for anything! Save the dries for the warmest part of the day until dusk, and you’ll find some fish willing to take. Weekday fishing will see less traffic if you are headed to the Bitterroot, but if you want real solitude take advantage of another option. Rock Creek experienced some good periods of hatching march browns, and if you’re wading this could be your best bet. This time of year, before you give up on a spot make sure you’ve run through your options and drag a streamer through the hole before you go. Sometimes in these early pre-runoff warm spells, the big fish will refuse everything else before snapping up the baitfish. Go-to flies for the week are of course the wooly bugger and the pat’s rubber leg, 20-incher stones and smaller slim mayfly nymphs subsurface. The top game later in the day is a great time to try the bigger foamies, but remember the skwala naturals are rarely much larger than a size 8, and a size 10 is your best bet. We find an elk hair caddis or a parachute adams covers most of the late day hatches, and sometimes move the big fish more than the skwala. Bring them all, but most importantly, bring the smiles and enjoy the rarity of mid-60s weather and sun in March. It’s a good time to be on the water in Montana!