Missoula, Montana Fishing Report for the week of 4/1/2018
Monday was the last of four days with the Allison group. I was paired up with Eric and Randy on a stretch of the Bitterroot just downstream from Hamilton. It was a little chilly again in the morning so we worked slow with dry/dropper rigs to start. The mornings have been tough recently but Randy hooked two if the first three runs but both came unbuttoned. Eric came tight in the next run with nice cuttbow to get the net wet and we started to find a fish or two in the next several runs. The high point early on was a big back eddy where the guys landed 5. The action continued until we pulled in out of the wind for lunch. It was the most productive morning by far in the last few days and I anticipated a good dry fly afternoon. For the second half we started off with single dry flies and the trout didn’t want to play. After several great runs Randy finally connected with a fat rainbow on top but that was our only action for a while. Later in the float I’m not sure if it was the fly changes or time of day, but finally the trout started looking up. Eric stuck two decent fish in one run and then took another nice cutthroat off of a big foam line. Paul hooked up as well and Eric capped off the day with one final big eat just above the take out. It was a mixed bag today with a stellar morning of action on droppers and then some hit or miss fishing with dries in the afternoon to make for a decent day overall. It’s always a pleasure to fish with this group. They are a great bunch of guys and make for one of the highlights of Skwala season.
Tuesday I was out with the father/son duo of Marcelo and Nik. They’ve been coming to fish the Skwala hatch during Nik’s spring break since he could barely see over the gunwales and it’s hard to believe that he’s now in his last year of college. We met later today to focus on the dry fly fishing and launched on the middle Bitterroot with single dries rigged. It took about a half hour for things to get going when Marcelo raised a solid cuttbow in a shallow tailout. In the run after that Nik had a big fish break him off and a few seconds later we saw the fly float back to the surface and retrieved it. I tied it back on his leader and a few casts later he had a big rainbow bending his rod. The fishing only improved from there. At times in the afternoon it was just plain silly. What made the day remarkable was the quality of fish looking up. Just about every fish the guys hooked was in the 15-17″ range with most toward the top end of that scale. There were lots of rainbows and cuttbows but a surprising number of brown trout as well. Nik took two beauties through the day with one around 18″ and the other 20″. Marcelo had the biggest cuttbow of the day with a gorgeous 18″ specimen. We doubled up once and probably could’ve doubled more, but the wind was such a persistent pest that we had to deal with one fish at a time. That in itself was amazing. It was a Windy! afternoon which can usually hamper the dry fly fishing, but the trout wanted to eat today and they wouldn’t be denied. Marcelo and Nik caught an absolute pile of great fish today. It was the best day I’ve seen so far this season and I look forward to fishing with them again on Thursday.
Wednesday was the first float of the season with long-time local angler, Jim, and today we were joined by his neighbor and legendary guide, John Foust. We met late again today to let it warm up some and launched around 11 on the upper river. We started off with dry/dropper rigs and John was the first to strike with a decent cutthroat in the first run and Jim landed his first trout of the season in the same spot. The next good run down produced a couple more on the dropper and our first dry fly fish of the day. Two more dry fly eats along with a few on the dropper convinced us to make a quick stop for lunch in hopes of even better dry fly fishing in the afternoon. That’s exactly what happened too. Jim’s first cast raised a boldly colored cutthroat and then he picked off a nice brown out of a tangled snarl of woody debris. It was just gangbusters from there. We had great trout coming for the fly in every piece of good we fished. It was so good that I even convinced Jim to fish a bank that he absolutely hates. Any other day he wouldn’t bother to even make a cast, but he pulled a decent cuttbow off that bank today. We had a couple doubles in the afternoon, John landed a fat 18″ brown, Jim got three in the 18″ range including a brown and fat rainbow. The rest of the fish were all quality too with just about everything in the 14-17″ range. Toward the end of the day John even remarked, “Damn few dinks today.” Jim closed out our float with a stunning 18″ brown on the last bank of the day. We had an awesome time on the river with all kinds of weather. At times it was warm, sunny, cloudy, cold, and even snowed on us a little at one point. Simply a classic Skwala day with a couple of great anglers and a boat load of nice trout. It was a great way to kick off the season with Jim, and special treat to have John in the boat.
Thursday I was back out with Marcelo and Nik, and after yesterday’s action we headed right back to the same stretch of river. We started off with single dry flies and the first couple of runs were blank, but then Nik scored with a dry fly cutthroat. The next few good spots all produced for Nik and Marcelo was able to connect in a little side channel before we stopped for lunch to let it warm up a little more. As we were wrapping up Marcelo saw a fish rise behind us, grabbed his rod and tagged a healthy cutthroat on a foam line. We doubled in the first spot after lunch and started to see some rising fish too. The only thing keeping it from going wholesale crazy was a bitter and persistent wind. The top spots all produced, but there were other pieces of good water that didn’t produce a rise. A fly change and the wind letting up helped a lot as Nik put together a nice string of fish including a brown trout in a small bucket that I’m pretty certain we caught yesterday as well. Around 2 the wind laid down for the most part and then it got silly good. Marcelo started to pick off rising trout, Nik fooled a couple good ones on foot in a side channel and we had a few doubles too. All of the likely water was producing good eats in the afternoon. Nik capped off the day with one final rainbow in our last run. It was another excellent Skwala day on the Bitterroot. There were lots of quality fish to the boat with just about everything in the 14-17″ range. Marcelo had big fish honors with an 18″ cuttbow and we saw a decent number of nice brown trout too. I’ve been fishing with this pair for a long time, they’re always fun to be on the water with and they can put the fly where it needs to be.
Friday was the first of two days with Alan and Bruce who have been coming out for the Skwala hatch the last few years. We met earlier this morning to try and get a jump on the weekend traffic. That part of the plan worked, but the trout weren’t quite ready for us. We were fishing dry/dropper rigs and Bruce couldn’t keep the whitefish away early on and he has connected with a small rainbow that threw the hook before getting to the boat. The fishing was a little tight early on and the wind was becoming a growing issue. We knew there would be some wind today but it was growing stronger when we stopped early in the one place out of the breeze for lunch. Without so much as a look at the dries in the morning we stayed with the dry/dropper rig for the afternoon and the first inside produced a cutthroat for Alan on the dropper and then he connected with a substantial trout in the next run. That fish fought like crazy and Alan finally landed a really fat, big cuttbow. Just when it looked like the fishing was about to turn on, the wind went from strong to nuclear. I don’t know that I have ever seen wind that bad on the Bitterroot. There were a couple of times I seriously considered throwing in the towel and calling it a day. There were whole sections that we couldn’t even begin to fish, and I had to ask the guys to stay sitting just to control the boat. We stuck it out though and eventually found some calm windows to make a few casts. I switched over to single dries and Bruce landed a nice colored up rainbow. After that we had several fish eat the dry and then the action went dead again. Back to the dry/dropper produced a brief double but the fish seemed more interested in the dry so we cut the nymphs off again. We had to work hard for every opportunity today and when the wind laid down in the right water we would get an eat or two. Alan finished up with a pretty cutthroat and Bruce landed a jumping cuttbow just a couple runs above the boat ramp. It was a battle against the elements today. The guys preserved and boated some nice fish despite the odds being stacked against us.
I was back on the Bitterroot with Bruce and Alan on Saturday. The wind beat the absolute tar out of us yesterday but we made up for it today. We went a little further upriver to put-in and it was colder in the morning for sure. The fish didn’t seem to mind though as Bruce stuck two on the dropper in the first run and Alan came tight to a nice cuttbow in the tailout. Just after that Bruce found a great 17″ brown that gave us a number of jumps. Alan found a good brown in the morning too with a buttery specimen that looked up for the dry fly. We had a good mix of action on both the dry and dropper by the time we stopped for lunch. There was some wind today, but nothing compared to yesterday. In the afternoon we switched to single dry flies and the fish were looking up right out of the gate. We saw a good number of rising fish today and even had the first March Brown hatch of the year. The trout weren’t picky though and a good drift with a skwala imitation fooled most of them. Alan found the heaviest fish today, a fat 19″ cuttbow and just after that Bruce broke a good one off on the hook-set. I dropped anchor right there and Alan picked one off while I was re-rigging and then Bruce stuck 3 with his new fly before I moved the boat an inch. The dry fly fishing in the afternoon was about as good as it gets with lots of quality fish looking up. Then later in the afternoon we had to take a break while I navigated a long, shallow side channel to avoid some big log jams in the main river. It took a good 45 minutes to get through and I was worried that our window of opportunity may have passed. By the time we made it back to the main river it was late in the day and getting colder with a stiff wind. The fish wouldn’t be denied though as they were eating our flies in every run we fished. It was a banner day all around, no other boat traffic, solid fishing from start to finish, and lots of good-sized fish on dries from 14-17″. Alan and Bruce are two of the nicest guys you could ever fish and I always enjoy fishing the Skwala hatch with them.-More about Montana Trout Outfitters-