Well, that great spring window of fishing we had going in March through April has closed. The recent warm weather in the past week has shot the rivers full of runoff, and it’s going strong as we speak. The big push began this weekend, and by Sunday things were getting heavy out there. My last float Sunday saw more trees rolling by the boat than fish, but we made it home and we’ll keep the boat up for a few days. The stillwater fishing is where it’s at for now, but I’ve got too much vise work and a big to-do list to get through before the guide season kicks off in earnest. I’ll be getting back into some regular posts soon enough, but for now get those Salmonflies ready for June!
I know, its a terrible attempt to rhyme. But then, pre-runoff fishing can sometimes be a terrible attempt to scratch the fishing bug with little success. Not so for local anglers that found some good water last weekend. Though the main stems of most local rivers were chugging fast, slow side channels and backwaters were holding fish that were happy to play. With the mid temps, lots of boats headed over the pass to the Missouri, though the weather this week could change things for the moment. We need more cold, heavy snow for a good season. I know everyone is sick of the weather, but I’m smiling every time I see it snow these days. The ice is off the rivers and I’d like it back, thank you very much. The name of the game is still subsurface, though I did see some midges coming off the slow stuff very late in the afternoon on Sunday. Fish were eating the little bugs for me, though buggers and worms and slow stripped junk was working in a lot of the situations. Either way, the pre runoff fishing can be fun as the fish are as anxious to get this shit over with as we are. I’m hoping for much more snow, but if it goes the other way we’ll do what we have to.
We’ve had some crazy weather in the past month. Lots of snow, then lots of sun, then lots of rain, with flooding of highways and little creeks and all that kind of stuff that has people wondering: will there be any water this summer? How are our rivers doing? This is always the talk this time of year amongst anglers, and in recent years the worries have been warranted. Two seasons of low water have us all on the edge for this year. Will this year finally be the one that leaves the chines intact on the drift boat? Probably not. But right now, it’s a little early to tell. According to the numbers, things are looking decent. But it’s all up to these last months of winter, and how spring treats us. It’s a glass half-empty/half-full scenario. Positive outlooks say we’ll make it, Realists say we won’t. Keep an eye on the snow numbers for the remainder of February, and lets keep our fingers crossed.
While winter tying is making for the majority of my winter fishing thoughts, I’m still trying to get out whenever the weather breaks for a bit to get some fish to bite. The typical winter setups have been working well enough so that I’ll leave them on rather than switch them with my fridgid fingers, and a worm paired with a smaller nymph has been my favorite. In a quick hour session yesterday we got them to eat buggers, worms, and prince nymphs in slower than walking speed water, though we had some grabs in the faster stuff as well. The open water is beginning to get less and less available, but there’s always a way. August’s water is already stacking up in the hills, with more predicted for the week. Keep it coming, snow gods, we’ll take all you can dish out. For now, a few fish in the cold is good enough for me.
We’re at it again down at the Grizzly Hackle, with the guys offering two more great tying nights in December. The first is tonight, Thursday, December 8th at 6:30 pm, and we’ll be back at it on December 15th as well. These nights have been a whole lot of fun, with some cool flies and a lot of fishy conversation to be had. The shop has plenty of new materials in for you to grab up and toss on a hook, and you might just find that Christmas gift you’ve been looking for. Come on down and join in, whether you’ve been tying for years or just starting out there is a place at the table for you.
Got out for a few hours this weekend after taking a look at the forecast for the week and seeing cold, cold weather on the way. Might be the last line wetting for a few weeks as the temps drop and the shelf ice begins to develop. Fun stuff and lots of willing fish in the very edges and drop-offs to slow water. Worms? They’ll eat em. Some takes on prince nymphs, eggs, and rubberlegs as well. But if you didn’t get out this weekend you might be in for a bit of a wait. Nymphing is still the hot ticket if you want to freeze your toes for a bit, but whenever the ice is just developing it isn’t a lot of fun tossing a rig into the flows where every third cast lands on a passing mini iceberg.
Better time to tie these days, and there’s a lot of that going on. Why not come on out to the Grizzly Hackle this Thursday night and see what’s spinning on some folk’s vises? With my guide boxes almost complete already, I’ve been turning toward fun patterns that I might just like for my own fishing. A few big streamers, some small stuff, and anything in between. With the time to explore and create rather than grind out the same patterns for the guide boxes, tying has been a blast lately. Instead of a couple dozen nymphs yesterday morning before the kids got up I tied a couple of Kelly Galloup’s new pattern “The Flatliner.” A unique horizontal profile made these a blast to whip up, and I’m looking forward to fishing them in the spring. We’ll see what pattern catches my eye next, but for now I’m loving the downshift from “guide speed” to recreational fly tying.
What would you find if you hit your favorite remote fishing spots in the winter? Not a soul in sight, and fish willing to grab onto your flies. What does it take? Patience and a tactical approach, easy drifts, and a whole lot of layers. Early winter fishing is one of those shots at fish that most don’t take- busy hunting, recovering from a long guide season, or stuck holiday shopping with the family, thinking about pulling on the waders and stepping into a river this time of year takes a little extra effort. But for some, this is the time of year when fishing takes on a new appeal. Solitude, quiet woods, easy pickings on the spots, and fish that will agree to some easy protein as they put on those last big calories before winter forces them into midge mode. A well stocked winter fly box is easy to put together. A lot of heavy stonefly nymphs, some bottom-rolling caddis and scuds, eggs, worms and the smaller stuff to cover those midges and you’re in business. Nymphing these rivers in winter will give you a new perspective on how these fish act and where they hide when feeding times get slim, and the tugs you get feel like an extra reward that helps you ignore those beet-red fingers and cold toes. While the tying benches are warming up, the rivers are cooling down but the fishing is still there. It will be months before most of the Missoula anglers get stir-crazy enough to hit the rivers again during those warm periods of late February and early March. And that’s just fine for those anglers who relish the winter season for what it offers, hot fishing or not.