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.
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.
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.
The mornings this weekend were foggy and cold, but the sun burned through by mid-afternoon and the fishing was spectacular as the water temps stay in a fish-happy range. That might change this week, with snow and colder temps predicted to settle in. Will the cold kill off the fishing season? No, but it will change the tactics. Sure, it might send those post-spawn brown trout we saw this weekend in the side channels back to the main stem to dive down deep, but they will still be there and a big meal slowly rolled by their faces is hard to pass up. It is the time of year when hunting and steelhead are the focus for most of the usual river crowd, and that’s just fine by me.
4th of July weekend is still rocking in Missoula, with boats filled with smiling people and fish eating among the crowds. The heat has been on this week, and while some might like it hot, us anglers were happy to see the cloud cover on Saturday and a cool down on the way. River is getting warm, and its due for a break. But no rest for the wicked, and we’re back on the rivers and searching for native trout through until next week’s day off. Can’t complain, fishing has been good enough to keep the net wet most days. A snappy cast and the right drift is working, just like it should.
|A healthy Blackfoot river cutty heads back to the depths.|
Have a safe holiday, and if you’re on the rivers try to remember it belongs to us all. Pack it on the river, pack it off with you. Give each other space and a wave and a smile go a long way because chances are you’ll see that boat again downstream. We’re all enjoying the places we love, so lets do it with respect. We’ll all be better for it, and there are enough fish for us all.