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!
Spring is going along like gangbusters, and despite high flows in our rivers the fishing has been as good as you make it. Meaning, if you’re willing to work for it and get that great drift you’re likely to find some great fish. Its been a spring of big fish for a lot of locals, and the tricky part is keeping your fly where you want it in these fast waters. Row well, cast well, and make it happen. The fish are in funky spots and nowhere near as predictable as we’d like, but if you keep working for them it’s been a heck of an April. Get out there this weekend and see what happens.
I’m crazy about CDC, and it’s kind of a weird material to be enamored with since it comes from a duck’s ass and all. But I love it for lots of applications, most importantly, realistic wings that hold a dry fly right in the film where fish are most likely to take a swipe at it. This pattern from “The Feather Bender” is a great traditional-style green drake from across the pond that will surely take fish on the rivers of western Montana. Lots of green drake patterns these days are flashy and loud, and I get the sentiment of the tyer: A big mayfly is the prefect chance to show off a little. But the reality is these bugs are often in the ugly slow water, where silt-bottoms allow their nymphs to get chunky and hatch. The bugs aren’t so much flashy as they are bland. But fish love them, and I have a feeling some of these would do nicely in your box this season. It’s a chance to use some of that lovely CDC you’ve got, and your custom dubbing blend you know you want to bust out.
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.
George Ochenski writes a beautiful elegy to fly fishing and conservation legend Bud Lilly, Read it in the Missoulian.
Hoping to do a little fishing this weekend in western Montana? Might want to tie some flies instead. A blast of the kind of arctic cold that could freeze a polar bears nuts off is on it’s way, and after a nice week of snow and cold, these rivers are going to be mostly locked up for the time being. Holes that were open last weekend will surely be smaller, if not iced over completely, and the fish are going to be down deep in those warm holes where even ticking bottom and putting it right in their face might not move them an inch. With the weather coming this way, the best idea is to grab some new materials at your local fly shop and get to spinning up some bugs. If you do head to the river, be extra sure you’ve got a good exit plan because newly formed ice shelves and well below temperatures are a good way to get yourself killed if you’re not planning ahead. Wade safely, don’t head too far from the truck, and keep a pair of warm and dry clothes and an emergency blanket in the cab. Bring a thermos of something hot and delicious, and look for slow moving, deep pools that might still have some open water to cast to. This is the kind of weather that ices your guides instantly. WD-40 or Pam will clear that up, if you don’t mind a greasy fly rod. What I’m saying is sometimes things are worth the extra effort. The trout this weekend might not be. But hey, there are plenty of bugs to be tied!