Category Archives: Bitterroot

Low Water August

Our winter of 2014-15 turned out to be pretty dismal, with warm dry weather dominating the bulk of the winter season.  Snowpack was barely above 50 percent in some valleys and not much rain ever came to help out.  So, we knew it was coming at some point; low, warm water conditions and river closures.

The Bitterroot has closures on the main river starting at 2 o’clock to fishing, so we fish early and run scenic floats in the afternoon.  We are still fishing in the mornings until the heat cranks up and the river goes quiet around 2, then hang out and grill up a big riverside picnic on the nearest gravel bar.  Brats, burgers, and a cold one isn’t such a bad way to go during the heat of the day.  With the rods put away and everyone kicking back, we head on home.  Full days can still be run on the West Fork, and soon enough the main river will have restrictions lifted with the coming of fall.

Bitterroot River 3Day

bitterroot river guidesA phone call this previous winter set this trip in motion: six guys from Texas coming to fish Montana with us, staying up the West Fork in a secluded vacation rental.  Chad, Chris and myself picked up the gang early the first morning to see what we’d gotten ourselves into.  Right from the start, these guys were a hell of a group to fish with: good humored, good friends, easy learners, and awed with our pristine mountain environs.  Sometimes us guides can take for granted the sheer beauty of our workplace, and groups like this remind us to look around and appreciate the scenes we’re floating.

bitterroot river guidesWith three days scheduled to fish the Bitterroot, we decided one day upstream on the West Fork, one day on the mainstem, and the third an audible depending on the previous two.  Day one took us deep down the upper canyons throwing mayflies and caddis bugs amongst the boulder gardens.  With fast water pockets and rapids throughout, the cool waters fished very well throughout the day. Our group learned how to adapt to the quick mountain water these trout live in, dialing in casts and mending like mad to draw fish to their dry flies.

bitterroot river guidesNext day we toured our group down to the main river.  After a day of ripping down the canyons, the main Bitterroot was a welcome sight with long smooth glides and easy fishing scenarios.  Put a good cast and mend out there and let ‘er go!  Long drifts equal big fish in the right spots.  With afternoon temps soaring over one hundred, we swam as much as we fished later in the day.  As Redfish fishermen, these Texans are accustomed to high temps and cooling off in the flats, so hourly dunks were the norm.

bitterroot river guidesAfter our third day up the West Fork again, our now dialed in fly fishermen took advantage of many opportunities they missed the first day.  With a couple days of guide beatings under their belts, many spots inaccessible became easy casts and a slam dunk fish on.  This is one of the huge advantages to multi-day trips, and a joy for us guides to witness, as our customers get better and better day after day, making for great fishing and easing our jobs each day.  So thanks to this group from Texas, you were a blast to guide and spend time with on the Bitterroot River, and we hope to see you in Montana once again someday.

Summer’s Rollin’

bitterroot river guidesHere we go, the journey begins.  Fishing is pretty stellar at the moment, and I only see it getting better for the next few weeks.  Pre Salmon and Golden stonefly fishing is off the hook if you know where to look.  The main Bitterroot is shaping up sweet and the upper end is a wonderful as ever, a third the size of the mainstem.

bitterroot river guidesSo it’s off to the races on the river for us guides.  I’m slammed with personal trips until August, starting tomorrow on the Big Hole.  The boys are manning the homefront, taking guide calls and setting up trips.  Schedules are getting tight so get to us sooner than later to book a fishing journey with us.  Reach us by email or phone, numbers on the contact page.  See you on the river.

Bitterroot Fishing Report-Late May

Chris_Rockhold bitterroot river guidesMay is often a tough month to fish Montana: high water, unpredictable weather, hatch envy, etc.  Most years this holds true, as rivers just become straight up unfishable for a couple weeks with dirty water and logs coming down the pipe.  This year has been quite a bit milder on river flows due to a warm winter and fairly low snow pack, making the usual barrage of runoff merely a swell in the lower river valley for a spell.

bitterroot river guidesSo what that boils down to is that fishing has been essentially uninterrupted during this runoff.  Fishing is consistent on most reaches of the Bitterroot, Big Hole, and Missouri right now, and I don’t foresee anymore huge snowpack fluctuations affecting flows for this season.  With that water consistency has come some fine fishing and bug hatches to match.  Low water years, as we’re seeing right now, will bring epic hatches to the rivers: lower water allows consistent flows and more solar energy to warm huge populations of insects at one time, rather than high water years which have fluctuating levels and temps causing trickling hatches through a long period.  Our Salmonfly hatch should be a wall banger this season with no floods on the horizon in mid-June.

bitterroot river guidesThe rivers are prime and fishing is good right now, if one knows where to look and how to pull it off.  We do.  Though the dry fly is still a bit away to truly turn the corner on the season, we’re finding good fish eating nymphs and buggers throughout the river systems very consistently, with a bit of dry fly opportunity in the afternoons.  Trips are already running strong and summer is quickly approaching with Salmon bugs and Goldens on the horizon; get in touch with us before we’re slammed for the season, and we’ll be seeing you on the river.  JF

 

Early Season Wrap Up

Bitterroot RainbowWhat a great Skwala and March Brown season we’ve had here in the Bitterroot Valley!  Our weather and river levels remained perfect from the first week of March until this last week of April, and the bugs and fish responded with solid daily hatches and heavy topwater feeding.  Can’t say I threw any nymphs this whole season.

Bitterroot River GUidesWhich is probably about to change, as the Bitterroot is starting to bump up with the coming of May.  Soon the Skwalas will fade away from the spotlight, and caddis will replace our coveted stoneflies.  As the Bitterroot rises, fishing can be much less consistent, and downright tough if the river has just bumped any significant amount.  Nymphing and streamers become our new staple to deal with the heavy flows; trout hunker down and feed subsurface on all the food blasting through the water column.

Bitterroot River GUidesSo thank you to all the brave souls who fished the early hatches with Bitterroot River Guides.  We saw tremendous fishing this year, and we were able to pull off every trip on a single dry fly.  Each day had high points where the fishing was red hot, especially around two o’clock on the mayfly hatch, and the Skwalas hatched consistently throughout every day I was on the river, bringing up good fish.

Bitterroot River GUidesWe’ll see how runoff shapes up this year: it’s not looking like a whopper snowpack so we should be throwing a line through the whole season.  The Missouri is fishing excellent right now, and will continue to just get better as summertime approaches.  Being controlled by Holter dam, the Mo keeps in good shape throughout runoff with Blue Wings and Caddis hatching profusely.  The Big Hole also fishes well through the runoff, mainly the upper third of the river, as this is the time to hunt big browns with streamers.  Get in touch with us and let’s go fishing!

Classic Drifts

bitterroot river guidesThese waters bind us: to the river, the fish, the mountains that feed them, and the friends we share them with.  Time spent on a trout stream is food for the soul, enjoying the natural cycles of the day and moods of the river.  While fishing ebbs and flows throughout the day, we work together to figure it out, changing tactics and mindsets on the sight of a bug or a switch in the wind.  In tune.  Fly fishing tunes us to the river, the environment, each other.

bitterroot river guidesDrawing upon a bond formed on the banks of the Big Hole river almost twenty years ago, I recently had the pleasure of fishing with a true master of the art of fly fishing, David Decker.  Owner and outfitter of the Complete Fly Fisher in Wise River, Montana, David is like a father to those of us guides lucky enough to learn from him.  I can truly say that everything I teach on the water today, starts with something I learned from David and the other veteran guides from the Complete Fly Fisher.  Those bonds run deep as the gut of the Kispiox and wide as a Missouri river sunset.

untitled (17 of 17)So with Skwala stoneflies and March Brown mayflies hatching in full swing on the Bitterroot, a true master casting from the bow, and twelve miles all to ourselves, David and I shared another day to keep close to the heart.  The fish were looking up, and nowhere was out of reach or out of drift.  Everything is possible.  We ran with the mood of the river, keeping and eye on the natural cycles and currents, knowing the next run may be jamming while this one is quiet.

bitterroot river guidesOur bugs were Big Hole style tied by David the night before in Wise River: no foamy Bitterroot flare, just natural fibers and buggy proportions.  Another lesson from the old days: keep it natural, simple, quick to tie.  And they worked, well.  The Bitterroot is really shaping up fine this year with consistent Skwala and mayfly hatches day after day.  Our water is holding up good, with cooler temperatures and high country snow keeping the water locked up in the mountains to use later down the road; a fine summer awaits us.  So here’s to old friends and teachers, and the waters that bind us together.  All photographs in this post were taken by David on our trip, his love of the wild trout evident in yet another art form.

bitterroot river guides

 

 

 

 

Bitterroot March Brown Hatch

bitterroot river guidesOur spring mayflies have finally started showing themselves on the Bitterroot.  After almost a month of focusing on the Skwala stonefly, the March Browns are coming on with a vengeance on certain days and sections of the river.  These bugs can be picky to their preferred weather, leaning towards humid broken skied days.  Unlike Baetis which thrive with torturous weather, March Browns like a little sunshine mixed with some clouds; too much rain will cancel the deal as it did on our Friday float trip.

bitterroot river guidesFortunately, we took advantage of the hatch all day Thursday, and then Friday from its inception at around two o’clock, and saw epic fishing until a heavy cold rainstorm wiped the bugs out around 3:30.  While waiting for the mayflies, we fished Skwala patterns to likely holds and found many good fish looking for our bugs.  As I glanced towards a likely chop seam, I saw multiple good trout fully expose their red banded sides as they rose steadily, indicating they were onto a mayfly hatch. Right away we dumped the Skwala, tipped down to 4X, and started throwing small brown quill patterns to this pod of at least a dozen fish.  They ate them, well!

bitterroot river guidesSo be on the lookout for mayflies for the rest of this month, usually starting around 2:00.  No need to get on the river before noon, unless you like your bobbers and droppers…. no thanks.  There are some situations where one could run a nymph through a run, but the patient fisherman will find enough action on top in the afternoon to put a smile on anyone’s face.  So take advantage of the dry fly while you still can, before runoff restarts the clock on our way to summer.

Spring Skwalas and March Browns

bitterroot skwala nymphIt’s turning into another fine Skwala season here on the Bitterroot with tons of nymphs ready to hatch and good fish already looking up for a bug.  Our weather took a turn for the better, shooting up to seventy degrees a couple times and really bringing out the solar energy needed to get the bugs hatching.  Skwalas are looking for 46 degree water temps before they pop, so we’ve seen the bugs waiting until well into midday to start emerging.

bitterroot river guidesWith that in mind, fishing-wise, take your time out there and don’t get into a big hurry.  There’s plenty of other boats and anglers out there enjoying the hatch, and when the fishing is good, everyone is catching, and when it’s off, it’s off.  That’s how the Bitterroot works: when she’s ready this river will fish lights out, but not until the fish and the bugs are ready to play along.   Nymphing rarely saves a tough day here, but patience and working good water will bring many fine fish to the net.

bitterroot river guidesSo every day should have it’s better moments until the surge of runoff wipes the slate clean for the upcoming summer season.  We have a cool front with moisture predicted for the coming week which may tone down the Skwalas a bit, but will certainly favor the much awaited March Brown.  On our float yesterday, we had a massive emergence of these mayflies, making for the best fishing I’ve seen this early season.  As we move on into April, the March Browns will hatch earlier and more consistent, right around 2:00, and in my opinion this is the hatch to fish.  Skwalas get all the hype, but Bitterroot trout will pod up rising to mayflies, making for fabulous targets and fool hearty takes.

bitterroot river guidesSo get on the horn and get in touch with us for some early season action.  We still have a few weeks of pre-runoff fishing, which is truly some of the best of the season, and our rates are discounted to $350 per guide boat.  Bring a rainjacket for those spring squalls, and get ready to throw dry flies from the put in to the takeout.

Reel Girls Fly Fishing

A quick afternoon float on a rising river was all we had going for us. New friends, Ryan and Heather,  and a chance to see some new water together; at least new as of today with the rising tide of warm weather hitting the valley.  The first days of spring cometh, easy fishing on those once a week perfect days may be over, at least until the temps cool off and shrink up the melting snowpack.  Every ‘good’ day brings a rise in the water levels which cool things off and bring on the sediment, making that sure thing a big question mark at the boat ramp.

So fishing is up and down, good and bad, is what I’m getting at.  That perfect day may actually be pretty tough because the river bumped and made all those perfect holding runs way too fast, or those soft banks turbulent and boiley.   Our day was damn near a skunk, due to the previously mentioned issues, until things settled down enough late in the day to start producing some action.  Savor those dry fly takes folks!, sometimes we may hold out for hours waiting and hoping, and all the while learning and enjoying the river on it’s rise to runoff, happy to be out once again chasing wild trout on the fly.

Bitterroot River Skwala Hatch

bitterroot skwala hatch 003I figured we’re still early, and we are, but a mid morning phone call today sure led to some fine dry fly fishing on the home river.  Skwala: The Bitterroot’s Big Deal.  Which they really are, even if it brings a bit of pressure to our sleepy little river; get out there and throw a line and put your smile on.  The rest of the state is still dealing with winter, at least its departure, while the Bitterroot Valley is gorgeous and temperate as ever: snowcapped peaks protecting a low altitude, Pacific sided drainage.

bitterroot skwala hatch 2015So we slid the boat in around the crack of noon, or even one o’clock, to see if we could find a few fish looking up.  Sure enough, our second run drew a fine rainbow to the dry, then the next, and the next, and then they were sipping mayflies…. Pretty impressive to say the least.  The true Bitterroot Skwala hatch is still weeks away in my opinion, but the fish certainly know what’s coming.  I witnessed Baetis mayflies and midges today, but no mature adult Skwala moving about.

bitterroot skwala hatch 009So watch your weather for those good warm days in the near future, there should be some fine fishing to be had out there.  The weekend is looking beautiful, so I’d bet there will be plenty of other folks out there chasing the hatch.  My advice: take it easy, put in good ‘ol Bitterroot fashion around noonish, and fish the nice likely runs with medium speed and a wee bit of chop.  Look for your best fishing from two to four, and savor throwing a dry fly once again!

bitterroot skwala hatch 2015Our boats are spruced up, lines are greased, waders patched, and the coolers are packed!  Contact Jed or Chris if any of you are feeling the itch for a guided Skwala float.  We offer discounted rates for the early season, $350, and focus on the midday Skwala and mayfly hatches.  Our meet time is noon, earlier if we need to work out some winter kinks in the casting, and we fish until the day is wrapped up, usually around six o’clockish.  We’d love to have you out with us once again to start our 2015 Bitterroot fly fishing season; see you on the water.   JF #8392