It is late January and the Montana snowpack is looking good. Right now the Big Hole River snowpack and Beaverhead River snowpack is sitting at 116% of normal for this date in time. We have had three years in a row of excellent water conditions throughout the summer. It is looking like we are going to have another great water year on Southwest Montana Rivers. Right now the Clark Canyon Reservoir is sitting at 91% full. Winter flows on the Beaverhead River have remained above average which helps keep the fishery healthy. Last year we saw a great age class of 17-19 inch rainbows in the Beaverhead that were about 3 to 4 pounds. Look for this age class of trout to be in the 18-20 inch range and up to 5 pounds. It is going to be a banner year on the Beaverhead and high flows will make for a great late summer hopper season in the Big Hole River.
I am off to the Western Canadian Fly Fishing Exposition in Calgary, Alberta. We will have a booth at the show. If you are attending the show stop by to check us out. The Event is January 28th-30th.
Everyone knows the feeling, the itch to experience the first dry fly fishing of the year on Southwest Montana freestone rivers. The first spring hatch, a.k.a. some of the best dry fly fishing of the year is the Big Hole River Skwala hatch.
The Skwala stonefly makes it’s appearance as spring and the end of winter collide. On the Big Hole River this is around mid-April. As the ice breaks free from the freestone rivers and water warms between 45-48 degrees for a consistent period of time, skwalas start to migrate to the banks of the Big Hole River to hatch. The Skwala is a size #8-#10 stonefly with an olive colored body. Like most stoneflies, Skwalas crawl onto rocky and brushy banks to hatch. Unlike most stoneflies though Skwalas rarely fly in the air. These stoneflies tend to crawl across the water when they lay their eggs. Skwalas are hard to see in the water as they skitter with there wings closed on the surface. Trout in the 16 – 22 inch range are taken on the dry fly during this hatch.
Since this is the first hatch of the year with a sizable meal, trout tend to key into Skwalas pretty quickly. These stoneflies are not in the same abundance on the Big Hole as Golden Stones or Salmonflies on the Big Hole, but there are enough of them to make for some great dry fly fishing. This is a great time to experience trout feeding with fury, as they eat their first stoneflies of the season.