The Elusive Skwala
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.