So far it had been a scratch and claw Spring. Flows and weather had been disjointed in the wrong way. We have had decent to good fishing, but I hadn’t seen exceptional. There was definitely a few sucko days in there too when the big flows married up with poor water temps. That was until last week when all the conditions lined up and as Snangler says “Dee Trouts were OOOPid” I became a very good guide in the warm cloudy weather as all our water went clean and green.
The Bitterroot River has changed its fly fishing character over the last three decades. It is truly my home water as I was raised on a ranch in Stevensville Montana in the middle of the Bitterroot Valley. Many of its banks are colored by my memories of shooting ducks in the winter and chasing crawfish as a youngster in the deep crevices of its rip rapped edges. It was the 1980’s then and fishing was much different. Those were the days of only tying on a large parachute Adams and delivering it into all the obvious water with great success and not much thought of fly selection. The Bitterroot was a straightforward easy read then. Over the years fishing has changed to a hyper technical game of dialed in small dries and properly placed droppers in off water. The fish size and numbers are all still there just like the 80’s and in some places they are bigger and more plentiful, but they are much smarter than 30 years ago. The strategy is vastly more layered than it was for me as a teenager. The middle Bitterroot is my favorite worthy angling adversary. When she loses her head like late last week and you only need tie on a large parachute Adams, it takes me back to the 80s. I had to listen to some Michael Jackson tunes on the way back home from the river to complete the time warp. My guests did not appreciate my re-enactment of the Thriller video dances in my Simms waders at the takeout. You be surprised how well you can Moon Walk in felt soles on sand.
Skwala stoneflies are still around, but Blue Wing Olives and March Browns have become the most important food source. We are supposed to get a couple warms days this week and it won’t surprise me if we start to see a few Mother’s Day Caddis kicking around a few sections of the Lower Clark Fork.
How long will it last? Snowpack numbers have been bouncing around just over 100% so as much as I would love the Spring fishing to last forever at some point we are going to blow out in Missoula and the traditional migration to the Missouri will begin.
Until then I will be jamming out to Michael Jackson tunes and tying on obvious flies.
The big browns and chipmunks have been kicking around. I like the fat ones the best.