We’re back home after spending almost two weeks in Montana and fishing the Bitterroot River Skwala hatch for six of those days. We did find a few naturals along the riverbanks, but spring weather was out in force. “Spring weather” means temperatures up to seventy degrees and below freezing. Remember the image of snow on the van in last week’s post?

Holding Bitterroot Rainbow | www.johnkreft.com

As you can see in the image above, we did catch some fish. Here are a few others.

Bitterroot Cutthroat with Fly | www.johnkreft.com
Bitterroot Cutthroat | www.johnkreft.com
Bitterroot Cutthroat Over Net | www.johnkreft.com

I shared a fly last week that worked for us. I tried several other imitations, but we landed most of our fish on this Stimulator fly pattern.

Skwala Dry Fly | www.johnkreft.com

A couple fish rose for a March Brown Sparkle Dun and my RiverKeeper Soft Hackle Cripple. I never observed a March Brown mayfly, but the fish must have been expecting them.

Honestly, we didn’t see many insects flying around.

I was able to find Skwala’s on the shore, both nymphs, shucks, and a few adults.

Skwala Shuck on Bitterroot | www.johnkreft.com
Empty Skwala nymph shuck
Skwala on Rock - Bitterroot | www.johnkreft.com
Adult Skwala
Bitterroot Skwala - Bottom View | www.johnkreft.com
Checking Underside Color
Skwala Egg Sac - Bitterroot River | www.johnkreft.com
Egg Sac of Female Skwala

The water level finally settled down as the river slowly dropped. It definitely helped because the water temperatures rose from 41 to 45 and 46 degrees.

Lucky for us, our last day of fishing was Friday, April 8 before the water began to rise again.

Here are a couple images of the water we found holding fish.

Fishing Bitterroot Run | www.johnkreft.com

We didn’t find fish rising until mid to late afternoon, and only sporadically then.

This is a run I fished the last couple of days. Fish were rising on the other side, naturally! It was a difficult cast because of the distance and crossing the main current of the river. Oh, did I mention the wind?

Casting to Bank on Bitterroot | www.johnkreft.com

I was able to get a short drag-free drift a few times and rose a couple of fish but didn’t hook them.

The fish gods were smiling down on me with this one. It too was on the other side of the current close to a root ball.

Bitterroot Rainbow | www.johnkreft.com

And a close-up…

Bitterroot Rainbow - Closeup | www.johnkreft.com

The Bitterroot Valley is mesmerizing, especially with the snow level so low. The trees are beginning to show life again as buds begin their development. We plan to return again in the fall, and I can’t wait to enjoy the colorful leaves in the Valley.

Fishing Bitterroot River | www.johnkreft.com

I missed hooking several fish. Must have pulled the fly away from them when I saw the rise. I hadn’t fished in a while and must have been a little rusty.

But then again, I’ve experienced this before on my home waters. I try not to overthink what is going wrong, but can’t help myself.

Several of the fish rising to my fly were down-stream takes. I believe it’s best to wait for the fish to turn before setting the hook but guess I didn’t follow my own advice!

Oh well, that’s why they call it fishing and not catching!

Enjoy…go fish!

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  1. I love reading about these trips! I think Spring & Fall are the smart times to visit there. I took my annual jaunt last Summer to the St. Joe river in ID, with plans to go visit a buddy in Victor, MT and try the Bitterroot. However, the huge complex fire along the St. Joe cut off the best water there above Avery, ID, so I fished the Little St. Joe for a couple of days and headed home. With the current Summer fire climate all over the west, Summer is a gamble.

  2. Try the Kiwi trick with rising fish. As they are taking your fly on the surface say “God save the queen.” before setting the hook. You don’t have to be in the Commonwealth for this to work. 🙂

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