Skwala hatch accompanied by boats on Bitterroot River
for the Missoulian
HAMILTON – Despite the wintry weather, the skwala hatch has
started on the Bitterroot River. Doubters need only go to the river and
look at all the boats and fishermen during the warmest part of the day.
fact, many folks refer to the spring “boat hatch,” rather than to the
skwala hatch – as on any given day, you can see more boats on the water
than adult stoneflies.
Skwala stonefly adults are one of the most unusual stonefly hatches on the river.
adults don’t fly back to the river to deposit their eggs into the
water. Instead, they swim out as far as their tiny legs will carry them
and then let the fast water pull the eggs off their body and into the
water – where the eggs descend quickly to the bottom and are washed
under rocks and debris.
The water levels on the Bitterroot are
about normal as we proceed into the spring months. The snowpack looks
good, even though we have lost a little ground during the last month.
the Bitterroot, we have about 90 percent of our average snowpack, and
still are building a little in the mountains. About another month of
precipitation and we will be exactly where we should be for another good
summer and fall of water levels.
Fishing during the past two weeks has been best on the lower river, although the upper river including the lower West Fork has been fair.
of my favorite fishermen who comes to fish the Bitterroot River each
year is here now and has taken some very large brown trout just below
the put-in at Bell Crossing.
The Doc has landed one fish nearly 30
inches on a dry fly pattern that his friend and guide has been tying
for nearly five years – and it is a good one. I have not had the chance
to see this particular pattern, but it must be great.
always a lot of fishermen on the river this time of year, so when you
make your plans it might be best to get out early or stay out a little
later than usual. With daylight saving time, it is easier to stay out
late and try to coax that large fish to your pattern if you stay
The weekend weather promises to be typical of
March. In like a lion and out like a lion is my prediction for this
year. I have seen this type of spring before and it is not pretty. Rain
and cool weather dominate the scene, and Mother Nature has not
disappointed me so far.
Fish with wet flies or nymphs in the
mornings and evenings. If the sun shines and the air temperatures seem
warmer, fish with a skwala dry fly and a dropper. The dropper should be
14-18 inches below the dry fly; one of my favorite patterns is a
mahogany chenille worm material tied on a scud hook.
Make sure you have your license when fishing and enjoy your time on the Bitterroot River.
Bill Bean is a longtime Bitterroot River guide, fly shop owner, fishing columnist and avid fly-fisherman.
Questions about the hatch
HAMILTON – “Does the skwala hatch always happen? What happens if the weather is too wet and cold for the adults to mate?”
These two questions are the most commonly asked questions by new fishermen in the Bitterroot Valley.
The skwala hatch always happens. Some of the adults will find some
dry areas around the banks of the river and come out – whether it is
raining or not. There are some protected areas under the rocks and under
bridge abutments that allow the nymphs to come on shore and hatch into
Even the cold ambient weather will not shut the hatch off completely.
There are some hearty adults that will make their way back to the river
to start the cycle over again for the next couple of years.
Some skwala hatches are better than others, and last year was
heralded as one of the best. Most fishermen agree that 2012 was the best
we have seen for the past 10 years and it is anticipated that it
probably will happen again this year.