Bulltehead Skwalla - for so many years it was deadly and all that we needed

In the “Banana Belt” of western Montana, anglers not only have one of the longest fishing seasons in the state but also some of the finest dry-fly fishing at a time the fly fisherman needs it the most – in early spring. Flowing through the heart of the Bitterroot valley, the Bitterroot River has a hatch that has excited anglers for a couple of decades particularly after many articles have been published. Obviously, it is no longer a secret. I am talking about the skwalla stonefly hatch. The hatch is actually one of the several important insects to emerge in a typical western Montana spring.

The skwalla draws attention to the largest trout in the river and the beauty of it all is that it is top water fishing. In my mind anyone can (and frequently does) put on a bobber with a nymph pattern and fish to the large trout — even using skwalla nymph patterns. But to fool large trout on the surface in the right conditions is what our spring fishing is all about.Jack's Nemoura - Skwalla hybrid

Knowledgeable, observant anglers pay attention to the natural world around them. The phenological events of spring are indicators for the fisherman. We watch for the appearance of buttercups, biscuitroot, pasque flowers, and glacier lilies on the hillsides. The robins, western meadowlarks, and western bluebirds are giving us a reminder that it is time to fish.

1. Phenological: the relationship between a regularly recurring biological phenomenon and climatic or environmental factors that may influence it.

Here are photos of a few of my favorite fly patterns that have evolved over three decades of spring fishing on the Bitterroot and Clark Fork.


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