Wednesday, April 6, 2011
Skwala season is no longer any sort of secret in western Montana. Not even close. Guides know about it, college kids with pontoon boats know about it, clients know about it. And that's for good reason. The fishing can be downright outstanding--on big dry flies--while most of the western U.S. fishing scene is just starting to defrost from winter hibernation. That is, unless you hit any one of a number of unfavorable, but completely possible weather/water scenarios that can thoroughly bugger your trip at this time of year. One day the river is clear and dropping, three to five different species of bugs are popping, and the fish are on the chow. The next day the river blows out, it snows sideways and you're watching the bobber while counting the seconds until your guide will let you have another pull off the flask of Dewar's...or better yet take you back to the hotel.
Such was the case this past weekend. A spring warm-up/rain-on-snow event tripled the size of all the Missoula-area rivers just before I was to start a week-long run of work. Perfect. Day One's guests were somewhat local, and given the fishing report (what fishing??) during the crest of the initial tsumani-like wave, they canceled. That's fine. Better to try and get them back later in the season during more favorable conditions than lose them outright to shitty fishing and bad weather. Just like a powder day can make an average skier look like a superhero, while ice will make a strong rider look like a drunken peg-legged monkey, fishing the Bitterroot during an initial push of water like we just experienced can make even the most seasoned western Montana guide look less knowledgeable than the old dude slinging Zebco outfits from behind the Walmart sporting goods counter.
The next group of guests was in from Jersey for the weekend, so it was going to take more than a little bad weather and an apocalyptic fishing report for them to cancel. So off to the Missouri we went, along with every other freestone guide in Montana that was booked that weekend and scrambling to find a trout to catch. Fishing on the Mo was, well, early spring on the Mo. They ate pink stuff--preferably with a hot bead on it-- under the bobber, and occasionally a big olive streamer trolled off the bank on a sink tip. We didn't catch a lot of fish by Missouri standards, but we caught some really nice ones, and it sure beat the hell out of catching jack shit, which I can almost assure you would have been the outcome if we had fished the Root on Saturday. In classic Montana spring style, the Mother threw just about every single weather type you can imagine at us, often in the course of half an hour. You often hear it in Montana, and everywhere else for that matter, that "if you don't like the weather, wait fifteen minutes." Well, this past weekend, if you didn't like the weather, you just turned and looked the other direction.
Cold nights and "drier" weather put the Root back on the drop over the weekend, so Monday found us back on this side of the Divide. The river's still high, and the ways in which we caught fish showed it. But I like fishing the Root at high water...it's a game, and when you get on 'em it can kick ass. I wouldn't say our fishing the past two days kicked ass, but it was acceptable, we caught some nice ones, and we even got a few to eat the big dry, which I wasn't really expecting this soon after the wave. The rest of the week looks to be just as cold and snowy as the past several days, so one can only hope that the river will continue to drop and by the time the next warm up comes along (what's warm this year? Like 50), it'll be on like Konkey Dong. Or so we can hope.