Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Socializing with skwalas at Stevensville

We've had some pretty pleasant days on the Bitterroot River during skwala season, the best coming with an outfitter who was helping me write an article for Northwest Fly Fishing magazine. That Tuesday in late March of 2013 was a total romp, complete with long, sparkling westslopes and dry flies.

A male specimen, as Bitterroot legend John Foust explained to Liz while waiting at the takeout. 
But I, like many, look forward to seeing the crowd of trailers at the put-in about as much as I look forward to watching the Yankees trounce the Twins. I'll be over it as soon as we catch a trout, but until then, I'll need to stew a bit.

This year, we decided to avoid the rush, but somehow at 10am on Saturday April 2nd, 2016 under sunny skies and a 70-degree forecast, we were the first boat at Darby Bridge. Second, it turned out - one boat was below our view in the water and had already shuttled their trailer. As we wadered up, a third arrived. But we quickly learned that it isn't the sheer numbers that cause the grief.

Our trip was planned around visiting an old friend who is renting an cabin on gorgeous Kootenai Creek, a Bitterroot tributary in Stevensville. She grew up an outdoorswoman in Butte, but is just now getting adept with flies. And she gets it.

Of course the three boats launched roughly simultaneously, so we hustled to try to get separated. But as soon as we stopped to let a boat get ahead, that boat would stop behind us. And as soon as we decided to row down to get ahead, a boat would push off in front of us. Three boats on a seven-mile stretch, all within two bends (later deemed the "two-girl-one-guy-green-raft-with-a-dog-who-chases-waterfowl float" or the 372 float). Eventually we stopped for a long lunch and lost them, but other boats had showed up by then. The Bitterroot's "social" anglers.

Fly-shop advice was to use low-profile, skinny skwala patterns, or something the trout hadn't already seen. We thought we'd do the latter by fishing Brindle 'Chutes, a local pattern that matches March browns. But there was nary a March brown on our stretch, so we thought "terrestrial X skwala hybrid", and fished a Turk's Tarantula. We didn't catch tons, but we caught some good ones, all on dries.

Bitterroot bass. 
I usually chuckle when my buddies rant about the "jack-offs" who've beaten us to the river, or the "clowns" who dare share our five-mile stretch of river. But Saturday, I was ranting. Bunch of oblivious, clingy, communal-fishing rubes. It does not take a village ...

But all of this said, we'll be back to visit Mary and the Bitterroot socialites soon.

The Outcast PAC 1300 - a perfect boat for the Bitterroot. 

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