A high pressure system moved over western Montana and the Idaho Pan Handle in mid March. This produced about 5 days of sunny, calm weather with temps in the 40's-50's. In the Idaho Pan Handle we receive a lot of snow over the winter months. Currently at Lookout Pass which is located on the Idaho/Montana border they have received 450+' of snow so far this year. The snow also makes it hard to get around and fish. So when this high pressure system moved in I took advantage of it and headed over to Rock Creek just east of Missoula, Montana. As a shop owner and guide I am always right in the middle of fly fishing but I don't get to fish that often during our prime months. When I am out guiding I am usually on the oars on the Clark Fork River in Western Montana. Primarily my job is to choose the right fly, place the boat in the right spot and maintain a perfect drift without disturbing the fish. I look at this as fishing, except I don't have the rod in my hand and I cant set the hook. when I am in the shop I meet a lot of passionate anglers and we talk fly fishing. But it is not fly fishing. Its like dipping your foot in the pool on a hot day but you going for a swim. So the spring and fall are my season to get out.
I love exploring and finding new rivers to fish. Rock Creek wasn't lost, I had just never been there. I've driven by it a dozen times on the way to Bozeman or Island Park to fish other streams. Every time I said I'd stop on the way back and fish it for a few hours. But I never did. But with sunny skies and a clear roads I headed east. From Wallace, Idaho it is a 2.5 hour drive. Along the way I-90 crosses over the Clark Fork River 17 times. Seeing the river that often starts to pull me toward the Clark Fork and away from my objective, Rock Creek. So I tell myself I'll stop on the way back (and I do!).
This wasn't my fist time out this spring. The two days prior to heading to Rock Creek I fished my home waters the NF and SF of the Coeur d Alene River. These two rivers have become very familiar to me, I knew exactly where I was going to fish and what I was going to use to catch those fish. It takes some time to figure out a river, getting to know its nuances and moods. As a guide you need to know these things, your clients want to catch fish. Rock Creek offered the exact opposite and that is what I needed. It is spring and time to explore and learn new things. I didn't read any reports or look at a hatch chart. At the shop I had just received a shipment of maps for the area and purposely left the Rock Creek map at home. I wanted my eyes to be wide open when I saw the river for the first time. Since I wasn't really sure what type of fishing I would do when I got there I took only one rod, my go to rod, my Burkheimer 590- Standard Classic. It's my go to rod because I can throw big and small dries, streamers and heavy nymph rigs. The quicker tip action can handle all of those situations. The day or the rod did not disappoint. It was cool when I arrived and snow still lined the road and limited access. When I got to the water I was alone, not another angler in site. This is another advantage to fishing in the spring and fall. For the first 10 minute I just sat on the bank and watched the water while I drank my coffee. I think, no I know, to many people arrive at the river and don't take that moment to watch and observe the river. They just jump on in and start casting. Back at the shop I meet these same type of people, they just want a dozen flies "that work". They don't ask what is working or why those flies are working or what they are imitating. Before selecting the dozen flies I ask them questions, where are you going, what time of day will you be fishing, and what type of fly fishing will you be doing. When I select the flies I explain what the fly is imitating, when it should be fished and why and how it should be presented. My hope is that this information can be a base as they become better anglers. I truly believe there is no substitution to just getting out on the water and figuring it out. Once you catch a fish and if you want to catch more you better ask yourself, "how did that just happen" and apply it in the future. It's not just about selecting the right fly, so much more goes into it. There is the wind, clouds, sun, air and water temperature to start. How deep is the water what is the current doing and do I see any fish rising. But most important is what the fishing are eating, nymphs, sculpins, emergers etc.. All of this information can be gathered while sitting on the bank having coffee. This is one of my favorite parts of going to a new river, I get to figure it out myself. So I sat there and watched and observed and repeated this a dozen times throughout the day. Sometimes I determined a streamer was right and in another sections it was nymphs. I didn't see any risers, but I did tie on a big skwala just to watch it drift and hope a fish would rise. Through the day my Burkie handle each situation with ease.
It was a good day. I only fished the lower sections and had some success and learned a few thing. I've been doing this for over 30 years and nothing gets my juices flowing like fishing new water. So I say, get out there, explore, don't ask questions or come armed with the latest fishing report, just go do it.
A nice high pressure system moved in and it produced some spectacular days of fishing. On Saturday I drove up the NF CDA river as far as the road allowed me to go, Kit Price Campground. The road was a little thick in the shaded portions but melted where the sun is hitting it. The photo above was taken at the entrance to Kit Price CG. In the higher elevations there is still a lot of snow. But even with all that snow I still saw a lot of variety of bug activity, but no rising fish. Midges were out after 11:00 until 3:00, March Browns and even a caddis or 2 made an appearance. I used a large, beaded hares ear to imitate a March Brown and that did the trick. But for 80% of the time I streamer fished. While I did not get a large number of fish, I did catch some large, fat, healthy Cutts in the 15-18' range. The water is very clear right now so you can do some site fishing. Look for deep holes of slack water on the edge of currents or where tributaries are entering the water. I used a very slow retrieve or just held the fly in the current and flicked the tip of the rod to give it some movement. This produced a few attacks and hook ups. I had success on #4 Lil' Kim, #6 Mini Sex Dungeon, #6 Black Bead Head Wooley Bugger and #4 Complex Twist. The water temps was between 38 and 42 degrees so these fish are still going to be sluggish.
On Monday my buddy Keith from the 1313 Club in Wallace joined me on an afternoon trip to the SF CDA. It was sunny, warm with air temps in the 50's and water temps right at 40 degrees. Just like on Saturday the fish were in the deep runs and holes. Streamers worked best with a slow retrieve.
Over the next week a series of small weather disturbances will be moving through the area. If we don't get to much rain and temps are in the 40-50's we could start to see some BWO's and Skawalas.
The shop is currently closed and will open in late April. We are OPEN for guiding though. If you are interested in a trip call me at 714-222-4852.